Monday, October 14, 2013

IMF suggesting tax hikes - what's next?

Tax the rich? IMF sparks a mini revolution (via AFP)
Tax the rich and better target the multinationals: The IMF has set off shockwaves this week in Washington by suggesting countries fight budget deficits by raising taxes. Tucked inside a report on public debt, the new tack was mostly eclipsed by worries…

On Free Speech and The Stars and Bars

I am hearing a lot lately that flying the Confederate flag (aka the Battle Flag of traitorous slaveholders) is free speech. All that means is that the idiots flying it don't deserve to get their asses tossed in jail. It doesn't mean that people don't have the right, and the responsibility imho, to call them dumbasses for doing it.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

An essay on Leadership in Business Intelligence

I have spent over 25 years in IT, much of it in BI or its related functions. I have come to the conclusion that the primary value of a BI team is the ability to provide the right information to the right people at the right time so that they can make the right decisions to move a business in the right direction. This means that BI is a wide ranging discipline that is not the same as most other IT functions. Primarily, it means that it is vitally important that front-line BI staff learn about the business they are serving and understand the underlying processes they must support in terms that are not dependent upon underlying technology. It is the job of the BI team to put together a plan that will support the short and long term goals of the business and then to execute that plan in a cost effective manner while always being aware that organizational goals change and they must be attuned to what business leaders are looking for.

In order to fulfil the promise of the preceding paragraph every BI team needs a capable leader. The BI Director must be someone that has a solid technology background so that they can provide credible technical leadership to the team. By this I do not necessarily mean that the BI Director should be wearing a pager in a 24/7/365 support rotation or be creating production quality dashboards on a regular basis but it is helpful if they have spent time in those roles so that they understand what their staff needs in order to do their jobs effectively. Because the reporting and analytics architecture is so vitally important to the success of a BI team, the one technical role that the BI Director should absolutely be able to fill themselves is that of Chief Architect. This role requires a background in a range of technologies and disciplines including data warehouse design and implementation, report development standards and practices, data governance, project management and production support.

On the non-technical side, the BI Director must understand how to motivate and protect their team. They must understand that all team members do not respond to the same incentives and they must make the effort to understand what those incentives are so that they can lead a team that is capable of more than the sum of the capabilities of its members. They must always make sure that they safeguard their team, to the best of their ability, from political and operational pressure, especially pressure to do things that are unethical or that compromise the principles of the organization. A leader that does not support their team this way is a leader that is not worthy of the title and will not have the confidence of their team for very long.

Finally, the BI Director must be a passionate and effective evangelist for what BI can do for the company. They must be ready and able to do presentations, formal and informal, technical and non-technical, to groups large and small. It is just as important to be able to explain to salespeople how data quality impacts the ability of the CEO to understand cost of sales and why it is important that they fill out their paperwork correctly as to hold a high level briefing for the Board that describes the ROI on the long term data strategy for the company and why there is a need to invest a couple million dollars of the company’s hard earned cash in new infrastructure and training staff in its appropriate use so that they can get insights that were not previously possible.