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The Agile Incubator Blog

Brain Training to Create BI Power Users: Part 4

This is part 4 of a blog series centered on the topic of creating BI power users.

Your BI power user creation program will gain momentum much more quickly in a spirit of community. I have several recommendations to help start and engage that community.

Tool and SQL training sessions are a key part of the overall development and need to be made available at regular intervals.  In-house trainers can also serve as tool experts to help triage end user problems. These experts will be conduits of change that should be shared across departments for the biggest bang.

Over time, ‘data evangelists’ will emerge. These individuals are a key to tool and platform success and are generally eager to share findings with colleagues. Encourage collaboration.  At the departmental level, consider pairing these experts with novices. A formal mentorship program can be put into place. An informal program can be as simple as a list of experts to support functional areas or departments.

Assistance with bigger data efforts should also be available, such as bulk loads (in lieu of users doing single record uploads). If necessary, a ticket system can be put into place for appropriate chargebacks to support departmental efforts.

A list of ‘frequently asked questions’ posted to a shared location will help service repeated requests. This can include tool specific guidance that users can try when they have the need.  FAQs can also focus on resolving some of the pain points that frustrate business users – like how to get data into and out of a particular tool or the data warehouse. Email groups and ‘lunch and learns’ are also excellent opportunities for community sharing.

Consider programs to reward collaboration. This might include rewards for the analyst or team of analysts that create the queries or models that save the company the most money, best optimize the health of the population, provide the best uplift in revenue, and so forth. A little encouragement – money, days off, free ipads – can go a long way to encourage healthy competition.

Your community will also need help understanding the data.  Access to an enterprise data dictionary is essential. More advanced shops also provide tools that allow end users to trace data lineage.

Of course, no IT user community can be successful without some oversight.  Your DBAs will need to act as the gatekeepers to the data.  Tool administrators will need to validate and control access to, and modification of, the tools and shared models.

All these efforts help build a thriving BI user community. Individual contributions result in a groupthink that engages and advances all. Over the long-term, your card-carrying power users will have the right tools to grow their expertise, access to shared knowledge to complement their own, and support from ‘data evangelists’ to help get them over the inevitable learning bumps.

This blog series started out with the mandate that enterprise-level success requires BI power users – not just a handful, but many power users. You can hire them. You can contract them. Or you can groom them. In any case, your organization must provide an ecosystem that nurtures and guides all types of thinkers – the data surfers and the data divers – along the path to BI expertise.

Good luck with your BI power user building program.

The future of your organization is flowing through their brains.