White PaPer: Professional services

White Paper: professional services
how to build a high-performing team
Attention to Detail Brings Success to an Enterprise Data Warehouse Project
A proven strategy and a sizable budget are not enough by themselves to guarantee that a technology project will run smoothly
and bring the expected return on investment. Given the innumerable details behind every step of even a minor project, the
team that carries out that strategy must be selected, trained and managed with the utmost consideration to detail. To
demonstrate the importance of building a high-performing team, this white paper summarizes how Compuware’s Professional
Services Division (PSD) created a team tasked with launching an Enterprise Data Warehouse (EDW) initiative for a prestigious
transportation company.
The project started when Compuware was asked to provide a Project
Manager for a reporting migration project. At the time, the project
team was comprised of the client manager and a consultant in the
role of business architect. The project had an approved budget and a
high-level scope document made up of eight bullet points. Vision,
strategy, planning and execution were an open book, and the task for
Compuware PSD was to build a team and a process, convert a series
of long-standing reports to a new technology platform and,
ultimately, build an EDW.
Where to start? A conscious decision was made to build a highly
competent and flexible team. Each team member had to be
experienced in their field, and confident in both their skills and
themselves. New ground was being broken, and every team member
had to be a solid contributor.
What is a high-performing team? For this assignment, the team
needed to be:
made up of highly-skilled professionals
able to work together easily
efficient at building a product on a defined schedule
invested in the products they build
interested in learning
invested in each other.
Build a Team of Strong Individual Contributors
The new team set out to find the right consultants for the project.
Job descriptions were drafted for each position, focusing on a
combination of technical skills for the positions and personal skills to
fit with the type of team the organization wanted to build. Job
descriptions were distributed to local consulting companies, and
resume review began in earnest.
From each batch of resumes, a subset of candidates was selected for
phone interviews. This step involved 15- to 30-minute calls to
evaluate each candidate’s communication and technical skills, and to
make an initial determination about how well they might fit in with the
team. With many candidates being from outside of the U.S., effective
communication skills became a key evaluation point.
Phone interviews were a combination of fun and despair. They were
typically conducted by team leads who focused on finding the right fit
for a specific technical area. There were times when a candidate
would be an immediate lock for a face-to-face interview. On the flip
side, there were times when conversations had to be cut off quickly
because the candidate had poor communication skills, or the
conversation indicated that the candidate’s skills did not match the
quality of the resume. In cases where there was any doubt, the
candidate was rejected.
The team leads decided that it was important to meet the candidates
in person, and that the client manager or the Project Manager attend
every face-to-face interview. This allowed them to ask pointed
questions drawing out not just technical capabilities, but also attitudes
and personality traits. The goal was to hire candidates who could do the
work but also align with the team and business partners.
Domain experts asked the technical questions and drilled the
candidates for detailed answers. For example, candidates were often
asked to expound on an answer by providing an example of work they
had done in the pertinent subject. Or, if a candidate provided a
generic or incomplete answer, the interviewer probed for more
substance, or had the candidate re-explain the response. Candidates
were also asked to explain technical solutions to a less experienced
technician, such as a Project Manager. This was a way to evaluate
communications skills and the candidate’s ability to work directly with
business users. A high-performing team member must be able to
work independently, as a member of a technical team and directly
with business experts.
Hiring decisions were made as quickly as possible. If the hiring team
had a strong positive feeling about a candidate, an offer was extended
almost immediately. The goal of this tactic was to capitalize on a
candidate’s enthusiasm. Also, a quick decision is sometimes a great
sales tool!
Map Out a Simple, Effective Set of Methods
Each deliverable was timed to meet a 10- to 12-week schedule — an
idea easier said than done. There is always business pressure to add
more content, and a good Business Analyst has a responsibility to be
a business advocate. At the same time, to maintain a predictable
schedule, release scope must be closely managed.
The method deployed, called “agile pipelines,” involved building a
pipeline around an identified piece of business functionality with
specific business value, such as a set of queries or reports required
by senior management. The development schedule was iterative, and
included collaboration between business customers and development
team members in the following disciplines:
Business Scope and Requirements
Data Stewardship
Data Modeling and ETL Mappings
Customer Visualization
ETL Development
Quality Assurance
Customer Acceptance Test
While Figure 1 reflects a waterfall process, in practice it is iterative
and collaborative. Plus, there is sufficient overlap between pipelines
to protect individual domains from overload.
Build Product Functionality in Small,
Meaningful Deliverables
The client manager made the decision to deliver the product in
small chunks on a frequent basis. There are many examples of
large, runaway Business Intelligence projects — but this was not
one of those. The design was a hybrid approach to the EDW, a
blend of Kimball (the data warehouse is a conglomerate of all data
marts in the enterprise) and Inmon (the data warehouse is one part
of the overall business intelligence system). In addition, the popular
data warehousing book, Agile Data Warehousing by Ralph Hughes,
was used as a guide. This helped the team refine the development
processes and establish a disciplined deployment schedule.
A typical pipeline or development iteration comprising all of the above
would take 8 to 12 weeks. As one iteration took hold, and the team
was in full flow, the next iteration would start.
Typically, an EDW release will contain 4-6 business questions, 6-10
report samples, 15-20 target database tables, and anywhere from
100 to 200 database columns. At the higher end of these numbers,
schedule becomes a risk item.
The key to building a meaningful deliverable is to always know what
business problem the deliverable is solving. To this end, Business
Analysts are usually aligned with data stewards and subject matter
experts to ensure the right business questions are being addressed.
Schedules are often maintained and adhered to in a creative manner,
with Business Analysts asking for more content, and the Project
Managers asking for reduction in scope to meet schedule. In the case
of this project, the roles were combined. The Business Analysts
functioned as Project Coordinators, with the Project Manager
functioning as a Program Manager or Senior Project Manager. This
change required seasoned, confident professionals in the Business
Analyst roles. It also forced the Business Analysts to make choices
and decisions based on competing needs — scope versus schedule.
EDW Track 1
Business Analyst, Data Modeler, ETL Developers, Report Designers, Quality Assurance Testers
Release 1
Release 2
Release 3
Release 4
Figure 1: Release calendar example
By the Numbers
Lessons Learned
By breaking down the product deliverables into small, targeted
releases, content was deployed in a consistent and predictable
manner. Over time, the sum of the small releases resulted in an
overall large set of business content.
Stay attentive throughout your recruiting process. The hiring market
for IT professionals has improved; there is serious competition for
candidates. Make sure, as a hiring manager, the team maintains a
sense of urgency throughout the recruiting process.
Include domain experts in the hiring process. This will ensure that
all of the necessary topics the candidate might work on are addressed,
and will provide a good understanding of the candidate’s capabilities.
Plus, the in-house domain experts will have a vested interest in the
candidate succeeding!
Business Intelligence Product
Delivered to Customers
EDW BusinessObjects Universes
Approved Business Terms
> 1000
BusinessObjects Universe Objects
> 5000
> 300
EDW Database Tables
> 3000
EDW Database Columns
> 200
Migration Reports
Scheduled Customer Reports
> 700
Product Delivery Schedule
EDW product delivery is generally scheduled on a monthly basis.
For this project, there were 14 production EDW deployments over
the course of 16 months, or just under one per month. In 18
months, more than 200 reports were deployed to production,
an average of 11 reports per month.
Ask probing interview questions. Draw out a candidate. Hear about
their successes and their challenges. Learn if they are problem
solvers. Evaluate their attitudes as well as their capabilities.
Keep the hiring process simple. A simple but effective process
ensures that candidates can be onboarded and productive quickly.
Keep the deliverables small and the deadlines short. There is less risk
with new people by having them work on clearly defined deliverables
with short, achievable development cycles.
Count. Know how many requirements are required for each deliverable
or release. Count all tables and columns, ETL jobs, universe objects
and reports. Know the desired defect rates, and manage to these
rates. All of these items make the team accountable for delivery
and quality.
Stay flexible. Change is difficult for everyone. Onboarding new people
is difficult and new team members will take time to assimilate.
Celebrate every success. Software development is hard work. Product
delivery is even more challenging. Make sure the leadership team
recognizes it when someone, or everyone, on your team does
good work!
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