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Author's profile photo patricia saporito

Leading BI by Example: Executive Sponsors & BI Champions

I’ve just returned from conducting a hands-on BI Strategy Workshop at BI 2014 in Orlando. My colleagues and I spent three hours with customers talking about a programmatic approach to BI, how to ensure that it is business driven and key governance components. During the workshop we stressed the critical role of an Executive Sponsor as well as the key role of BI Champions. The following are some Q&As that arose.

What is the role of an Executive Sponsor vs. a Champion?

  • The Executive Sponsor leads the charge at the senior management level for analytics, its funding and its perceived business value.  The sponsor makes sure BI and Analytics have executive visibility and support.
  • BI Champions are the organization’s cheerleaders and advocates for BI, like the SAP Mentors.  They are a key component of BI Communities of Interest inside the organization and help drive user excitement and adoption.

Who is a good Executive Sponsor candidate?

  • If you are lucky enough to have a Chief Analytics Officer in your organization, this is a perfect sponsor.  This is an emerging role and title that might also be called Chief Data Officer (not the Chief Data Security Officer) or Chief Data Scientist (someone who is charged with finding new innovations using data).
  • Chief Strategy Officers or SVPs of Strategy are also good Executive Sponsors candidates; they think strategically, have direct insight into the business strategy and can envision how analytics can support it.
  • CEO’s can also be effective Executive Sponsors, even if informally.  SAP’s Bill McDermott really walked the walk as well as talking the talk. He led the charge to enable our field sales staff and leadership with iPads and to use Explorer to review our sales numbers.  Bill has appeared on MSN Squawk Box and other programs to talk about this initiative and how it has driven our internal culture. All of our senior leadership can show how they manage their business on their iPads whether they’re in marketing, sales, or another area.

How Can I Help Improve our Sponsor’s Effectiveness?

  • You may need to coach your Executive Sponsor and let them know their role and what you need from them. 
  • Make sure it’s not just a titular role; give them regular feedback. Continuous two-way communication is key.
  • Find success stories (internal or external, customer or competitor) that will give them the ammunition to make analytics visible and valued!

How Do We Find and Support BI Champions?

  • Business analysts and power users are natural candidates since they know the data and are using the tools already.
  • Create and include a BI/Analytic Community of Interest as part of your BI Competency Center. Give your champions a platform to show off their successes
  • Look to them to mentor others like SAP Mentors do. 

Your Turn!

  • Do you have Executive Sponsor or Champion Success Stories?
  • What have you found that works well to support your Sponsor or Champions?
  • What challenges are you facing?

Related Blogs:

Ten Thing BI Champions Do

BI Champion Toolkit


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