Secrets of Analytical Leaders

Great insights from Wayne Eckerson and seven analytical leaders.

Secrets of Analytical Leaders by Wayne Eckerson is, in many ways, a sequel to his earlier (and excellent) Performance Dashboards (see related article). The author provides the organizational structure and a majority of the conceptual material, but what makes it a fascinating read is the real-life commentary from seven analytical leaders that he carefully weaves into the book’s narrative.

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The book consists of twenty chapters covering the entire analytical landscape.  On the hard technical side, Mr. Eckerson answers timely questions such as how to create an agile data warehouse and identifying the role of big data. But he also addresses the soft side of leadership, such as gaining executive support, building momentum for your analytics program, and proper staffing and organization.

Mr. Eckerson defines analytical leaders as “purple people”, being neither “blue” business leaders or “red” technology leaders but a balanced blend of the two. And although it is tempting to only focus on the technical issues of managing an analytics program, he cautions:

The biggest factor that determines analytical success does not involve technology; rather, it involves leadership. Successful analytical leaders provide vision, guidance, and support to their teams, and they model and continually reinforce the importance of communication, teamwork, and execution. Specifically, they establish strong partnerships with top executives and business unit heads; they hire top-notch developers and analysts who understand the business and generate valuable insights; they organize and motivate their teams to deliver outstanding results; and they run projects that exceed user expectations and finish on time and within budget. In short, analytical leaders create and maintain a culture of excellence.

 

In my view, part of what makes the analytical leaders in the book successful is the scope of their mandate.  They haven’t been asked to “manage” a team of data architects or report developers. They haven’t been asked to “manage” a single vendor’s business intelligence platform and its contribution to an organization’s overall analytics landscape.  In fact, they haven’t been asked to “manage” anything. They have been given the mandate to demonstrate leadership and transform how their organizations do business with the intelligent and effective use of data.

The book concludes with a look at the future of analytics. While new technologies like Hadoop, cloud computing, mobile computing and in-memory database architectures are changing how analytics are delivered to our organizations, our end goal remains the same as it has for many years.

Beyond new computing platforms, the future of analytics will continue its relentless march toward delivering the right information to the right people at the right time.

As with Wayne Eckerson’s previous book Performance Dashboards, Secrets of Analytical Leaders could serve well for an analytics book club, with business leaders and technology leaders coming together weekly to discuss each chapter and answer the big questions the book is asking.  While much of the advice is “best practice”, it is certainly not “common practice” in many organizations.  But it could become common practice and this book can be a valuable resource to help your organization achieve that goal.

 
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Performance Dashboards, Second Edition by Wayne Eckerson

If you’re looking for your first book on business intelligence, dashboards and performance management, this is it. And if you own the first edition, you’ll appreciate the new chapters, case studies, and reorganization of the material.

Performance Dashboards: Measuring, Monitoring, and Managing Your Business by Wayne Eckerson is quite possibly my favorite business intelligence book (Wiley, 2nd edition, 2010, ISBN 978-0470589830). I reviewed the first edition several years ago and recommended it to my clients, regardless of whether they were business users or IT professionals (see my earlier review of the first edition, Performance Dashboards). So I was delighted when a review copy of the second edition arrived at my doorstep. As I began reading, I had two primary questions. First, would it still be the first book I’d recommend? And second, should owners of the first edition purchase the second edition?

I’m happy to say that the answer to both questions is “yes”. Although the book covers the same themes as its predecessor, the book’s contents have been reorganized and over 50% of the material is new. The 308-page book is organized into three parts and 15 chapters. There’s even electronic editions for Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook, and Google Books.

The first part, The Landscape for Performance Dashboards, provides a solid foundation of concepts. Business professionals will want to read the chapter entitled Assessing Your Organizational Readiness.  And technical professionals will want to read the chapter entitled Assessing Your Technical Readiness. But both chapters should be read by all readers, as many dashboard projects fail because one side fails to understand the challenges of the other. Which is why part one concludes with a chapter entitled How to Align Business and IT. The chapter on technical readiness presents Eckerson’s BI Maturity Model, which can help technical teams assess not only where they are but also have a productive dialog with their business sponsors about how to get to the next stage in the model.

The second part, Performance Dashboards in Actions, provides brand new case studies for each of the three types of dashboards: operational, tactical and strategic. There are two case studies for each type so readers can compare and contrast the different approaches.

The final part, Critical Success Factors: Tips from the Trenches contains six chapters, each titled “How to…”. These chapters provide helpful checklists that will help organizations structure their requirements and project plans. They’ll also help frame questions to vet potential outsourcing partners.

If you’re looking for your first book on business intelligence, dashboards and performance management, this is it. And if you own the first edition, you’ll appreciate the new chapters, case studies, and reorganization of the material. I’ve seen many dashboard projects fail because either the business sponsors, the IT department, or sometimes both think that they can continue business as usual. There is a third way and Performance Dashboards is a useful guide that can help you find it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Performance Dashboards by Wayne Eckerson

If there’s only one BI book on your shelf, make it this one.

UPDATE: Performance Dashboards is now in its second edition. Check out my review here.

Wayne Eckerson is a researcher with The Data Warehousing Institute. He’s created a great book, Performance Dashboards (Wiley, 2005, 978-0471724179),  to address the current trendiness of performance management and enterprise dashboards. Eckerson takes a vendor-neutral stance and supports his assertions both with research and case studies.

The book provides a comprehensive view of performance dashboards and their role in the organization. What I found particularly illuminating were two “big-idea” concepts that alone are worth the price of the book.

The first big idea is Eckerson’s definition of a performance dashboard. While business and IT management may be inclined to define a performance dashboard as merely a high-level representation of Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s), Eckerson describes a robust three-tier architecture. Using his definition, what is commonly known as the “dashboard” is only the tip of the iceberg. Wayne defines three categories of performance dashboards- operational, tactical, and strategic- each having a tiered three-layer architecture.

The second big idea is is contained in Chapters 4 and 5. Chapter 4 is entitled “Assessing Your Organizational Readiness” and defines criteria that an organization can use to assess their readiness to adopt performance dashboards. Chapter 5 is entitled “Assessing Your Technical Readiness” and presents a Business Intelligence Maturity Model. While “organizational readiness” addresses the entire organization, the “Business Intelligence Maturity Model” specifically addresses the IT organization’s current position on the BIMM scale.

The book can either be read cover-to-cover or by choosing specific topics. As such, it can be a valuable read for IT professionals at all levels as well as business users, managers and executives. My hunch is that readers will be delighted with the new insights they glean, but frustrated with their ability to bring higher business intelligence and change to their organizations. Perhaps the book can provide a common reference so organizations can establish consensus and move forward.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I purchased this book with my own funds. It was not a free review copy. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”