Data champion: Decoding role and responsibilities

Data champion is the new buzz word. As companies invest in BI and DW, a data champion is becoming important to ensure returns on these investments.

The role of the data champion, addressed by different names like data steward, data evangelist, is swiftly gaining importance as enterprises assign greater value to data as an asset. This need for pristine data governance and management is the genesis of the data champion. The data champion is the data sheriff, ensuring the townspeople (or business users) maintain the order of the business intelligence (BI) system.

Essential capabilities of a data champion

  • The data champion should be well skilled in IT and possess a 360-degree view of the business requirements.
  • Organizations functioning globally require the data champion to have a good sense of strategic data needs.
  • To inspire the users to follow the data governance framework in an organization, it is necessary for the data champion to be well respected, have a good rapport with the users, and possess business maturity.
  • The data champion should hail from the CXO level, as domain expertise and a grasp of technology are the key essentials.
  • The data champion should posses analytical skills, backed up with awareness of the latest data management and data security trends.

Responsibilities of a data champion

The responsibilities of a data champion are determined by an organization’s data processes. The core duties of a data champion would include:

  • Evangelizing the data processes in the organization to the business users. The need for a data champion will become acute when an organization is upgrading or buying a new BI system.
  • Communicating the limitations of technology to the business users.
  • Promoting data governance and data management in an organization.
  • Implementing a solid data process and guidelines, and ensuring that they are being followed.
  • Forming the strategic vision of an organization as one of the inner circle executives.
  • Providing cost optimization of the IT expenditure in information systems.
  • Mapping the requirements with the existing systems and conducting gap analysis.

Challenges faced by data champion

  • Resistance to change is the biggest challenge for any data champion. The business users generally view the new IT system as a replacement for their job. The data champion should address these concerns and communicate that the BI system is only there to assist them.
  • Persuading the unit heads to incorporate data management processes is another challenge faced by the data champion.
  • During technology selection, the data champion will have to keep supreme the business users’ needs and avoid being swayed by the technology talk.
  • With regards to change management, the data champion will have to bridge the gap between IT and business. He will have to evaluate the existing systems and be responsible for progressive change.

Is one data champion enough?

One data champion for one organization is pliable. But usually, for a large enterprise, there would be a need to have more than one, i.e. a team of data champions. This team can then act as a helpdesk for business users in the enterprise with respect to all data issues they face.

Third party data champions

Organizations can outsource the responsibilities of a data champions to consultants. However, considering the nature of business, an organization’s data security becomes important. If an organization is looking for a data champion from an implementation partner, it will be unsuccessful as he will not be able to have the vision and understanding of business users.

The data champion’s role, though, will keep evolving. As long as the organization exists, data shall exist. As data grows, the role of the champion will grow too. There is likely to be a great scope for data champions with the increase in demand for business intelligence and data warehousing solutions in India.

About the author: Preetham Shankar is a BI consultant. He has over eight years of experience in the field of BI and data warehouse (DW). He is currently working in BIDW practice at Infosys Technologies. He has experience in BI consulting, mainly in banking and telecommunications industries, with a focus on data warehouse technologies.

 

(As told to Sharon D’Souza)

This was last published in April 2011

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