Often the most challenging component of driving change in an organisation is getting permission from the rest of the business to drive that change. Nowhere is this truer than with analytics initiatives. Department heads and managers can promote the idea of analytics all they want, but those projects aren’t going anywhere without cross-functional approval. Datamine Partner Matt Wilkins offers five suggestions for business professionals struggling to make the case for implementing analytics in their organisation.
Budget is usually the biggest limitation that determines which projects and programmes move through the pipeline. Organisations have limited money, resource and people-time – so projects need to compete with one another to get funded. If your organisation has never invested in analytics before, it’ll be difficult to successfully vie for those funds. You’ll probably be asked questions like, ‘How are we going to monetise this? Can you show me examples of where we’ve done this successfully…and what the return was?’
Unlike other tried-and-tested initiatives, such as opening another store or launching a different product, any new analytics project won’t have the comfort of familiar territory to soothe senior stakeholders - from their point of view, it will be full of uncertainty relating to how extra value will be generated. However, based on my experience working with a large number of Datamine clients, there are five tactics that will help you secure investment for analytics initiatives in your organisation.
1. Focus on the foundational projects (not the quick wins)
When pursuing analytics for the first time, it’s tempting to choose an easy project that will quickly ‘prove’ to your organisation that analytics is doable. Instead, it’s key to first focus on foundational programmes that will make doing analytics easier in the long run (both within your area and across the business) in order to show senior stakeholders a pathway towards adding continuous value.
Initiatives that can be leveraged across the organisation or used over and over are gifts that keep on giving - a quick win doesn’t necessarily make anything else easier, but a foundational analytics project does.
2. Come prepared with great information
It’s unlikely that the decision-makers in your organisation started their careers as statistical analysts or coders. This means the level of knowledge about analytics typically starts at a low base and has no real champion or expert in the room that can explain the pros and cons. If there is little internal analytics expertise in your management team, your organisation needs to develop a structured process for decision-making and define what information about each proposed project will enable an informed decision.
When it comes to decisions in familiar areas, there is expertise around the table – and smart people can make good judgements. But without that expertise in the room, you’ll need a robust and agreed way to prioritise analytics as an important strategic activity. If you can arrange it, a key way to enable this is to set aside funding for analytics projects, as this changes the conversation to one of extracting the most value from the money rather than comparing the familiar to the unfamiliar.
3. Form a coalition of the willing
In many cases, first-time analytics projects need to be chosen based on who is willing to help you. It’s common for foundational initiatives to span across multiple departments, so you need to get these potential partners on board for these reasons:
- There’s a chance that the budget needed for your project will have to come from somewhere that’s already allocated - making the case to proceed will be easier if the other departments have signed off on this monetary re-allocation
- The more people and departments you have on your side, the more supportive voices there'll be in the room when it’s time to decide on funding priorities
4. Make sure you have a map for implementation
Before attempting to persuade stakeholders into investing in strategic analytics, it’s important to ensure you’ll be able to actually implement the results from the initiative. How are you going to realise the value? What resource will be needed? Is it going to be hard or easy to do? How long will it take? These questions need to be answered in advance to a certain extent, both to ensure other stakeholders can feel comfortable and to ensure you don’t fail to capture the value of the initiative you spearheaded.
By mapping out the potential modes of implementation (and constraints), you’ll also be able to determine which people and business units you need to engage with in advance. If your implementation requires a business process or technology change, you’ll need to get an understanding of that before beginning.
5. Get advice
In any group of people, you can expect at least one person to undermine a large analytics initiative, usually for one of two reasons:
- They lack analytics understanding: Will someone come out and say, “I believe making an evidence-based decision is bad”? Of course not. They might say the right things on the surface, but come decision time, their uncertainty about unfamiliar analytics techniques means they'll push for projects to be postponed in favour of more familiar endeavours - this is because organisations tend to fund things they understand.
- They don’t see the value – just the dollar signs: In order to mitigate the budgeting concern, you need to figure out what’s in it for everyone and what could be missed out on by not doing it (or at least how it’s not hurting them). Pinpointing the cross-functional benefits of a piece of analytics work is difficult, but worth the time.
With both of these challenges, the answer lies in seeking advice - both internal and external. If you don’t have the analytics know-how to adequately explain the value to important stakeholders, bring someone to the meeting who does. If you need help determining exactly what initiative would have the most tangible benefits for everyone across the business, talk to someone who has sorted out these same issues for dozens of other organisations. Just like you would before embarking on any significant business venture, make sure you consult with experts in the field who can give you valuable guidance and perspective.
Persuading your organisation to give analytics a go for the first time is rarely easy, but it’ll be much harder for them to turn you down if you come prepared with a foundational project, credible information, a team of supporters, a map for implementation and expert advice.
Good luck! And as always, feel free to send us an outline of your business challenge to hear what we could do to help.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: MATT WILKINS (PARTNER)
Matt is a passionate advocate for using data-driven intelligence to identify and address business challenges. A big supporter of implementing analytics in Marketing, Matt has the expertise to balance the technical, commercial and cultural considerations required to derive value from analytics.