Business intelligence and analytics projects and initiatives are often the victims of “illusions of competence”, where multiple individuals are placed on a project, all team members attempt to manage all verticals within a smaller scope and then attempt to fit their difference deliverables together at the projects conclusion. This will lead to a lot of frustration and could easily lead to burnout in teams. The better approach would be to develop a “dream team” for your analytics project before work even begins, even for small-scale deliverables supposedly simple BI solutions. This dream team will likely be comprised of five different roles that may include multiple people per role depending on the size of the project. A team-focused project implementation will save significant time and resources even for smaller projects as less educated guesses will be made doing implementation, and each individual can focus on what they do best.
These roles include what we can call the “data manager”, the “data applier”, the “data organizer”, the “data statistician”, and the “data visualizer”.
Of course, these roles can take different shapes depending on the project, and some individuals may overlap. Ideally though, these roles will be held by experts in these areas and applied in a team setting as budgets allow. The “Data Manager” role is traditionally filled by a project manager, but for more agile team environments this individual is likely known as a “product owner” or is a manager in the organization that has a deep understanding of business and where data can be used to transform and evolve the organization. The data manger acts as a functional expert that has maybe spent 10+ years in the industry and is well connected with the teams who will put the data to use in areas like marketing analytics, KPI measurement, predicative analytics, supply chain management, and the list goes on. The functional expert will work closely with the “Data Applier” to gather requirements for the new system and to help identify areas where the new data system could make a real impact in the business.
As alluded to above, the “Data Applier” in this dream team will work closely with the data manager to identify business needs and find practical opportunities to develop dashboards and employ business intelligence in innovative ways. Most in traditional IT firms would know this individual as a business analyst or data analyst. They are in many ways the bridge between the technical folks and the business stakeholders that are starved for the data to be organized and presented in a compelling way. The business analyst will likely be the “jack of all trades” on the team as well, and will likely have a hand in each step of the process as they ensure the team is working towards the same goal that meets the objectives of the potential data users.
Next we have the ever talented “Data Organizer” who designs the database system and assembles all the technology needed to transform the raw data into tables for the team to use. This individual is likely competent and comfortable using technology like SQL Server, MySQL, Oracle Databases and others to design a comprehensive, well-functioning data warehouse and database system. They may not be master of all things “databases”, but they should have access to a diverse team of resources to help them organize and structure the raw data for analysis. The data organizer, like any member of the technical team, should also be given the proper business context for the data solution being built. Again, this goes back to the data applier’s mission to ensure the team is working towards the same goal.
The next dream team member is the “Data Statistician”. This individual or team will be highly experienced in statistical modeling and analysis. They are the math genius you were always a little bit jealous of in high school. They likely will have experience working with programming languages like R that transform raw data to make predictions. They are the folks that find the “data within the data” and can find and calculate the metrics the business stakeholders crave. They are the type of people who are energized by the details and finding opportunities beyond first glance.
The final team member of the dream team is the “Data visualizer”. This team member is often known as a BI developer and likely has had a wide variety of experience in statistical modeling, database design, and application development. For business intelligence projects though, their specialty lies in designing and building visualizations, embedding them in applications, and designing web interfaces that users will ultimately get to access. They also should have a strong sense of the business application of the data since they ultimately are developing the interface teams throughout the organization will use. The data visualizer will likely develop the final “product” within a data visualization tool like Microsoft’s Power BI, Tableau, or Qlik. Once the visualizations are complete, they then can be made available in an HTML based web portal or published to an interface like Tableau Server.
Each member in the “dream team” plays a crucial role in the increasingly more complex data projects organizations start. Although each is a master of a certain functional area, each should be a “jack of all trades” in terms of the other areas in the technology stack. Even more so, each member should understand the practical business case behind the data and work as a team as to fully comprehend and deliver on the needs of the business users. Assembling the dream team isn’t always possible from a funding perspective, but it is certainly a model that you can strive for when beginning with your organization’s next BI project.