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Business Intelligence and Data Warehouse Program Resource Planning, Part 1

by John Onder

Summary: This is a three-part series on the importance of an integrated program management backbone. This first installment defines the concepts and principles of program resource planning and explains why it is critical to BI/DW projects.

What is Program Resource Planning?

Program resource planning (PRP) is an integrated program management concept that is critical to the success of BI projects but is rarely, if at all, ever successfully employed. Think of PRP as the "program" equivalent to the aspiration that ERP software attempts to fulfill. If ERP software is to provide full, cross-functional capabilities to plan, run and manage the business across the enterprise, PRP is the program management backbone to integrate the resources, development tasks, project financials, management oversight, methods, deliverables and workflow that surround, support and drive a successful BI or DW program. ERP solved the problem in integrating the enterprise at the application level. PRP solves the problem at the project level. In no other application development project is program-level management and planning more important than in business intelligence and data warehouse projects. If you consider that the typical BI/DW program cuts across the enterprise, the capability to plan, manage, control and measure a project real time makes the use of PRP indispensable.

A comprehensive PRP program for BI provides a program for management at the three major levels of project execution: development, project management and program management. At each level, an effective PRP should include the following capabilities:

  • Project Management and Administration - planning, management, control and measurement
  • Workflow - integrates methods into a project framework for deliverables, staffing and project tasks
  • Measurement Analysis - active management of the project financials, staffing and project success metrics
  • A Common Repository of Project Knowledge - on source for all information gathered and developed during the project. The project meta data.
  • Development Tools - provides access to tools and development concepts that are best practices and/or have been used in other BI projects
  • Methods - utilizes a proven BI-focused methodology

The capability to integrate and coordinate the varied components of PRP is not easily achieved, but the benefits for most organizations when done effectively are enormous. When you consider most organizations have multiple data warehouse and BI efforts that are either in the planning stages, development or production at the same time, the benefits gained via the capability to leverage, manage and control project knowledge during the project life cycle are significant.

A BI and DW PRP Case Study

As an example, the program and project-level processes used in the planning and development of more than 120 BI and DW applications implemented across multiple divisions at a large manufacturer were assessed. The results showed that very little coordination and planning occurred in the development of the BI and DW applications that cut across departments. A summary of the findings:

  1. Several projects were deemed unsuccessful by the business community purely due to the lack of the ability for the program and project managers to leverage BI architectures they knew existed in other departments. This wasn't due to the lack of cooperation or internal politics but simply based on the lack of a consistent process to perform, capture, manage and store project data.
  2. The time to delivery in many instances could have been reduced by less than half by employing a consistent proven methodology, the reuse of BI application components from other departments and by understanding and planning for the dependencies that exist in performing BI engagement.
  3. Cost overruns resulting from lack of access to real-time project financials existed in almost 75 percent of the cases.
  4. The business goals of the project often were not sufficiently satisfied to deem the project a success. The key driver was not that the requirements were beyond the scope or capability to deliver, but that no facility existed for both the business and IT departments to enter, monitor and approve requirements.
  5. Even though the organization invested heavily in training and resources in the best practices of BI planning and development, the implementation of best practices occurred infrequently and at different levels across the company. After training occurred, there was no vehicle to support and sustain the training with the BI staff.
  6. False project starts and missed critical project steps resulted from the inability to ensure proper project workflow controls were in place.

As a result of the project the organization embarked on an initiative to implement a BI and DW PRP program. While management of the company understood that individual projects had distinct issues with cost overruns, missed requirements, different approaches, etc., the study clearly displayed that the inability to manage their BI and DW programs and projects across the enterprise was main cause of the problem. It was the use of a proven, structure and shared process that failed them.

Who Should Use PRP?

PRP employed in the performance of BI and DW projects, is primarily used by three levels of IT management and should be extended to the business for the entry, update and documentation of business requirements, issue tracking, the development of the business case, access to the functional design of the application and user acceptance testing.

  • Program managers who oversee multiple BI and DW projects are given clear, cross-project visibility that helps them foresee resource constraints, timing conflicts and leverage existing BI and DW architectures.
  • Project managers can perform real-time project management and analysis.
  • Project development staff use PRP in leveraging development tools, monitoring work their assigned and by having access to best practices methods to help guide their work.

How to Put the Pieces of the Puzzle Together - How Do I Implement PRP?

Part 2 of this three-part series will explore a pragmatic approach that you can take to begin a PRP program. While most companies do possess and invest heavily in the individual components that make up a PRP program, the integration and coordination of the pieces of the puzzle eludes them. We'll share our experiences in developing BI and DW PRP programs with you, laying out a road map for BI and DW PRP success.


John Onder, a partner in Chicago Business Intelligence Group (CBIG), has extensive experience in all facets of providing information technology services, business reengineering, system assessment and planning services. He has in-depth expertise in business planning and practical implementation of business intelligence and data warehouse applications across many industries. CBIG is a full service, vendor-independent DW/BI consultancy staffed by senior level professionals. Onder can be reached at john.onder@chicagobigroup.com or (773) 477-8783.

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