Every project team needs a subject matter expert to turn to. This might be the person who can provide technical expertise around the environment in which a solution is about to be implemented. It could be the group of experts who can tell you what the requirements were for similar solutions that have been implemented in the past. It may even be the person who can tell you what some of the regulatory or legal requirements might be regarding the project’s solution.
In the case of any Business Intelligence or Analytics project, this subject matter expertise can be found within the organization’s Data Management Team. This team generally:
- Understands the data available from source systems within the enterprise
- Helps to identify the relationships between data entities and can differentiate systems of record from data sources that appear to be very similar.
- Identifies regulatory and legal constraints around data and offers counsel that ultimately will keep the company out of court
- Leads the effort on profiling data coming from source systems. This has enormous benefit to the project team. Benefits of a good profile of the data include being able to validate the technical design of a solution as well as validating the validity of test cases.
What is the Data Management function?
Data managers facilitate the process of creating and enforcing policies needed for the organization’s data management framework. This includes facilitating the process of deciding which data sources are considered “Systems of Record” and how to create master data sources for things like Products and Customers. Data Managers are usually on point to ensure data within the organization follows the correct organizational, regulatory, and legal data handling protocols. This function is critical to ensuring the organization stays out of court. This team also consults with the organization’s Office of the Chief Security Officer to ensure the data within an organization is protected from data security breaches. As previously mentioned, this team is also leveraged to help trouble shoot data issues as well as providing subject matter expertise in terms of reporting and data extraction.
Unfortunately, Data Management is often a forgotten player in many Analytics initiatives. There have been many occasions in my career where I have witnessed a need for a new analytic or a need to get a new BI Technology implemented. Time and time again I have witnessed the need for rapid execution. This need often will dictate that the project team will cut corners, and this often results in the team failing to take the time it takes to do the type of due diligence associated with a thorough consultation with the Data Management team. After all, it is just data. Why can’t we do whatever we want with it?
This is the type of thinking that leads to poor designs, and / or data breaches, as well as legal issues.
How do you get your Data Management Organization involved?
Data Management Organizations often are viewed the same way as a PMO is, as a cost center versus a profit center. As a result, a good data management organization will do roadshows to promote their value within an organization. If you are a Project Manager that does a lot of BI Project Management then take the time to attend those.
You should also take the time to get to know your Data Management Leader. Do the occasional “Drive By” or even schedule a lunch with them. You can learn a lot about somebody and what they do just by taking the time to get to know them outside of the work environment.
The best way to formally engage Data Management is by including this team in specific portions of your project lifecycle. This includes:
- Providing them with every opportunity to be a part of the Requirements Gathering process. They really need to have input and review of the Business Requirements Document (BRD) as well as with the Business Use Cases.
- Similarly, they need to be even more involved in the Design process. This includes providing direct Input and review of any design documentation including:
- Solution Design Document (SDD)
- Tech Specifications (SDD)
- Physical Data Model
- Logical Data Model
- They will also need to be involved in a review of any test cases written for the project.
Remember! Knowledgeable expertise is a must for any project.
Every project has regulatory and technical challenges. BI Projects are no different. Your organization’s data management team has the knowledgeable expertise that can help counter many challenges inherent within an Analytics project.
Tell me your thoughts in the comments and let’s open a dialog. I would be excited to hear other opinions on this topic.
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