Tuesday, 6 April 2010

What makes a successful Business Intelligence Leader?

While reading "On the Good Life", a collection of some of the works by the Roman philosopher & statesman, Cicero, I came across a couple of statements that made me think about Business Intelligence leaders. I use the term "Business Intelligence leaders" but this can apply to any leader responsible for data and information management/usage within an organisation, such as BI Heads, Customer Insight Managers, Data Quality Managers and so on.

"A successful statesman, the person who guides the nation and controls its policy, may be defined as an individual who knows and employs the means of securing and promoting the interests of his country."

Lets break this down a bit:

"A successful statesman"

You - the Business Intelligence leader.

"the person who guides the nation"

You, and your team, should be the authority on data, and it's associated usage, meaning and quality, within your organisation. You should be able to guide the business in maximising the benefit from data, including ensuring that they are using the correct data sources, and the correct tools for the information exploitation they are performing. The business users should be aware of who to speak to if they have issues/problems, and communication channels should be open, with regular two-way communication undertaken. Listening to the business is essential.

"and controls its policy"

You, and your team, should ensure that all policy is documented, and adhered to. This will include policy relating, but not limited, to such things as:
  • Security & Access
  • Reporting Tool Usage
  • Regulatory Compliance
In addition to creating & maintaining policy, you should also ensure that the business community is aware of policy, through training sessions or communication bulletins.

For example, to ensure that security & access control policy is adhered to, and that the business has access to the data they require, you should communicate the policy and process surrounding systems access effectively. I have seen examples of people sharing system access logins as they either did not understand security & access policy, or the process to request system access was complicated, or slow. Efficient process surrounding policy will aid adherence.

Or similarly, how can you ensure that your business community adhere to Data Protection legislation if you do not make your community aware of what the legislation involves?

"knows and employs the means of securing and promoting the interests of his country"

Two methods of securing and promoting interest that instantly came to mind are:

1. Aligning actions to Business Strategy

There is a common consensus that a single point of contact for business reporting is a good thing, and many people are aware of the associated benefits - however, a successful BI leader is able to translate and align these benefits to Business Strategy.
  • How does X fit into and support the overall business strategy?
  • How can Y help us achieve our strategic business goals?
  • Is Z most likely to assist in achieving a strategic business objective?
2. Having a solid Communications Strategy

Securing the support of the business is essential in your success as a BI leader. If the business have no confidence in your ability to deliver information to the right people, in the right place, in the right format, and at the right time, they will not support you. Having a solid communications strategy will aid in gaining, and sustaining business support.

Through effective communication you can ensure that the business are aware of any issues impacting your service. You can also provide measurement scorecards that allow the business to benchmark where we are against where we've been, alongside a view of where we're going. This strategic visibility, alongside a forum for business users to express their opinions, praise or concerns will aid in keeping the business supportive of your goals & objectives.

In closing, there is another Cicero quote that I feel should be shared here:

"No leader, either in war or in peace, could ever have performed important or beneficial actions unless he had gained the cooperation of his fellow men."

Build a great team around you, with proactive, knowledgeable and approachable people who share in your vision.

Finally, know, and remember, your audience - the business community - involve them in your actions, ensure you have their support, and continually communicate with them. Only then will you be able to maximise the benefit and performance of your objectives.


Phil Simon said...

Great post, man. I love the Cicero quote!

What profundity!

Phil Wright said...

His work contains some diamond quotes that can apply so well to information management/governance.

Charles Blyth said...

Great post Phil, very good advice. This is a keeper!

Sheezaredhead said...

I love this line: "Finally, know, and remember, your audience". In my book, this is one of the most important!
Great post, thanks very much!

Phil Wright said...

Thanks Charles, Thanks Jill.

I agree, knowing and remembering your audience is an extremely important success factor. I'm going to be doing a presentation as part of the DQ Directions event around communication, and the importance of knowing your audience, to aid data quality improvement.

Crysta Anderson said...

Great post and advice, Phil - translates very well across business in general. Thanks for tying it up so nicely!

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