In the first blog of this series, we explored how Business Analytics has opened up new avenues to make value out of data beyond what traditional reporting, and even Business Intelligence tools, can offer. While the opportunity value is undeniable, getting from concept to implementation can be a daunting task. Today’s entry will provide some ideas on how to take that next step to bringing effective Analytics into the organization.
Over the past few years I have seen many instances of Analytics initiatives perpetually stalled at this juncture, where IT and Business just cannot reach alignment on the need, value, and required investment. On the other hand, I have also come across instances where initiatives have lumbered ahead long before the organization was ready, resulting in a lot of wasted time and effort connecting bad quality data to users who didn’t want or know how to leverage it: garbage in, garbage out.
The best way to mitigate either one of these scenarios is to conduct a thorough business analysis, the output of which will be your Business Case. Documenting your data assets, identifying the key stakeholders, dependencies or roadblocks, and opportunity value are among the many other necessary steps for any Analytics initiative to have a chance of success. You can’t just call up a vendor and ask to buy their latest Analytics solution!
1. Find both a business, and an IT sponsor
A common thread among the BA project launch failures I’ve seen is that they didn’t have good project sponsorship.
Based on my experience I have found that projects are most likely to succeed when both business and IT executives are co-sponsoring. Good sponsors will help keep the project on course and in line with the overall business strategy, provide access to resources, and help promote the project. The best sponsors for Business Analytics projects have the following qualities:
From the business side, generally, the CMO and CFO fit this criteria well.
The CMO: The CMO is a good fit as a sponsor because s/he is usually tasked with growing the company and formulating effective strategies. In recent years, the role has become more tech-savvy as marketing focuses on using data-driven insights to generate opportunities. As a result, I’ve noticed closer ties between the CMO and CIO.
The CFO: On the other hand, the CFO is responsible for key business metrics, controlling spending, and analyzing how spending (i.e. acquisitions) / cost cutting initiatives will impact the company. As someone who also controls spending, this individual would be a good person to have on your team.
The CIO: On the IT side, in most organizations the CIO is the obvious choice but there are different types of CIOs that may require different approaches to acquire their buy-in.
2. Select an effective team
Now that you have project sponsors you need to fill out the rest of the team. I have found that the most successful teams are comprised of cross-functional individuals that balance technical expertise, project management, vendor relations, and business perspective. Typical roles that might fill their trifecta and provide a winning team would be a Systems Architect, Business Analyst, and a Data Modeller/Scientist, alongside a team of functional user stakeholders, of course.
3. Draft an air-tight business case
Without a business case a project of this complexity is almost guaranteed to have complications, if not fail entirely. There are a couple of key ingredients to a good business case, and the emphasis you put on each may depend on factors like your intended audience, and the corporate culture, to name a few.
1. Start with an executive summary that clearly defines project parameters.
2.Give a background of the project including the current state issues, and goals of a future state.
3. Provide quantitative and qualitative benefits analyses. Here, you can include elements such as a Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) and Internal Rate of Return (IRR) to showcase how the project will more than pay for itself. I find it very helpful to include case studies to show how other organizations have successfully implemented a BA project and the value that they are achieving as a result.
4.Make a list of alternative solutions and a decision matrix indicating how you reached the conclusion that your approach is the best for the organization
5. Detail implementation considerations: How long do you think it will take to make this project happen? How many people will you need? Are there other resources you will need and are there any major dependencies?
6.Document potential risks, and more importantly, mitigation plans to either avoid, or manage the risks. Acknowledging what can go wrong does not suggest the project will fail, it makes your position more credible to the stakeholders as it demonstrates a fully thought-through approach.
7.Finally, in the appendix, list all of your assumptions in detail. This is easy to take for granted as generally accepted, but things can change quickly in an organization and it is imperative to document the assumed state.
If that seems like a lot to manage, you can get a head start using Info-Tech Research Group’s template that you can download HERE. Remember, the investment you make now in a well thought out business case will pay dividends throughout the project, and put you on the right path from day one.
Stay tuned for a Webinar on Business Analytics with Info-Tech Research Group prior to the third and final piece in our Business Analytics Blog Series!