The Business Intelligence Evangelist

Published in TDAN.com April 2005

You’ve spent the past several years building a data warehouse and now it’s done. So, what’s next?

Although you’ve delivered an elegantly designed data warehouse on time and within budget, this is no guarantee that you will succeed. In fact, building and deploying a data warehouse is easy
compared to getting users to fully exploit the value of what you’ve built. To be honest, the day you deliver the data warehouse is the day that your job really starts.


Spreading the Good News

To make good on their data warehousing investments, some organizations are creating the role of “BI Evangelist.” This person is responsible for spreading the “good news” about the data
warehouse and what it can do for the organization. Whether or not the person holds this exact title, their full time job is to educate business users about what’s in the data warehouse, how to use
it, and how it can help them do their jobs more effectively.

“I am now on the business side in a new position that our company feels is critical to maintaining a competitive edge,” says Deb Masdea, who led the data warehousing effort at the Scotts Company,
a manufacturer of lawn and garden products. Last year, Masdea was appointed to a newly created position with the title director of business information and analysis. She says, “My job is to help
our management team, sales people and others to leverage the use of knowledge contained in our data warehouse. Whatever they need to make their decisions, I make sure they know how to get it and
how use it.”

Masdea has been so successful that last year she was given a “Sales Achievement Award” by the North American sales organization for the work she did to help them drive the business with
information. This is the first time I’ve ever heard of a data warehousing person receiving sales award, but it shouldn’t be the last!!

Like Masdea, most BI evangelists led a team that built the data warehouse and have a vested interest in making sure the project succeeds long-term. They also report to the business side of the
organization, not IT, and have a solid understanding of the business. They are able to communicate the value of data warehousing and business intelligence in terms business users can understand and
relate to.


Improving “Analytic IQ”

At a practical level, BI evangelists work closely with senior executives and managers to help them get the most out of the new BI resource. Since executives rarely attend training sessions, BI
evangelists often schedule one-on-one sessions with these individuals, serving as a “personal BI trainer.” This job is critical since executives can dramatically increase the acceptance and usage
of a data warehouse. The most effective way to market the BI and engender trust in it is to have executives who use it on a regular basis.

On a strategic level, BI evangelists help improve the “analytic IQ” of the organization. They observe what business users are trying to accomplish and help them learn how to frame questions,
queries, and reports that will shed new insights on the tasks and processes that they manage. In some cases, the BI evangelist can even help users better understand what actions to take and how to
gauge the effectiveness of those actions. In short, the BI Evangelist can help users become better analysts and logical thinkers, something that many people say is in short supply in organizations
today.


Managing Networks of Power Users

In a large organization, the BI Evangelist can’t possibly provide one-on-one training and assistance to every user. So, a big part of the evangelist’s job is to train and support a network of
power users in every department which uses the data warehouse. These power users create reports for their departments and provide first-line support and training to individual users.

Power users are business people with a technical bent. They are well suited to create reports since they are immersed in the business and interact daily with their colleagues whom they support.
Often, the power users take on these “BI” responsibilities in addition to their regular duties and are usually compensated in some way, either by a reduction in their other job responsibilities
or an increase in pay.


Marketing the Resource

Besides training and education, a big part of the BI Evangelist’s responsibility is to market the data warehouse through all possible channels. The evangelist communicates to business users of the
data warehouse through newsletters, email, the corporate intranet, departmental and company meetings. The evangelist seeks to get executives to recognize the value of the data warehouse in
corporate inhouse publications as well as annual reports, shareholders’ meetings, and interviews with the press.

In addition, the BI Evangelist religiously monitors usage of the data warehouse through systems management tools. They measure their own progress by charting usage metrics, including named users,
daily users, the number of reports and queries submitted, response times, and so on. They continually recommend ways to prune and tune the data warehouse to ensure it provides optimal performance
with minimal amounts of administration.


Conclusion

Building an elegant data warehouse is not enough to guarantee success. It’s only the start. The key is to ensure that your target users not only log on to the system after it’s first deployed but
on a continual basis. For that to happen, they need to trust the system and know how to get the most out of it.

BI evangelists play a critical role in monitoring data warehouse usage and developing ongoing training and marketing programs to ensure the organization is maximizing its investment in BI. Smart
companies appoint BI evangelists as an insurance policy to guarantee the value and payoff of their BI investments.

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About Wayne Eckerson

Wayne has been a thought leader in the business intelligence field since the early 1990s. He has conducted numerous research studies and is a noted speaker, blogger, and consultant. He is the author of two widely read books: Performance Dashboards: Measuring, Monitoring, and Managing Your Business (2005, 2010) and The Secrets of Analytical Leaders: Insights from Information Insiders (2012).

Wayne is currently director of BI Leadership Research, an education and research service run by TechTarget that provides objective, vendor neutral content to business intelligence (BI) professionals worldwide. WayneÕs consulting company, BI Leader Consulting, provides strategic planning, architectural reviews, internal workshops, and long-term mentoring to both user and vendor organizations. For many years, Wayne served as director of education and research at The Data Warehousing Institute (TDWI) where he oversaw the companyÕs content and training programs and chaired its BI Executive Summit. He can be reached by email at weckerson@techtarget.com.

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