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The year is 2013, and your users are screaming for reports.  It’s time more of us just said NO.

While the capabilities of our tools, platforms and technology stack for all-things-data have seen tremendous growth and the volume of data we are able to process and make available to users continues to grow, the key challenges BI leaders face haven’t changed much. Most companies are awash in a myriad of reports, and yet it seems the users just want more. While you may have built a BI factory of centralized resources and spent considerable resources building a self service reporting catalog, user satisfaction is still low and adhoc reporting continues to proliferate the corporate landscape. /wp-content/uploads/2013/02/gold_bar_185526.jpg For those organizations that have made the leap to sustainable BI, the first step is accepting that your end-user’s information needs are insatiable, and that the ever-changing tide of initiatives, priorities and evolving strategies mean that a stream of new report requirements will always follow.

Less is more – The “Golden Reports”

Gold bars are heavy and you don’t need a lot of them to give you tremendous buying power.  As we learned at the recent Ontario ASUG meeting ([Recap] ASUG Ontario Chapter Meeting (Feb.12th, 2013) at Maple Leaf Foods ), creating a standard set of “Golden Reports” and providing your organization with validated, properly documented and easily navigable dimensions and measures is key to a sustainable BI rollout.  Though we refer to these as “reports, in reality they are foundational information building blocks, often corresponding to key process areas and aligned with the concept of standard “data marts”.

Data Stewards – Your Information Delivery “Super Users”

The establishing and defining of a  Super User community as part of SAP transformational rollouts has evolved from an innovation to now a standard modus operandi of virtually all best practice ERP implementations. When it comes to Information Delivery, an extension of the Super User model is the concept of defining Data Stewards – these roles serve as “points of light” in your organization to ensure data warehouse assets are well understood, working to ensure there is an effective process around maintaining metadata definitions and assist in the transformation of data into actionable information. 

Data Stewards are essential liasons between your business user community and technical BI team – in many cases, a formal competency model is developed to ensure that those taking up this role are more than just subject user experts. Competencies ranging from process improvement to mentoring and teaching are critical to success, coupled with the appropriate job sculpting that recognizes real time must be carved out of job descriptions to incorporate these responsibilities into baseline roles.

Have a story to tell? Comments to share? Engage with the community and stay tuned for my next post when we will go into additional detail around examples of Data Steward deployment models, how you find those “points of light” in your organization and perhaps most importantly, how to articulate the value, both to your Data Stewards and your senior leaders.

I look forward to hearing from you – and remember, keep Making IT Work.

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2 Comments

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  1. Former Member
    • when gathering requirement all users has to be contacted for input
    • data steward should not be the weakest person in team, as knowledgeable person too busy and have no time to spent as super user
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    1. Former Member Post author

      These are great points, clearly borne out of “in the trenches” real life experience! Thanks for the comments!

      What many organizations have learned over the years is the importance of truly setting up a self-service BI capability that empowers their user community.  This goes beyond just simple metadata spreadsheets but also end-to-end business process education presented in easily digestible formats such as audio and/or video.  This takes pressure off of “Super Users / SMEs” in constantly re-educating users on how to interpret or utilize standard BI building blocks.

      In this model, requirements gathering also takes on a different emphasis.  There should be very few discussions about “report requirements” at a DataMart level except in the context of where there are gaps in the “golden datasets” made available.  The comparison I make constantly is with LEGO.  You should be able to build whatever you need out of the “LEGO” (standard BI/Golden Datasets) pieces available.  Based on requirements, if a new “LEGO piece” is needed, it is the responsibility of the BI organization to make it available, accurate and well documented.

      Creating the right time series, drill down paths, aggregates, prompts, filters and calculated measures available across appropriate dimensions and functional areas is where you ideally want your BI team to be spending the majority of their time – and along with spending any other time with the business users, to your point!

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