It is a well-known fact that the majority of IT projects (that make it to completion) are completed behind schedule and over budget. There can be dozens of reasons for this including a lack of experience, failure to foresee potential issues, the absence of a strong project manager, and often projects are given overly optimistic deadlines to appease executives. Here is how to plan your business intelligence project with a more realistic timeline.
1.What will we get? The first step is to determine what the final output will look like. When your contractors leave and your BI solution goes live what will you have to work with? Some of the main deliverables in a business intelligence solution include:
- A robust and extensible data warehouse
- Combined data from multiple source systems
- Data migrator and developer tools
- An interface for end user dashboards
2. Milestones. Next you will identify the major mile stones in your BI project. Below I have listed some common milestones for a new business intelligence implementation:
- Sign off on the mapping of data that will be migrated from your source system and into the data staging area
- Transform the data and load the fact and dimension tables into the data warehouse
- Validate the accuracy of the data warehouse data
- Cleanse, de-duplicate, and assign common keys to data from various source systems
- Finalize the merged tables in the data warehouse and remove any temporary or working tables
- Validate and sign off on the data quality layer of your data warehouse
- User training
3.Estimate the timing of each milestone. This step will require you to work closely with your vendor and contractors. I recommend estimating a time line that is independent of your vendor’s initial time estimates. You can do this even if you don’t understand all of the details of the project. List out each milestone and have your data team make an educated guess about the amount of effort and time that should logically be needed for each step. Compare your timeline with your vendor’s time estimates and ask for clarification where there are discrepancies.
4.Contingency Plan. Finally, have a plan B. What will you do if the contractors aren’t able to decipher your data as quickly as they estimated? Will you opt to bring in additional labor to keep the project on track (but over budget). Or is it OK if the project is delivered two weeks later than initially planned? At this step you have to determine who in your organization is counting on the completion of this project and who will be affected by a delay.
Following these steps for project planning should get you on the right track. Often we rely on our vendors to act as our project managers, but this leaves us clueless and disempowered. An independent project plan that is insightful will empower your team and make the vendor aware that you are paying attention.