Let’s say you wake up one day with a fantastic vision for launching your corporate analytics initiative… You’re totally positive it will make beaucoup dollars and leverage the hottest technologies making your firm the talk of your industry. You can already smell the new raise. So, you walk into the VP’s office, explain your great idea, and ask for money to make it happen. Next, she jumps out of her seat completely elated and starts shoving dollars into a banker box for you to haul off and put to good use on your first groundbreaking AI project…
“This is a pleasant fiction, isn’t it?” -Lucilla, Gladiator (2000)
It shouldn’t surprise you that the days of poorly planned analytics programs getting funding are nearly behind us. Too many organizations have been burned by the kneejerk reaction of hiring data scientists without a good way to enable them in the organizational culture.
Well, you’ve got to start somehow! So how? First, if you haven’t already, I’ll invite you to read my previous blog, on Phase Zero: Exploratory Phase. If you follow the steps recommended there, you will have already articulated a well-thought-out value proposition for developing a Data Strategy and obtained approval to write a formal business case to implement the strategy.
You’ll need to write a well-developed, robust justification for why your organization should invest in analytics capabilities, complete with financials that will pass muster, i.e., the Business Case. It’s the main event in the Investment Phase of our “to Get Better at Corporate Analytics” framework. However, before diving into the business case elements, it’s helpful to pause and consider two key things about your business context:
Let’s briefly unpack those questions. Regarding Culture, analytics endeavors can be touchy for some folks. In fact, culture is the hardest part about implementing analytics capabilities, and digital transformation more broadly. There are many reasons for this, ranging from personal trust issues with data sets, to feeling threatened by automation, to resentment around business processes changing. Each of these cases could easily be a blog of its own. Suffice it to say that culture warrants consideration on your part in terms of how you articulate your business case up and across the organization. Be sure to rely on the wisdom of trusted colleagues from different parts of the business as you plan how you’re going to deliver your talk tracks.
The second point: Generating Sponsorship – is critical. Sponsors are the leaders in the company whose buy-in you need to achieve your analytics objectives, who will support you and reinforce the right behaviors in the culture for your efforts to be successful. Let’s also denote “approving” sponsors as the people with the power to say “yea” or “nay” over your work moving forward, and “authorizing” sponsors as the ones who hold the purse strings (They might be the same person or group of people). So then “generating sponsorship” is the process of getting them all on board. Sometimes sponsors are all-in, and it takes little persuasion (although rarely will they ever be as easy as our fictional VP above). Others might be diametrically opposed and shoot you down before you start. But most are somewhere in between at first.
So, to generate sponsorship, you’ll want to have a plan. This can be an art and a science, and this topic could be another entire blog of its own. The key is that it will take persistence, consistency, and usually a series of formal and informal discussions to “bring them along” with your vision. And even when you do get approval and budget, generating and sustaining sponsorship never really stops – it needs to continue as long as the effort continues – and sometimes even after it is implemented. Think of it as generating “durable sponsorship.”
Now it’s time to develop your business case for implementing corporate analytics. This may sound like a one-and-done deliverable, but it’s actually as much of a process as it is a document. There may be stages and iterations, depending on your culture and the sponsors, as mentioned above. The overall idea is to “bring them along” to your vision and understanding of value, while anticipating their objections or reservations through however many layers of approval are needed.
Here are the steps:
If you deliver on all those steps, you’re in good company – few organizations fully appreciate the implications of a successful Data Strategy, and the planning and commitment that really takes. Even if you don’t get the approval at first, have faith – it’s only a matter of time before the CEO comes knocking for another go – and they’ll remember you from the first time.
I look forward to sharing the next phase – “Architecture.” Stay tuned!