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The Decision Factor offers insightful comments and observations on analytics—from views on new technology approaches and market dynamics to the latest industry trends driving demand for faster, smarter information analysis. This blog contains personal views, thoughts, and opinions from SAP employees, mentors, and friends working in the area of analytics. It’s not endorsed by SAP nor does it constitute an official communication of SAP.


Picking Your Friends in a BI Initiative

No project (business intelligence, information technology, or otherwise) can be completed without people. But what people do you need to engage, and how do you need to engage them?

Pick Friends in High Places

It’s very easy to say “your business intelligence (BI) project needs executive support,” It’s another thing entirely to actually get it. Executives buy into projects because it improves something for them. Yes, their overriding goal is always to do right by the company, but if they’re going to stick their neck out for you, you have to expect them to have a little skin in the game. And that skin in the game can be pretty hard to come by since they already have a BI solution: their phone. When an executive needs data, they can just call someone. So, if you want buy in from them, you need to get them something they don’t already have.

What don’t they already have? It depends on the executive, but you can usually provide them something new and at a much faster pace. And unlike most of the people of the other end of the phone, you deliver the data directly to the executive’s iPad, depending on the BI tools that you’re using.

Pick Friends in Low Places

It’s important to remember that the actual definitions for a given metric come from the lower end of the organization hierarchy – and you need those people as well. They’ll be the ones, depending on your current level of sophistication, who will say which field on which screen in which system adds up to a given metric – information that you need. Unfortunately, for a host of reasons, those people often don’t want to share their “secret sauce.” 

Be sensitive to people who feel they’re losing something by automating the math, but make sure they understand your point is to save them time so they can start working on the next problem instead of filling in the spreadsheet over and over. Also, if they’re good, considering bringing them into BI – it’s often easier to teach a good business person the technical stuff than vice versa.

Wrap Up

Every project has stakeholders throughout the organization that drive success. I recommend understanding the needs and motivations of each before approaching them.