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Applying Project Management to Your Data Integration Project

  Article published in DM Direct Special Report
April 18, 2006 Issue
 
  By Cheryl Strait and John Volpe

The importance of managing information and critical records has been heightened by the volume of records generated. It is estimated that data is growing at 125 percent per year.1

Contributing factors to the increase in volume include:

  • Increasing scope and complexity of business operations;
  • A large white-collar workforce that depends on recorded information for planning, decision-making and transaction processing;
  • Expansion of information-intensive service industries such as banking, insurance, healthcare and management consulting; and
  • The proliferation of computers, high-speed printers, photocopiers and other technologies that can generate large quantities of information quickly."2

Growth creates business challenges and opportunities. As the volume of business records grows exponentially, organizations must find creative ways to organize, classify, secure and retrieve sensitive information while differentiating critical from noncritical data. Storage space is expensive, and records must be produced in an efficient way to minimize costs and maximize effective retrieval of data to support legal, regulatory and business needs.

While data is proliferating, organizations are not meeting their compliance responsibilities. Challenges abound, but there are opportunities for organizations to achieve a competitive advantage by having sound, integrated and cost-effective practices.

Organizations are turning to data integration and data warehousing capabilities as one conduit to assist them in meeting the challenges associated with increased volume of electronic information. Managers charged with leading these initiatives are experiencing a range of challenges - from defining and beginning the project to managing the complicated involvement of different functional organizations to ensuring executive support and organizational authority needed to succeed.

Historically, managers tasked with difficult or complex initiatives have turned to project management (PM) tools and techniques to enable the successful management of complex initiatives. It has long been known that PM helps managers to foresee - and then deal with - shrinking budgets, tight schedules, risk issues and scarce resources. Managers can use these same tools and techniques to successfully initiate and manage efforts associated with implementing or maturing their data integration and data warehousing capabilities.

PM methodologies instruct managers to break down projects into manageable events. There are three key events involved in establishing a data integration and/or warehousing project:

  1. The vision: developing a strong business case,
  2. The cornerstone: securing executive support and approval, and
  3. The foundation: planning and initiating the project.

The Vision: Developing a Strong Business Case

Once a company realizes that its electronic data storage capabilities need revamping, it must evaluate the current state and develop a vision for a desired end state - i.e., the vision. Determining the current state and development of the desired future state is founded on the results of an assessment of current data integration and warehousing practices. This process becomes the foundation for a business case.

Performing an organizational assessment enables a company to take a holistic view of its current practices and determine the current state of its capabilities. This results in a thorough analysis identifying areas that require immediate attention as well as providing the basis for a gap analysis. The analysis should also identify areas that can be addressed quickly, providing an immediate positive impact to the current state and demonstrating a clear return on investment. This result will aid in a broadening of support and an increase of momentum once implementation begins.

Elements of an assessment include:

Evaluating current data integration and warehousing practices. During this evaluation, quantitative and qualitative data needs to be captured for use in the business case. Sample quantitative data may include storage costs associated with manual and electronic records, the cost of supporting infrastructure and compliance costs. Sample qualitative data may include ease of data retrieval, data accuracy and data suitability.

Creating a current state baseline of current practices and supporting infrastructure (resources and systems). The current state should illustrate what currently exists and the associated level of compliance to any policies and processes that are in use (or on file).

Defining the future state, i.e., the level of maturity and capability the organization desires to achieve is typically a collaborative effort. Recommendations can be derived from the organizational assessment and industry best practices. Determining the desired future state must then also include the company requirements for data integration and warehousing and potentially technological requirements. This process results in the development of the vision statement.

With the organizational assessment and future state established, a gap analysis can be performed, resulting in the development of a high-level action plan. This plan serves as the basis for budgetary and resource considerations.

With the completion of the organizational assessment, vision statement, gap analysis and high-level action plan, a business case is developed to present to executive management. The business case is the primary tool to obtain authorization and approval for the data integration and/or warehousing initiative. It will also serve as the qualitative and quantitative justification for the program.

The Cornerstone: Securing Executive Support and Approval

Securing active executive sponsorship is the cornerstone to successful data integration and warehousing project. Executive sponsorship provides critical approval and support in two ways:

Provides budgetary commitment for the costs to develop, implement and maintain the project.

Establishes senior leadership presence and commitment within organizational change management functions such as communications, education and compliance. Because a data integration and warehousing initiative involves numerous end users within a company, establishing it as a top-down corporate initiative is an instrumental approach to achieving success. Participation by employees to integrate practices and requirements necessitates a change in work habits relative to handling electronic information. A top-down approach, with executive leadership actively involved in communicating support, helps to reinforce the necessity and validity of the program.

The approval of the business case coupled with active executive support provides the groundwork for initiating the data integration and warehousing project. Once approval is obtained, project management methodologies are applied to provide structure and oversight for planning, executing and controlling the initiative from development through implementation.

The Foundation: Planning and Initiating the Program

Project initiation and planning are the initial phases of the project lifecycle as defined by the Project Management Institute (PMI). PMI provides the industry standards for project management methodologies as documented in PMI's Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK).

During project initiation, what is to be accomplished and why, target timing and resources are defined. An individual is appointed as the project manager and given authority to ensure completion of the data integration and warehousing goals and objectives. The project manager forms a project team that must collectively address the following questions:

  • Why is the project being formed? What are the goals, objectives and scope?
  • What are the gaps between the current and future states?
  • What are the major groupings of activities and deliverables that need to be performed or developed in order to fill in the gaps?
  • What are the desired end dates for planning, developing deliverables and implementing the future state? Are these realistic dates?
  • Who will perform the planning, development and coordination of implementation activities? Will outside resources be used to assist with managing the project?
  • Will consultants be used to provide data integration and warehousing expertise?

This information is drawn from the approved business case and used to create the project charter. The project charter is a document created to formally communicate the existence of the project and defines authority for management and oversight of project goals and objectives.3

The information gathered up to this point serves as the foundation for developing the overall plan during the project planning phase. Project planning is the phase to identify business requirements, establish precise cost and schedule of the project (including a list of deliverables and delivery dates), establish the work organization, identify and plan for risk events and formalize the plan to manage the project and obtain management approval to the plan.4

Planning is the core element to success in any project. Inadequate and incomplete planning is the downfall of many high profile and important projects.5

The recognition of need is the beginning of any data integration and warehousing project. Driven by the litigious nature of our society, companies are becoming more aware of their deficiencies and inability to manage electronic information effectively and efficiently.

Initiating a means to improve the management of electronic data and information within a company depends on:

  • The recognition that current practices are not meeting requirements;
  • An awareness of the current state of capabilities within the company;
  • A defined and documented vision or end state;
  • An understanding of the gaps that exist between the current state and future states;
  • A valid business case approved by executive management;
  • The active support of executive management to achieve the initiative's goals and objectives;
  • Development of a strong and experienced project team dedicated to success; and
  • A comprehensive plan to enable the successful development, implementation and maintenance of the new initiative.

For a data integration and warehousing initiative to be successful it must be well funded and fully supported by management. The project must start off with the right information, definite objectives and a complete understanding of the current environment. The tools and techniques leveraged to achieve project goals and objectives must be structured and disciplined. Only through a collaborative effort will a data integration and warehousing initiative achieve the organizational changes necessary to meet the requirements of an effective electronic environment.

References

  1. Neil Murvin. "Information Lifecycle Management Separating the Hype from Reality." Enterprise Networks and Servers, December 2003.
  2. "Information Management: a Business Imperative." ARMA International, 28 June 2004.
  3. Robert Lorenz. A Practical Application Guide for the PMI PMBOK, Version 1. Robbins-Gioia LLC, 2003.
  4. Lorenz.
  5. Lorenz.

...............................................................................

For more information on related topics visit the following related portals...
Data Integration, DW Basics and Project Management/Tool Selection.

Cheryl L. Strait is a principal consulting manager at Robbins-Gioia, LLC. She has more than 20 years of experience in business management, including significant experience in project management, process re-engineering, organizational change management and records management. She may be reached at cheryl.strait@robbinsgioia.com.

John Volpe is a senior consulting manager at Robbins-Gioia, LLC, specializing in program management services for commercial and government accounts. He has more than 20 years experience managing financial, operational and technology functions and projects in the financial services industry and for government agencies. He may be reached at john.volpe@robbinsgioia.com.

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