Jun 13, 2005

The Burden of Trusted Information

In a recent (June 2005) article published by DM Review. Authors Timo Elliot and Darren Cunningham talk a little about The Burden of Trusted Information. I have been very interested in this topic for well over two years and was interested in what they had to say that could help me in my quest to provide "Trusted Information" to the business. Like most of the articles that I've read in DM Review, they only were able to give me a theoretical, high-level view -- most of which I was already aware of. Elliot & Cunningham spend a good portion of the article explaining the problems and identifying some of the root causes surrounding data quality. About half-way through this article, I thought to myself that a lot of these problems could be taken care of by a well implemented Business Intelligence Competency Center (BICC). To my surprise, once the article finished explaining the problem, the authors explained:

"To remedy these problems, organizations should implement a trusted information framework that ties together the different elements of the corporate information systems. Given the complexity of today's corporate information systems and the diversity of organizational structures, there is not one single way to do this. However, one key step is to establish a group focused on ensuring that the organization is getting a return on its information assets. There has been strong growth in recent years in BI (business intelligence) competency centers staffed with data, IT and business experts, and such a center is ideally oriented to carry out the role of coordinating between the different teams involved in data manipulation and use. Many organizations find that a less formal 'virtual BI competency center,' with regular meetings between members of the different teams (data warehousing team, data stewards, BI and business users), is a good first step toward a more strategic solution. "

It's good to know that my thoughts and ideas are on track with industry experts. But at this point, that's really as far as it goes. I have been in the middle of organizing a BICC for about a year now and it is much more difficult than it sounds on the printed page. Virtual team or not, a BICC is such a resource intensive engagement that I believe companies will really struggle to implement a team that can do all of the things that experts say a BICC should do.

At a minimum, I believe a BICC should:

* Work with the business to determine the Business Intelligence needs of the company.
* Provide an authoritative access point for all questions regarding data definition and quality.
* Develop a Business Intelligence road map for the company which includes long-term and short-term goals.
* Have authority to oversee and implement all Business Intelligence initiatives within the company.
* Provide accountability when data is wrong.
* Provide analytical expertise to information consumers.
* Be involved in the implementation of corporate controls involving information storage and retrieval.

I personally am not convinced that Business Intelligence solutions need to involve 20 people and cost millions to implement. The size of the project should be aligned with the business need and capability. A BICC consisiting of a few virtual team members from different parts of the company (Operations, Sales, IT, Reporting, etc...) should be sufficient to get a BI initiative started. The value that the BICC brings is in communication, organization, and control. Without these, a business will never realize the power of BI and will find themselves in a perpetual whirlpool of meaningless information and costly implementations and re-implementations of BI systems.

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