My Ideal Agile BI team

One of the more common questions I get asked is “What is your ideal business intelligence team?”. Though my answer is dependent on specific organisational requirements, there are some commonalities and generalisations I can make. I would start by saying that a good BI team consists of both technical and business people. By utilising business and technical experts working together, outcomes can generally be met sooner and more accurately than if the teams were separate.

Business Staff

  • Business Analysts – the interface between the BI teams and external business teams. Along with the BI specialist this role also usually makes the best scrum master.
  • Business Specialists – often a subset of the business analyst, business specialists (or subject matter experts) are sourced from the business teams responsible for creating or consuming the organisational data, e.g. call centre staff, program / policy staff, or retail staff.
  • Report / Technical Writers – only required if you need to produce high quality and complex reports for external business teams. It is more common for the BI team to provide a “self-serve” tool.
  • Statisticians / Demographer – only required if you are dealing with complex data and need to do in-depth statistical analysis.

Technical Staff

  • BI / ETL Specialists – specialist team members who understand the organisational BI and ETL tools, be it Pentaho, Cognos, Oracle BIEE, etc. Along with the business analyst, this role also usually makes the best scrum master.
  • Software Engineers – oft overlooked, but critical to the success of any reasonably sized BI team. These people are responsible for building BI tools, automating systems, or writing ETL / web scrapers (e.g. twitter, facebook, blogs)
  • Data Analysts – responsible for reverse engineering data sources, maintaining the databases and cubes and interpreting business need into information required.
  • Systems / Database Administrators – responsible for maintaining the BI servers and DBMS'
  • Geospatial Specialists - useful if your data has a spatial component and you need to geocoding or geoaggregate your data and visualise your results on a map.

Please note that these are roles and responsibilities, not necessarily individual people. e.g. a software engineer and geospatial specialist can be the same person, as can a data analyst and DBA. As for organisational structure, my ideal BI team would report to a business manager, rather than a technical manager or CTO. The technical manager will generally be focused on the systems and technology, whereas the business manager will be focused on the information outcomes. I would like to finish by saying that your team structure should be designed around your BI outcomes. Focus on reporting key data, data acquisition, data continuity, visualisation delivery, platform selection and resourcing.