Power BI adoption roadmap: Executive sponsorship


This article forms part of the Power BI adoption roadmap series of articles. For an overview of the series, see Power BI adoption roadmap.

When planning to advance the data culture and the state of organizational adoption for Power BI, it's crucial to have executive support. An executive sponsor is imperative because adopting Power BI is far more than just a technology project.

Although some successes can be achieved by a few determined individual contributors, the organization is in a significantly better position when a senior leader is engaged, supportive, informed, and available to assist with the following activities.

  • Formulating a strategic vision and priorities for BI and analytics.
  • Leading by example by actively using Power BI in a way that's consistent with data culture and adoption goals.
  • Allocating staffing and prioritizing resources.
  • Approving funding (for example, Power BI licenses).
  • Removing barriers to enable action.
  • Communicating announcements that are of critical importance, to help them gain traction.
  • Decision-making, particularly for strategic-level governance decisions.
  • Dispute resolution (for escalated issues that can't be resolved by operational or tactical personnel).
  • Supporting organizational change initiatives (for example, creating or expanding the Center of Excellence).


The ideal executive sponsor has sufficient credibility, influence, and authority throughout the organization.

Identifying an executive sponsor

There are multiple ways to identify an executive sponsor.

Top-down pattern

An executive sponsor may be selected by a more senior executive. For example, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) may hire a Chief Data Officer (CDO) or Chief Analytics Officer (CAO) to explicitly advance the organization's data culture objectives or lead digital transformation efforts. The CDO or CAO then becomes the ideal candidate to serve as the executive sponsor for Power BI (or analytics in general).

Here's another example: The CEO may empower an existing executive, such as the Chief Financial Officer (CFO), because they have a good track record leading data and analytics in their organization. As the new executive sponsor, the CFO could then lead efforts to replicate the finance team's success to other areas of the organization.


Having a Power BI executive sponsor at the C-level is an excellent indicator. It indicates that the organization recognizes the importance of data as a strategic asset and is advancing its data culture in a positive direction.

Bottom-up pattern

Alternatively, a candidate for the executive sponsor role could emerge due to the success they've experienced with creating BI solutions. For example, a business unit within the organization, such as Finance, has organically achieved great success with their use of data and analytics. Essentially, they've successfully formed their own data culture on a small scale. A junior-level leader who hasn't reached the executive level (such as a director) may then grow into the executive sponsor role by sharing successes with other business units across the organization.

The bottom-up approach is more likely to occur in smaller organizations. It may be because the return on investment and strategic imperative of a data culture (or digital transformation) isn't an urgent priority for C-level executives.

The success for a leader using the bottom-up pattern depends on being recognized by senior leadership.

With a bottom-up approach, the sponsor may be able to make some progress, but they won't have formal authority over other business units. Without clear authority, it's only a matter of time until challenges occur that are beyond their level of authority. For this reason, the top-down approach has a higher probability of success. However, initial successes with a bottom-up approach can convince leadership to increase their level of sponsorship, which may start a healthy competition across other business units in the adoption of BI.

Considerations and key actions

Checklist - Here's a list of considerations and key actions you can take to establish or strengthen executive support for Power BI.

  • Identify an executive sponsor with broad authority: Find someone in a sufficient position of influence and authority (across organizational boundaries) who understands the value and impact of business intelligence. It is important that the individual has a vested interest in the success of analytics in the organization.
  • Involve your executive sponsor: Consistently involve your executive sponsor in all strategic-level governance decisions involving data management, business intelligence, and analytics. Also involve your sponsor in all governance data culture initiatives to ensure alignment and consensus on goals and priorities.
  • Establish responsibilities and expectation: Formalize the arrangement with documented responsibilities for the executive sponsor role. Ensure that there's no uncertainty about expectations and time commitments.
  • Identify a backup for the sponsor: Consider naming a backup executive sponsor. The backup can attend meetings in the sponsor's absence and make time-sensitive decisions when necessary.
  • Identify business advocates: Find influential advocates in each business unit. Determine how their cooperation and involvement can help you to accomplish your objectives. Consider involving advocates from various levels in the organization chart.

Maturity levels

The following maturity levels will help you assess your current state of executive support.

Level State of Power BI executive support
100: Initial There may be awareness from at least one executive about the strategic importance of how Power BI can play a part in advancing the organization's data culture goals. However, neither a Power BI sponsor nor an executive-level decision-maker is identified.
200: Repeatable Informal executive support exists for Power BI through informal channels and relationships.
300: Defined An executive sponsor is identified. Expectations are clear for the role.
400: Capable An executive sponsor is well established with someone with sufficient authority across organizational boundaries.

A healthy and productive partnership exists between the executive sponsor, COE, business units, and IT. The teams are working towards shared data culture goals.
500: Efficient The executive sponsor is highly engaged. They're a key driver for advancing the organization's data culture vision.

The executive sponsor is involved with ongoing organizational adoption improvements. KPIs (key performance indicators) or OKRs (objectives and key results) are used to track data culture goals and the results of BI efforts.

Next steps

In the next article in the Power BI adoption roadmap series, learn more about content ownership and management, and its effect on business-led self-service BI, managed self-service BI, and enterprise BI.