Evan Levy brings up an overlooked data conundrum in his Information Management column this week. He observes that most IT departments model their business analyst roles around transactional or operational systems, which are often built in isolation. So, business analysts tend to look more at processes than data share-ability.
Naturally, this approach falls far short when you move these business analysts to a business intelligence or master data management project-where data integration is essential to success. Explains Levy:
"The BA doesn't need to focus on the business processes that created the data-rather he or she should focus on the business scenarios that mandate accurate and meaningful data. The expertise needed is around data content analysis and understanding data from different source systems and what it represents."
Which raises a serious question for CIOs: Do your business analysts know enough about data and how different systems handle data to effectively manage the integration requirements of data-related initiatives?
Levy says business analysts need to understand which data matters and the rules for matching records across systems. That's essential. But on top of this, he lists four traits business analysts need if they're going to tackle projects with data integration or share-ability components. I'll let you read his list yourself, but here's a hint: You're going to need someone with a high tolerance for tedious work.
While Levy mostly focuses on BI projects, he does mention MDM. This isn't the first time Levy's made the point that staff can be critical and tricky with MDM projects. During my recent interview with Levy, he pointed out that in some ways, application developers grasp MDM's use of data more than data warehousing staff. But when it comes to understanding the data integration, your data warehousing staff should know its stuff.
This leads me to wonder if MDM and BI might not be the perfect reason to take a cross-team approach, bringing together these two IT groups. After all, when a project costs upwards of a million dollars-as MDM does-that's not the time to assign someone to the project because they happen to be free.
This issue of data awareness at all levels of IT isn't likely to go away soon. MDM and BI are both popular projects right now. Further, more companies are looking at advanced analytics-which will also require more robust data integration and can be used to enhance BI, according to "TDWI Checklist Report: Data Requirements for Advanced Analytics." The report states that right now, 38 percent of organizations surveyed are practicing advanced analytics, but within three years, a whopping 85 percent plan to practice advanced analytics.
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