People, processes and technology are the three components of any technology project. Most organizations focus on the technology portion, attempting to improve business processes by trying to select the right infrastructure to make everything fit together successfully. In many cases, only a select few stakeholders are involved in identifying the requirements and frameworks that surround use. Unfortunately, this type of approach limits the use of software as it only takes into account a subset of business needs and end uses. With analytics in particular, this is a reason why organizations don’t get it right the first time. Stakeholder participation may seem trivial; however, the reality is that stakeholder identification and inclusion shouldn’t be overlooked because involving the right people at the right time leads to quicker time to value as it allows a right-fit solution with less iteration to develop.
Why stakeholders matter
Not only are people an important part of any project, but involving the right people at the right phases of any project can help ensure project success. In many cases, project sponsors decide who would be involved in the software evaluation process, overlooking other people that they assume have already provided input. Unfortunately, the lack of broad input can cost the business time because requirements gathered were incomplete, leading to adoption challenge or the need to revamp much of the solution. And this does not only apply to internal stakeholders. Organizations looking at customer facing analytics need to involve their customers to get feedback on what they want and the feature sets they require, rather than look internally to understand what the customer wants.
Business intelligence solutions are iterative, meaning that as needs grow, their use expands as well. At the same time, understanding the goals of use and how they will be applied within the organization gives developers the tools they need to roll out something of value with initial deployment. This requires including the right people in the process so that there are fewer solution iterations. If only a subset of stakeholders are consulted, solutions tend to be subpar in the sense that they require more rework to provide the level of interactivity or data visualization that is needed. With self-service access, organizations may get away with working with only a few people to identify requirements. But in many ways, this still falls short because there are different types of users within roles that have varying levels of comfort with technology. Developing one set of solutions for everyone does not work in the long run and wastes time and money as IT must revamp a solution or fix it. This is true for BI and analytics projects or indeed for any technology project.
How to involve the right people
Once business goals are identified, it becomes possible to evaluate the level of involvement of business sponsors, technologists, subject matter experts, and the like. Too often, organizations leverage the expertise of business sponsors and look to IT for advice but overlook subject matter experts that may or may not be directly tied to the project. People who understand the intricacies of business rules and processes, who interact with colleagues and customers, and who can navigate internal company politics are essential resources to look to when building a successful project and platform that can deliver solutions to the organization or its customers.
Involving the right people means:
- Developing an understanding of the roles and responsibilities of individuals whose roles might overlap in the BI project.
- Identifying the goals of the initiative and the business processes involved in order to link the roles and responsibilities of people that might not be involved in project sponsorship with the flow of data (subject matter experts might reside in departments that are initially considered outside the scope of the defined project).
- Involving business users in the process early to ease adoption.
- Making sure that collaboration exists between business departments and IT resources but that business needs remain the key priority.
- Involving people with different expertise, levels of comfort with technology and business acumen.
All of these suggestions seem intuitive, but all too often organizations focus on product capabilities without considering in greater depth how specific software functions will affect ease of use and access to data.
Understanding corporate politics and the role it plays in IT related projects
The reality is that sometimes it can be difficult to include all the people that are needed due to internal politics. In some cases, individual departments select a solution for their team and don’t want to share information or resources due to the fact that they are sponsoring the project on their own. Alternatively, data owners may not want to share data sources or insights because they feel the information is sensitive. Whatever the reason, successful BI requires many different data access points and suffers when organizations are not willing to share data across departments.
Within analytics specifically, another problem arises. IT departments want to manage data infrastructures while business units want more data flexibility. If these cannot collaborate and work cohesively, individual departments tend to develop their own solutions outside of the managed IT infrastructure. Though this approach may appear potentially more agile, the result can be that access to data and broader organizational initiatives is more limited. Therefore, developing a collaborative approach to BI development is the best way of ensuring the right stakeholders are involved – irrespective of who is financing the project.
Tips for stakeholder involvement
Overall, organizations need to understand that successful projects require input from the right people. Identifying those resources requires:
- An ability to identify which employees, partners and/or suppliers are involved in the processes associated with the project.
- Identification of the people who understand the data and business rules associated with metrics and business performance.
- Location of subject matter experts.
- Empowerment of business users to allow them to create their own user experiences.
- Understanding that application use and development is iterative, but getting it right saves money in the long run and provides a quicker time to value.