The BI Cantos: Initial Deployment Considerations

Data

The BI Cantos: Initial Deployment Considerations

In this post, I’ll cover team composition, focusing on technical and operational staff that will form the core of your team.

The need for more detailed information about your business drives the desire to deploy a BI system. Typical goals include achieving better reporting, more detailed analysis and the desire to perform these activities faster and more reliably. Successful business intelligence deployment projects start with staffing, needs analysis and planning.

You must identify internal staff and external expert resources to perform due diligence and define project criteria and target deliverables. This team will help you understand specific information needs and gaps. BI system deployment projects typically last nine months to two years. Break down this big task into subprojects (sprints) of three to six-week duration.

Your team must produce at least one interactive dashboard at the end of each sprint. The dashboard must access data from the data warehouse loaded using automated extract, load, and transform (ELT) workflows that your team builds.

Team Considerations

The makeup of your deployment team should include technical staff, operational employees and outside consultants. The first area to consider is your technical staff. Do they have experience building database architecture and extracting data from different host systems? Are they experienced at cleaning and restructuring data to ensure it is complete, accurate and in a form that your non-technical information consumers will understand? Your team may have experience with legacy systems. They will likely have hands-on experience with only some new technologies you should evaluate for your new BI system.

Early preparation should include interviews with prospective team members to understand technologies they have worked with and how they felt about those tools (pros and cons). Are they familiar with new software that is germane to your project?

Next, poll operational team leaders and ask them to develop a list of critical operational workflows and the managers who control them. For example, your order flow process—from sales to order entry to fulfillment—is crucial. Functional team leaders will be enthusiastic about the project when they see you working to identify their critical information needs. Some of them will be ideal candidates for your deployment team.

If the operational managers do not understand the details well enough, ask them to identify people within their teams who do and get them involved.

Create a list of team leaders and one to three others on their teams who possess in-depth knowledge of the process and systems. Most of them won’t be full-time team members. Still, many will be crucial subject matter experts to include in discovery sessions.

Wish List: Brainstorm and Prioritize

When your domain expert teams are identified, ask them to compile a wish list of information, reporting and analysis requirements. Unmet needs or labor-intensive work are good places to examine. Have them bring examples of existing reports that they are using to monitor operations, analyze problems or perform planning. Advise them to be prepared to discuss what they like, what they don’t like and what is missing that they need. Encourage “pie-in-the-sky” thinking. You’re developing brainstorming lists for every team and workflow that generates data. What metrics do they use and why? What challenges do they face that they feel are difficult to solve, or how are they struggling today?

After the process owners and your team have assembled these brainstorming lists, prioritize them. Some data workloads may require special tools to extract and load the data into a database. Many different software solutions may solve your data transformation needs. These details and the frequency and volume of your data loading will inform your technology selections. You must find the best option to balance performance, capability and cost.

These planning meetings provide the foundation for identifying improvement possibilities and cost/benefit analysis—the framework for the project budget needed for software, training, consulting and staffing. You can locate specific software tools later; focus on what you believe are reasonable investment levels that you can justify. You can improve the tactical and financial details as you get more information.

Vendors, Consultants and Training Considerations

Assemble a list of potential software vendors you want to consider. This list will also help you narrow the search for expert consultants. Experienced consultants with domain knowledge, engaged early in your planning, will help you avoid costly mistakes and false starts. They can also be a great sounding board for estimating software, services and training costs.

Don’t be stingy with your training budget. Your deployment team should be the first group of people trained. Still, you need to plan time and money to get the appropriate training for everyone in your company. An inadequate training budget (money and time) is one of the biggest reasons BI projects fail to deliver the value expected.

Purchasing Logistics

One area to avoid during this early stage is your procurement team. Involve purchasing after you have identified software that meets your needs. Purchasing should focus on price and terms negotiations, not software and vendor selection. Suppose you involve a purchasing manager before you have narrowed the list of candidate software to vendors that will meet your needs. In that case, you will create the potential for unnecessary work and delays.

In the next post, I’ll provide more detail about the process for developing your strategic roadmap, tactical plans and project budget.

More About the Author

Dan Murray

Director of Strategic Innovations
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