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Program Resource Planning, Part 2: Practical Advice and a Road Map to Getting Started

by John Onder

Summary: Part 1 defined program resource planning. Part 2 covers the core pieces to the PRP puzzle and provides the first steps any organization can take to begin their own PRP program.

As discussed in the first article in the series, program resource planning (PRP) for BI is an integrated program and project management concept that integrates the resources, development, project financials, management oversight, methods, deliverables and project workflow into one comprehensive project execution and delivery strategy. While similar to standard program management processes in some respects, PRP differs in its breadth of inclusion. PRP reaches beyond the traditional "project management" aspects to include the technology components, architecture of the application, workflow processes and is staffed by people with cross-functional knowledge specific to the application type: in this case, BI and DW projects.

This article presents a road map to getting started with a PRP program for BI. It covers the core pieces to the PRP puzzle and provides simple first steps any organization can take to begin their own PRP program.

In any other part of a business, it is understood that items such as using a best-practice design and build process, having tight and timely measurement of project financials or leveraging, integrating and employing investments whether in technology, people or processes is required - a routine exercise. Within the BI and DW space, the ability to do the same has usually had mixed results or is just not done. Why? Too many disparate technologies, business needs and agendas or is it that the BI and DW technologies and processes are still too immature? Whatever the reason, the cost to companies by not implementing an integrated program and project management function is considerable.

The Road Map to PRP

Phase 1 - Go After the Low Hanging Fruit

This is the basic, "lets get started with a success" approach. Implementing PRP concepts can be a daunting exercise, so start simple, get the process moving in the right direction, focus on rewarding the right behavior and think globally but act locally.

  1. Begin to build the team and understand the quick-hit opportunities and longer-term challenges. The team can be a staff of one or preferably one representative from the technology organization and one from the business.
    • First, implementing a PRP program is something that is truly strategic, cutting across corporate boundaries. Hence, obtaining the highest-level sponsorship is very important to its success. Just like any other project, a PRP project requires executive support. Unlike most projects, you're not asking for large amounts of capital to get started. You're presenting an opportunity to save capital.
    • Develop a quick high-level inventory of DW/BI projects - planned, in development and in production. Get answers to several key questions: methodology used, staffing, software or other tools used, architecture overview, business goal and purpose, team members and document repository/distribution process. Just knowing what is happening across the organization can usually present some easy wins to leverage tools, a data architecture and a methodology.
  2. Identify points of leverage. This includes anything that can be shared across projects and begin the process of knowledge sharing. Begin driving the communication of these leverage points to the different development teams.
  3. Train and mentor the key stakeholders and knowledge workers. The key here is not so much to hold formal training classes but to continually feed information to the project teams identified on other existing, proven project components that are available in house for them to utilize. Become an evangelist.
  4. Identify and drive projects with the most potential to leverage existing tools, methods, models, and training. This is where the executive sponsorship comes in. The PRP program must get involved in the success of the projects for the program to be viable. PRP will not work if you don't have the ability to dive in and help. Eventually as the program matures, the PRP office will be the first people consulted whenever a DW/BI project is in the planning stages.

    Its critical to understand that your role is not as the project manager but as a facilitator to foster communication, making sure all corporate resources are being used, using KPIs and success metrics to assist in the project control and success - and, most importantly, to use as data for the marketing of the program.

    Coming out of the PRP start-up phase remember to communicate to the organization about the project win and the role PRP played. Begin to gain grass roots acceptance of the concept and like a consulting firm get customer references and feedback.

Phase 2 - Implement PRP Project Management and Administration

With the momentum built in phase 1, begin to drill down into other opportunities, building out the PRP team and capabilities.

  1. Implement a comprehensive program and project management process. A basic and proven approach should contain these components:
    • Plan - scope, cost, objectives, purpose, constraints, assumptions, organization and risks
    • Manage - resources and stakeholders, time frames, issues, tasks, procurement
    • Control - budget, roles and responsibilities, milestones, scope inflation
    • Measure - key performance indicators, economic and business benefit, acceptance criteria, deliverables
  2. Build out the PRP team and processes:
    • Establish the core PRP team. This can be enterprise wide or divisional. Begin staffing with the most experienced and knowledgeable DW/BI staff to get the highest return in leveraging technology and process investments. Note, staff can continue to work on individual projects, but now will be used across departments and divisions using their intellectual capital to help the entire organization.
    • Start marketing and selling the PRP office as the BI and DW corporate knowledge gurus - the internal consulting team.
    • The team should include all skill sets required to plan, build and deliver a DW or BI application with the ability to "consult" across multiple departments and organization levels.
    • Continue training and education of PRP team members and users of the service. For the PRP team members, it is important for them to understand how the entire program works together and how the overall BI/DW project life cycle is interdependent. For the users of the PRP office, continually sell through informal education and workshops.
    • Enforce and educate on project workflow. Ensure the right steps are taken in the project life cycle to improve delivery quality and improved return on assets. This usually is the forgotten component. As mentioned previously, BI and DW projects have very interdependent tasks that make a whole. Making sure project steps are executed only when the proper interdependent tasks have been addressed and considered can save a lot of headaches, money and time.
  3. Begin building a knowledge repository - simply:
    • One set of methods
    • One way to plan projects
    • One way and one place to capture all project deliverables
    • One source of working papers
    • One place to go to get information on the tools and technology used on various projects
  4. Begin to act as the official corporate BI advisory and consulting function. Start reviewing all planned BI and DW projects and assist in:
    • Providing expert advice on plan, design, etc.
    • Assist in building the project team. This can include interviewing candidates to be hired or consulting firm evaluation.
    • Educate on similar projects within the organization and how the tools, models, etc. can be used on the project being planned.
    • Act as the liaison between departments to get the sharing of information started.
    • Review project plans and processes to ensure the proper steps and workflow are occurring.

The goal is not to cancel, slow down, deny or alter the business goal of the project. The goal is to assist in getting the project completed and to the customers more efficiently, at a lower cost, faster and with better business results.

Phase 3 - Sustain and Monitor

Commonly, organizations will invest heavily in quality, efficiency or strategic programs only to perform the procedure once, get several big wins but fail to implement the organization, processes and technology to continue to "run the business" most efficiently. We've seen this occur across the spectrum, from Six Sigma to shareholder value programs: big investments, big initial returns but no capability to sustain the program for the long term.

The same result will occur when implementing PRP if you don't follow through. The three keys to a successful long-term PRP for BI program are:

  • Integrate a solid quality, planning and program management process, that is
  • Supported by a core group of knowledge gurus, with
  • Custom software tools to help facilitate the entire PRP process

The first two are relatively easy compared to the third. Customized or specialized software that assists in managing and executing all angles of a BI and DW project really do not exist. While the market is flooded with generic program management and project management tools, the market is just beginning to incorporate program and project management tools with tools to assist in the development, tools to enforce workflow and best-practice methodologies all focused on a single application type - in this case BI and DW.

Several other areas warrant mention and should not be forgotten:

  1. Ongoing evaluation and measurement of the PRP program. Like the projects that a PRP program helps in driving efficiencies, the PRP organization and program should be continually monitored and measured.
  2. Develop and refine project KPIs. What tells you consistently that a project is on schedule, on budget, on scope and on goal? Identify several KPIs that are easily understood and use these to measure the project progress to the defined time line, scope and business goals.
  3. Continue to perform the soft education and evangelize. Communicate the wins and make sure you recognize the people across the organization that helped.
  4. Develop more sophisticated success measurements to help your customers show the direct impact of their projects on key corporate measures such as operating margin. Continuing to show in more and ever detailed ways that the PRP program is driving bottom-line margin is the best form of marketing available.

Part 3 will present a functional and process map of a PRP case study. Taking the road map presented and an actual implementation of PRP concepts at a major manufacturer, we'll decompose the process and functions.

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 or (773) 477-8783.

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