This is the first in a seven part blog series written by guest blogger and co-author James Brenza. James is the Chief Data Officer for Labor Genome. He is also Vice President, Data and Analytics Practice at Pillar Technology. He provides over 20 years of technology leadership to drive the use of data and analytics for sustainable competitive advantage. His background includes analytics leadership, business process reengineering, program management and software development. James is also active in the Columbus start-up community as an advisory board member and Chief Data Officer.
This series will focus on big data and analytics projects based on a variety of case studies to illustrate the process. It will contain seven sections that correspond with the seven stage organization transformation implementation model and each week James will focus on one of the seven steps. The series and this week’s blog starts with sharing an example of how an analytics program was implemented using the first part of the organization transformation model: creating a vision and sense of urgency. James gives specific examples to help illustrate how the tools can be used in a very practical manner.
Predictive Analytics, Big Data, Business Intelligence, Analytics Transformation….. they are all big opportunities and potentially big headaches if your leaders aren’t prepared to drive them effectively. An analytics transformation requires a unique focus and leadership to ensure a positive outcome. The organization transformation process defined in the Innovative Leaders Workbook for Implementing Analytics Programs by Maureen Metcalf and James Brenza (scheduled for an August 2014 release) provides a robust framework for business analytics initiatives.
In step one of the implementation process, creating a vision, I highlight several key actions and illustrate the steps with examples and considerations for you, as the project participant or leader. My intent is for you to see how these steps apply in a real implementation and provide examples that will be valuable to you when you implement your analytics program.
Assess foundation for change: After attending a recent meeting to organize an analytics initiative, the small team of stakeholders and subject matter experts lacked clarity on their problem definition, intended outcome, team structure and available resources. The team was very excited to leverage the current interest in analytics, but lacked clarity on what they could accomplish, or even how to proceed. Have you ever participated in a similar effort? Without a vision, organization and stakeholder alignment, execution and communication plan, and measured outcomes, your success will be challenged. Let’s examine a composite example to see how leaders have ensured successful initiatives in their organizations.
Clarify the vision: The success of analytic initiatives hinges on starting with a strong vision and realistic assessment of the organization’s ability to structure the effort. It also hinges on the leader’s ability to prepare the stakeholders for a journey, rather than just a traditionally structured implementation project.
The transformation vision needs to focus on leveraging data and analytics to provide a business outcome that is not currently available. That outcome is best described in financial terms or customer centric metrics. To help clarify your vision, one of the following example statements may help you to clarify your purpose:
- We’ll utilize customer and order data to improve annual customer retention by 10 percent in the next twelve months.
- We’ll utilize order, competitive analysis and social media feedback to increase annual sales by 15 percent in the next two years.
- We’ll utilize physical asset and energy utilization data to reduce annual operating costs by 2 percent in eighteen months.
Each of these sample statements clarifies the use of data, specifies the use of analytics, and links to a time bound, measurable outcome.
Scope the change: After clarifying the vision, the team can focus on identifying the scope of the initiative. By focusing on each of the business areas that will be impacted by implementing the change, the team can identify the outcomes that are desired. Those outcomes should ideally be linked to the organization’s mission, purpose, financial statements, or customer outcome. For each outcome identified, the team can focus on individual measures that can quantitatively define the current state as well as progress toward the future state. If a quantitative measure cannot be identified, the team should create a qualitative measure and be prepared to gain stakeholder support for that measure.
Identify Stakeholders and Sponsors: Since the vision and scope specify the data and business value, the stakeholders have been identified implicitly. While implicit definition is a great starting point, it’s vital to identify specific stakeholders and assess their alignment with the initiative. The team can brainstorm the list of stakeholders by looking at the data source owners, the type of analytics to be performed, the owner of the outcome, and groups impacted by implementing the change. A stakeholder management plan is an ideal tool to accomplish this. By identifying the stakeholder, linkage to the initiative, current level of support, desired level of support and plan to gain their support, you can initiate a communication plan to gain support. For executive level stakeholders that require a significant shift in their level of support, it may be necessary to identify other stakeholders who can influence them. It is vital to structure the stakeholder management plan, work through the communication steps, and continuously revise the plan to monitor progress. While working through the plan, it is critical to take time to understand the stakeholders’ individual needs and what you can do to gain their support by incorporating their concerns into your initiative.
The final task before closing the initiation step is to ensure you have identified an executive sponsor. That individual should be one of the stakeholders who has already been identified and included in the stakeholder analysis. The executive sponsor should not be from the technology organization. He or she should be a key owner of an operational area or outcome metric. If you have not been able to identify an executive sponsor who will firmly endorse the initiative from the onset, it is important to wait until you’ve secured their full engagement before proceeding. You can measure someone’s degree of commitment by their willingness to participate in biweekly meetings, co-host monthly sponsor meetings, and assist with influencing other stakeholders. If your executive sponsor isn’t able to commit to these basics, you will not have the support necessary for your initiative to succeed.
How is leading a big data/analytics initiative different than other projects? Let’s take a moment to focus on what’s unique about data and analytic initiatives.
- One key thing to remember is that this type of effort is more ambiguous than other efforts most leaders encounter.
- While the vision and scope may sound declarative, the methods used throughout the implementation will vary based on the data and analysis encountered throughout the initiative.
- Many sponsors will understand the process being used, but have their faith shaken if the data and analysis doesn’t crystalize quickly. It may also be difficult to maintain support since the vision itself must be far reaching but can’t bind the analytic methods too tightly. It’s very important to remember to let the data guide the team throughout the entire implementation. Patience is vital and transparency from the team will help maintain stakeholder support.
In the next section, we’ll discuss how to build your team to help provide that type of support.
If you are interested in reading more by James, you may want to read: Evaluating Big Data Projects – Success and Failure Using an Integral Lens, Integral Leadership Review August – November 2013. You can also listen to the NPR interview that accompanies this paper including a dialogue between James Brenza, Maureen Metcalf, and the host Doug Dangler.
We also invite you to join the LinkedIn group Innovative Leadership for Analytics Programs on LinkedIn curated by James.
To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.
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photo credit: www.flickr.com Infocux Technologies