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Ted Kemp
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The Champion Has Left The Building

Successful maintenance of the business sponsorship has to be as flexible as the business itself, because business sponsorship has to be built to last.

Finding someone on the business side to sponsor an IT project is problematic enough. But even if you succeed, what do you do when your champion goes away? Or just as bad, what if they're still around, but have stopped caring?

The concept behind "business sponsor disorder" as it relates to business intelligence and data warehousing is simple enough: When the business-side person who stimulates BI goes away, the BI and data warehouse environments are at massive risk of stagnating. We recently brought you an Intelligent Enterprise story from Margy Ross and Ralph Kimball that tackles this issue -- a technology problem that often comes about for decidedly non-technological reasons.

A business sponsor is a visionary. He or she might have more experience with marketing, manufacturing, compliance or auditing than with BI technology and how it works. This is OK. What isn't OK is a business sponsor who isn't capable of making a business case. The sponsor's job is to understand the challenge that BI needs to address, and to insist that the business "can't afford not to act," Ross and Kimball say. "You absolutely need someone high in the business to champion the cause. Otherwise, you'll suffer from chronic business sponsor disorder. The estimated lifespan of a DW/BI environment plummets without strong business sponsorship."

Equally important is recognizing that as business priorities wax and wane, so in turn is the source of business sponsorship likely to change. People leave or get pulled to other projects. New people who never championed the project -- or worse, who fail to comprehend its importance in the first place -- might take command. Corporate politics can come into play, and we all know how fun that is.

Successful maintenance of the business sponsorship has to be as flexible as the business itself, because business sponsorship has to be built to last. BI and data warehouses do not provide quick fixes for temporary problems. They fill needs that go on into perpetuity. So the challenge goes beyond finding a "sponsor" to include fostering the very idea of "sponsorship." This week's story gives suggestions on how to do that. Business sponsorship needs to be kept alive, even when that means finding a new champion to replace the last one.

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