Tracy Austin at TDWI


Doug Henshen at Intelligent enterprise blogged about a speech at the TDWI by Tracy Austin, former CIO of Mandalay Resort Group and former VP of IT at Harrah’s Entertainment, one of the most celebrated BI-driven enterprises in the world.

1. BI must be business driven, tied to measurable business goals. If BI is currently IT driven, find a way to evolve it into a business-driven initiative.
2. Data management has to be in place. If data quality isn’t there, no amount of cleaning will make it work. Just say no to more BI work until you can put proper data management and data quality in place.
3. Ensure the right mix of business and IT people. “Mandalay had competent people who were used to working in silos, but you can’t operate on your own when it comes to the data warehouse. You need architects and data modelers and people who can bring everything together and tie it to the larger strategy. Even if tools are there and the data is good but the people aren’t in place, it’s going to fail.”
4. Focus on quick measurable wins, not big, monolithic projects.
5. Create a formalized marketing plan. You have to sell the BI program to top executives and the entire organization. “You can even sell it to Wall Street, as we consciously did at Harrahs.”
6. Base BI investment decisions on business value. Ditch the smoke and mirrors or black-box approach. Have the rigor to commit to quantitative and qualitative deliverables and follow up with reports on progress toward goals.
7. Institute joint business and IT planning. Gather key business and IT leaders once a month so you get into a proactive mode. Let the business people tell you how they’re using BI and how they would like to be using it so you can plan the next releases.
8. Foster a business-savvy IT department. The more you can familiarize your IT people with the business drivers and business problems the better.
9. Develop the right BI architecture to meet the goals. Some organizations build as they go and end up with underpowered infrastructure. Some build everything at once in a big-bang project and they end up with overblown architecture. The best approach is to plan and architect in advace and then build as you go, spending one step at a time.
10. Optimize the human and information resources. Institute continuous measurement and continuous improvement. BI is not something you put in place and forget. You have to go back and reexamine the fundamental assumptions and success of existing projects.

These points are great. What is noticable about them is that as well as ‘BI’ they generally apply to what I’d see is good practice in general – whether for BI projects, EDM projects, data management projects, business rules, enterprise software, knowledge management projects.

In fact, rather than just talking about BI, I think Tracy is doing a great job of selling what I would read as agile (small a) development methods from a business focus. This so, so needs to be done as agile has been the domain of the IT crowd for far too long. Technology and the business are like ying and yang (or at least they should be) and doing agile business and agile technology sit so well together in allowing you to outperform your competitors.

(another)thing that’s clear hear is that 7/10 of the points are about culture, marketing, strategy and people. The hard soft stuff. Only 3 are about tech. I think Tracy’s approach to being a CIO is spot on here. Great piece.


One Response to “Tracy Austin at TDWI”

  1. 1 Tracy

    I just ran across this (searching for something I did with TDWI in 2011). I know my comment is tardy; but I wanted to thank you a)for spreading the word, and b)your kind words. I always strive to provide something that is useful vs academic. Thanks again. Tracy Austin.

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