BI Leadership

Having worked on and experienced a number of BI projects I thought I would write about my experience focussing on the area of leadership.

Being a management accountant I am naturally biased to think Finance should lead a BI project.

Many BI projects are led by Finance.   This is due to many reasons.  I believe the primary reason is that Finance often have the most at stake in the projects successful outcome.

That’s sorted then.   Well, not really.

Let’s consider the BI process.

BI processI want to focus on the most expensive parts, Extract, Transform, Load (ETL).

The level of transformation is an important aspect.  This is where we take the source data and change it to make it more suitable for people to query.  If the master data doesn’t exist in the source data it is added here.

Transformation can be so powerful that we can use it to work-around problems in the source systems.  This benefit comes at a cost of having to maintain any master data or business rules we add.   This is not so bad but it really depends on how much master data is added and how the master data is linked back to the source system.

When Finance lead BI projects it is more likely that ETL is used like this to overcome the shortcoming of the source system.

Is it not better to force problems to be solved in the source system?  This might seem hard and untenable but considering the long life of BI projects and future migrations, the full life cost of BI will be higher with complex ETL.

Additionally, the danger with Finance running a BI project is that it’s possible the facts will be finance orientated when they don’t need to be  This is not my experience but I appreciate it can happen.

Would it not be better if IT led the BI project?   Could this make it more likely the problems in the source system would be addressed, allowing for a less complex ETL? Of course, it’s not guaranteed and there is a risk that we end up with a technical solution rather than a business solution.

The other problem with IT leading the project is that we’ll often be competing for limited technical resources as IT are also required to support the source systems.

What about Operations?   Does the Director of Operations have the vision and capability to understand BI and see the future benefits?   Do they have influence over the IT director?

Generally speaking, people in the operations have the best understanding of the business rules.

In an ideal world would it not be better if the Operations Directors provided leadership on BI?  Of course, IT and Finance would still contribute to the project but leadership from Operations may actually lead to a better long term success.

Of course, we don’t live in a perfect world.  I’m keen to hear your leadership experiences and comments on this article.


About Lee Hawthorn

Data Professional
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