“It takes two to tango.”
“There is no “i” in Team.”
“The sum is greater than the parts.”
There are so many sayings that capture the importance of team work. Whether it’s a dance or a sports team, success is often found when team members have a symbiotic relationship; one can’t be successful without the other. Business Intelligence programs are no different. They, too, require a team effort or partnership to be successful. That partnership is between the business and the technology functions of a company.
While IT departments are accustomed to working with business associates for application development purposes, the relationship in a BI program is different.
Application development is mostly focused on delivering a transactional system that is rooted in functional requirements. Requirements are generally known upfront, detailed, and static for the foreseeable future. Interaction between the business stakeholder and the IT development team is likely intermittent and as needed. Once the application is developed, the project ends and any temporary team is disbanded.
By contrast, business intelligence really never ends. BI exists to meet the ever changing analytical needs of the business. As a result, a dedicated joint business and IT team, often referred to as a BI Competency Center (BICC), is usually formed to meet those needs. The BICC team is long-lived with ongoing responsibilities to deliver reliable data and meaningful analytics. Business questions that likely drive requirements are not usually fully known upfront and will come to light through joint prototyping and iterative development. Additionally, a BI program will have multiple iterations or development projects underway at once. Therefore, interaction between the business and IT components of the team is likely to occur on a daily basis. Because business intelligence is often an enterprise wide, strategic initiative, the BICC is ideally led by an executive sponsorship committee jointly comprised of business and IT leaders.
The interdependency of business and IT in a BI program starts from the very beginning and continues through all functions of the BICC. For example, establishing an over-arching BI strategy and designing the blue print for the related architecture requires the business members to articulate the company’s strategic direction, how it operates and the relationships in the data, their analytical needs, the timeliness of the analysis, etc. This enables the technology side of the team to design the architecture, recommend proper tools, and design databases that best support the needs of the business.
Another example is the process to manage the company’s demand for BI. While the business members of the team will likely collect, inventory and assess the benefit of the ever changing needs of the company, the IT side of the team will provide input to a cost and effort analysis which will help to jointly prioritize the iterative development.
Joint participation is especially apparent in one of the core functions of the BICC, which is to manage the data as a strategic asset. Data governance is all about managing the data assets to ensure integrity, usability, accessibility and security. It ensures the right data is available at the right time so that informed decisions can be made based upon reliable data. Data governance focuses on managing data quality, master data and metadata. In each of these areas, the business and IT members of the BICC work together to define, measure, cleanse, and publish necessary information to ensure the data is consistent, understood, reliable, and has relevant business context. Usually, specific processes and tools are implemented to govern the data.
The joint partnership between the business and IT is one of the keys to a successful BI program. Working via a long term, valued added relationship brings many benefits. The business and IT components of the BICC will consistently drive toward the same goals, speak the same language, better understand and even anticipate each other’s needs, respect and leverage each other’s talents, gain momentum faster, and produce a better product overall. Just like the dance “The Tango”, in the world of BI, it takes two to be successful.