Posts Tagged ‘ Knowledge Manageent ’

BI Competency Centers – A Program Management approach towards delivering excelling BI

I recently came across a client whose need’s where genuinely overwhelmed by a bit of frustration and a lack of solution partners who are not just technology implementers. The company had consolidated a lot of software solutions from various vendors, with overlapping features and functionality and had multiple departments participating in a tug of war for taking their departmental (and individual) BI ventures, enterprise wide. Interestingly, there was the case of an orphaned BI initiative there as well, the sponsors of that project had gone elsewhere!

The company came up with the idea of an excellence center (or a competency center) to try to standardize people, processes and technology. Easier said than done, the whole concept IS highly Utopian and is usually touted as a single solution to this fairly universal problem. But to achieve this”excellence”, a lot of background work is required which besides being costly is also time consuming.

To start with, a vision of an excellence center has to be developed. First of all, what DO THESE TERMS REALLY MEAN? Excellence Centers, Competency Centers, Strategy and Delivery Groups etc.It is one of the curse of hypes but a fairly reasonable mapping exists……”Program Management”

A Business Intelligence Program Management which sees BI implementations not just as a technology with limited business benefits but a business initiated venture with a targeted growth plan providing further services, features, ROI and sanity has a very strong case to sell.

According to Gartner Research, “A BICC is a cross-functional team with specific tasks, roles, responsibilities, and processes for supporting and promoting the effective use of Business Intelligence across the organization.”

BI Projects should be looked as ongoing, cyclical and iterative BI processes providing an improved delivery at each iteration. A Competency Center can provide the framework for measuring BI projects and their implementation, it also lets the company experience the cultural and operational transformations taking place as a result of a systematic and pervasive BI establishment. However, considering the different organizational behavior at different sized companies, operating in various verticals in diverse cultural backgrounds cannot be a single, enlightening offering.

It has to be Tailored for each concern whether a corporate or a department. But in general, a few set of services are considered core to the BI concerns in a company, namely,

  1. The Periodic Assessment of ROI and Cost vs Benefits.
  2. The standardization of processes and technology, whcih includes an enterprise level integration infrastructure again for both business and technology.
  3. A well defined and controlled Risk Management perspective on the BI space.
  4. A carefully crafted Knowledge Management initiative including organizational change.
  5. A focused and prioritized agenda on Business User “Buy-In” into the BI environment.

Several companies provide their BICC setup and operations competencies and consultancies these days.¬† However, there aren’t many best practices or guidelines in choosing the right partner for establishing one. Minimum requirements could be the ability of execute BI projects and programs, strong Human Resources, Business Processes and Systems Integration skills etc.

Although BICCs are ongoing programs, they should be highly target oriented. These milestones and performance targets are based on various assessment calculators which usually come as part of a BICC setup.

A very creative way to visualize the progress and understand the whole philosophy behind the BICCs is wonderful BI Maturity Model for demonstrating the characteristics of a BI program or project, developed by TDWI.

There is also a fairly detailed book on the topic of establishing and developing a BICC, published from SAS and Wiley and Co, Titled:

“Business Intelligence Competency Centers: A Team Approach to Maximizing Competitive Advantage (Wiley and SAS Business Series) by Gloria J. Miller, Dagmar Brautigam, Stefanie V. Gerlach

Although the book is written by one of the BICC consultancy firms, the ideas presented are applicable universally. Their interpretation of the core services offered (or should be) by a BICC have been widely adopted by both the industry and the academia.

Source: Business Intelligence Competency Centers, a Team Approach to Maximize Competitive Advantage" SAS and Wiley Co.

Source: Business Intelligence Competency Centers, a Team Approach to Maximize Competitive Advantage" SAS and Wiley Co.

All of these services are interrelated and each serves as an input to others. Each service also serves more than one goal of the BICC.

For example, the Advanced Analytics service besides providing a greater usability of BI and its infrastructure also increases the ROI. It also presents a strong case for evangelizing BI. It gives the business users an insight on what CAN happen from your BI environment. For organizations not having a sound infrastructure in place, an aggressively advertised advanced analytics service can form the motive to invest in a holistic enterprise information architecture, for example.

Establishing a BICC is a highly subjective matter and varies substantially from case to case. However a template based road map can be followed as one provided in the referred book. Primarily it depends on the existence of a similar setup already in the company, the maturity of the company in terms of its processes and policies for change management and technology, the type of people in terms of domain expertise and skill levels, the budget and time constraints etc.

As part of a general best practice, it is ideal to grow the BICC organically, meaning from bottom up with sponsorship from the top. A departmental wide BICC prototype which is planned for the enterprise but services one smaller concern at a time, like a department and then growing gradually into covering more departments and offering richer services.

Having a centric approach towards managing the concerns of BI is a daunting task but has its dividends promised if done well. The success of BI projects heavily rely on their continuity, reliability, flexibility, visibility and scalabiilty. BICCs offer just that.

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Organizing Life 2.0 – A brief comparison

Jittering the Nitty Gritties, the mundane details, the crosses, the hashes, scrapping it and back to the drawing board. This is the usual activities of anyone taking notes and trying to bring structure to chaos. There are several theories and techniques out there to survive life 2.0 and many man hours have been spent by many men trying to figure out the system best for him. For all the sexists, let me be clear, I believe women are better organised and they can manage multiple tasks. But men, have to use one of the many available artificial systems to get back their control on life. I managed to prune down such systems to three, close to nature.

The ThinkingRock software supporting the GTD methodology, the FreeMind software supporting Mindmaps and MS OneNote supporting well…collaborative notes. TaskJuggler came as a close fourth on personal taste but I have the perception of it being too geeky for the general audience to catch the concept. All three of these software alongwith their methodologies have individual strengths and weaknesses and these are subjective based on interests, one’s educational and professional background and capabality of usage. although all three are pretty intuitive and takes no time to get going, there are several opposing communities of users whose preferences of their choices conflict with one another.

Here I will present to you my perspective of how I organise myself better or just perceive to be better organised!

1. FreeMind (Free):

Mindmaps were used by people as early as Aristotle as a way to represent things immediate to mind. Psychologists say that on average, our mind can keep 7+-2 concepts in mind at a particular time, sort of saying our cache can hold that much concepts. Some of us find ourself stressed out by the burden of having more than 9 items simultaneously which results in stress, incorrect judgement and inconsistent decisions. Mindmaps is a simple, intuitive way to organise concepts immediate in our minds in a tree-like structure whose depth can be controlled depending on our context. Here is a typical mindmap made in FreeMind, an opensource tool which provides many rich features than anyother commercial mindmapping tool out in the market.


2. Microsoft OneNote:

Microsoft introduced OneNote as part of their Office Suite since 2003 and while it gained popularity in Office 2007 onwards due to the tighter integration with Outlook and Word and also due to the licensing and distribution changes (now ships with standard Office Suite), it still remains to achieve a regular membership  of the Office family for years to come. The strong point of OneNote is its real time collaborative features which gives it a shared whiteboard feel which can accommodate most media types, text, images, video, audio, Office objects (visio shapes, excel sheets etc), handwriting (for Tablet PC) and a good flexibility for use the writing area like a physical scrap pad. What it lacks though is a systematic structure of representing information which can be good at some scenarios. Unlike FreeMind or ThinkingRock which are backed by particular knowledge representation schemes, OneNote is for the free souls to use as they please.

This approach suits many individually but cant be relied upon in team based project sharing and collaboration. Although OneNote pretends to present well organized templates, it actually does not do much more than enter default bulleted “flat” text.

3. ThinkingRock (Free)

This is a very well made software following the Getting Things Done GTD approach of David Allen whose main mantra is context. Our daily routines see different contexts which includes our location, our moods, our energy to do different type of work at different times of the day. This adds up to the philosophy as used in Mind maps as well that the less thoughts one can have at a particular time, the more creative and productive he/she can become.

ThinkingRock automatically hides all tasks and thoughts not in one’s current context and allows a self-adaptive task priority utility in which least prior activities after some time automatically become activities to complete ASAP. This would let one to eventually complete all tasks regardless of priority and not forget even the smaller things in life.

As a PIM (Perosnal Information Management) tool, ThinkingRock is a clear choice over the other two but as a single point of reference for managing thoughts, scraps, and time, OneNote and FreeMind can be used instead. For teams working on collaborative work, there is no comparision to the features offered by OneNote. In essence, to use the best of breed, one has to use atleast two of these products simultaneously until their intergration is developed. There is already some collaborative features available on FreeMind and the development is very active which is a sign of better things to come. This gives an edge to FreeMind over OneNote, while ThinkingRock can be used solely as a PIM.