Here are 3 ways to lower costs and improve outcomes in any BI or analytics project, or for that matter any information management effort. They require varying degrees of commitment ranging from easy, free, and doable right now, to a need for significant change in organization and culture:
- Have each information owner (meaning the business person who decides the requirements for an information resource) actually look at the proposed way the information will be organized; in other words, the actual tables and relationships with sample data (very important). Some might think this sounds like asking them to look at programming code – Not so! Programming code is purely technical in nature. Deciding how information is organized is purely business in nature; the only input that should be needed from IT is cost-benefit advisement on issues like performance. The way information is organized determines how it can be used. The operational capabilities of any organization are literally determined by the way its information is organized. A business owner cannot possibly make a complete list of every possible use case for an information resource, but when they look directly at a proposed format and see how it is organized they can easily determine whether that resource will meet their foreseeable needs even before they try to express any requirement. Of course, what an information owner considers foreseeable can change over time, but it will always change more slowly than the constantly changing list that must be maintained when an architect or engineer is in charge of determining requirments from their own perspective. The time a business expert spends doing this will be returned many times over. It will reduce scope creep, save development cycles and produce better outcomes every time, guaranteed.
- Assign an information manager to every business unit. Information managers can be drawn from the same talent pool as business analysts. They are business-oriented professionals often trained at university business schools to manage information and determine how it should be organized. There is no reason these people should work in any IT department except as information managers for business units within IT. Properly-placed information managers will eliminate the need for business analysts and will be 3x to 10x more effective and productive. Information managers should report to the same office as business managers, usually a GM or VP. An information manager should be responsible to decide how information produced by that business unit will be organized according to the priorities and requirements of the business. When information needs to be organized across multiple systems and business units, information managers should coordinate with their cross-department peers and respond to policies set by senior information managers who report directly to the COO or CFO. Information managers for large business units may require a staff, as will those for some smaller organizations depending on the rate-of-change and complexity of the information they manage.
- Have everyone in your organization take a course in fundamental logic. This is not too much to ask – logic was once a core focus of classical education. In fact it was one of the main reasons universities were invented in the first place. Logic remained a central pillar of university curricula for hundreds of years until around the 1940's or so, but since then has been severely de-emphasized at great detriment to the discipline of information management. Today a person can earn a PhD in nearly any subject including business administration or computer science without taking a single introductory course in formal logic. Almost any person at any level of a modern organization can create new information resources, so logic education and logic-aware management are absolutely essential for any organization that wants to build an effective culture and capacity to manage information.