Leading for Success with your Business Intelligence Initiative: Part 6

In my previous post Leading for Success with your Business Intelligence Initiative: Part 5, I discussed some additional C's to success. Today, I would like to discuss the E in success.

The E's in Success

The first "E" is Education

While training in technical skills and project management is a good investment, there are a myriad of soft skills that can help your BI team take more responsibility for success. Group problem solving, communication and conflict management, facilitation, change management and understanding how human systems typically function are critical skills that can improve success. There are many ways available to receive training in these areas.

In addition to formal skills training, the BI team needs to educate the other members of the BI team on the epistemology of the stakeholders that they represent. Understanding the epistemology of the stakeholders and the institution is the keystone to creating a true learning organization, establishing a culture of evidence, building the right solutions and achieving pervasive BI success. I will discuss my thoughts on the epistemology for BI in a future post.

The second "E" is for Executing the plan

In my 30 years of experience, I have found most large, innovative, or complex projects are all seeking a state of "entropy" - a way to go bad. I have always assumed a project was going bad until proven otherwise - assume proven guilty until proven innocent.

Many IT people attempt to run BI projects but lack the knowledge or resources to select the correct project management methodology and then find themselves' being run by the project. The key axiom to successful project management is: Plan the work, then work the plan. I will discuss the appropriate project management methodology for BI in a future post. What I will state now is that the traditional project management methodologies and techniques used for traditional IT application development and software development will not produce the appropriate work products required for a successful BI project.

My 5 rules for successfully executing a BI project plan

Rule 1: Make sure you are doing the "right" project.

You need to identify what initial BI project is right for the intended stakeholder and the institution, and then make sure everyone minds their own business.

A. Checklist to selecting the initial right project

  1. Is there a clear purpose for the project and does it make sense?
  2. Is there a clear business case (positive value proposition)?
  3. Do you have the right sponsorship?

Rule 2: Prepare a reasonable plan

A. Checklist for a reasonable plan

  1. Have you selected an appropriate BI project management methodology?
  2. Are the resources, schedule and requirements in balance?
  3. Have you defined a strategy for keeping stakeholders and BI team members involved in constantly reviewing the plan?

Projects take resources, and we all know that you may not always get what you want, but if you try hard and communicate well you may get what you need! We also know that we may not have all components of the plan in balance. That's normal, the difference between the plan you want and the plan you have is called "risk." Managing this risk needs to be a part of the plan.

Rule 3: Build the right team with clear ownership of tasks

A. Checklist for the team

  1. Are there clear task assignments and ways and means of doing the work?
  2. Is there a strategy for providing timely feedback? Performance does matter?
  3. Have you taken the steps to avoiding the work breakdown structure?
    • Overlapping responsibilities
    • Ambiguous assignments
    • Vague accountability
    • Unreasonable expectations

These are all major demotivators for stakeholders and project team members

Rule 4: Track status and give it visibility that is has both depth and width

I have previously talked about the need to have a high communication plan for the BI initiative, but it is also essential to regularly communicate the status of individual BI projects.

A. Checklist for project tracking

  1. Pay attention to the results and make changes as necessary
  2. Strategy for continually tracking and reporting on progress status
  3. Strategy must include
    • Progress reports for BI team
    • Progress reports for the intended users
    • Progress reports for the executive sponsors

Rule 5: Expectation Management

Managing expectations is a critical key to your projects success, your own personal success and saving your sanity. Let's face it; everyone wants their BI systems and projects delivered yesterday, even if they don't have a clue about the amount of work involved in delivering a quality solution. I"ll discuss this topic in more detail in a future post. What you need to understand for now is that perception is reality and all BI projects are really just a reality that someone in the institution would like to see. Your job is to manage your sphere of influence regarding the project; i.e., the piece of the pie that you can actually directly impact via your work responsibilities. Remember, no one is immune from the need to manage expectations, it is only your place on the project food chain that defines at what level and how formally you need to manage these expectations.

A. Checklist for expectation management

  1. Have you identified all the key stakeholders?
  2. Have you identified the real needs and wants of the stakeholders, the organization, the BI team, etc?
  3. Can you answer the following question? When will we know when we are done? If you can't answer this question, then you don't have a manageable project yet and you will not be able to manage expectations.

In my final installment of this series, I will discuss the "S" factors in Success.