Tamsen Haught - Oct 7, 2013

Building your Association Business Intelligence Team

Now that your organization has decided to participate in a Business Intelligence (BI) initiative, you feel excited about the possibilities and everyone wants to be involved.  This has you thinking, “Who should be on my BI team?”

The first thing to understand is that a BI initiative is not just an IT project.   This process must involve a cross-functional team that includes both technical and business staff.    You need both the technical knowledge to understand the data architecture and the business knowledge to understand the business problems and opportunities your association is facing.

How do you decide which business users to involve?

Often, choosing your technical experts is relatively simple.  For many associations there may not a very large pool to choose from, as the IT department may not be large.  Usually it is more difficult to determine which business users should be included and in which phase(s).

One of the most important things to remember for your first association BI initiative is to start small.  Narrow your focus so that you tackle only one or two distinct business areas at a time.  By limiting the scope, you can really focus and give proper attention to understanding each area and achieve measurable results that will build momentum.   When we help our clients form their BI teams, we recommend that they include internal staff who are experts in the association's data and business rules for these areas, regardless of their titles.  In addition to the subject matter experts (SMEs) for these focused areas, you also need a business intelligence core team that provides continuity across the association and is looking at the "big picture view".

Business Area Team Member

What attributes should the internal business subject matter expert (SME) have for BI?

  • Responsible for creating or consuming data
  • Understand their business processes
  • May have a narrow business area focus
  • Responsible for using the visualizations to make decisions
  • Team player

Titles vary by association and the title of the individual is less important than their interest in using data to make decisions and their direct understanding of the data and the business rules of their functional area.  Examples of titles off individuals at an association who are candidates for the business area team member role are:

  • Membership Assistant, Coordinator, Manager, Director
  • Finance Assistant, Coordinator, Manager, Director
  • Marketing Assistant, Coordinator, Manager, Director
  • Events Assistant, Coordinator, Manager, Director
  • Education Assistant, Coordinator, Manager, Director
  • Publications Assistant, Coordinator, Manager, Director
  • Exhibit/Sponsorship Assistant, Coordinator, Manager, Director
  • Research Assistant, Coordinator, Manager, Director
  • Data Quality Assistant, Coordinator, Manager, Director

Business Intelligence Core Team Member

To ensure that the BI initiative results in a "single version of the truth" and its value is understood and communicated across all departments, it is important to create a cross-functional core team.  These team members will identify trends across departments or business units and determine touch points between the different business areas.  Attributes of an ideal core team member:

  • Understands the association's strategic plan
  • Has a broad perspective of the association's objectives and institutional knowledge
  • Is empowered to make business decisions
  • Believes it is important to use data to make decisions
  • Is an influencer, with good relationships across many departments
  • Willing to say “No”

It can be difficult to identify a core team member by title alone.   You will want to look for those staff that interact with multiple departments and can speak with confidence about the business needs of multiple business areas.  Examples of candidates for a BI Core Team Member:

  • COO
  • CFO
  • CIO
  • Vice President of Operations
  • Director of Finance

Level of Involvement by Phase

Naturally, team members will want to know what type of time commitment is expected.  Because gleaning business intelligence from data is an iterative process, the level of involvement varies depending on the phase of the project and the type of team member.

involvementgraph_new

Business User:

  • Scope – High level of involvement, determining what business questions need to be answered
  • Collect – Mid to High level of involvement, helping identify data sources
  • Clean – Low level of involvement, answering questions regarding purpose of data
  • Analyze – Mid to High level of involvement, reviewing visualizations and determining if business questions have been answered
  • Communicate – High level of involvement, determining any additional business questions and communicating results with other staff

Technical User:

  • Scope – Mid level of involvement, listen to business questions and determine time to implement
  • Collect –High level of involvement, inventory and integrate data
  • Clean – High level of involvement, correct duplicate, missing, and inconsistent data
  • Analyze – High level of involvement, create data visualizations
  • Communicate – Low level of involvement, answer questions regarding visualizations and architecture and document new questions

Summary

Creating the ideal BI team is not always a simple exercise.  Sometimes an individual's title is not indicative of the amount of core institutional knowledge that they can contribute to the team - make the determination based on what they bring to the table vs. their title.  Every team member should believe that the initiative is worthwhile and understand the importance of using data to make decisions. Make sure you spend the time to bring the right blend of business and technical expertise to the table.

Written by Tamsen Haught