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Effecting Change with an Analytics Proof of Value

Having all the data can't help your company improve its overall operations. To drive and maintain BI adoption, an organization you must understand that change must be managed through three stages in five simple steps.

By Tony Lopykinski, Managing Principal, Maven Advisors [Editor's note: Tony Lopykinski will address the critical importance of including business alignment and organizational change management tactics as part of your overall BI strategy and internal practices in his session BI Adoption: Change the Way You Think about BI at the TDWI World Conference in Chicago (May 11-16, 2014) .]

The concepts of business intelligence (BI) and analytics are not new, yet organizations struggle to find ways to drive mass adoption. According to recent studies performed by BI Scorecard and Gartner, fewer than 30 percent of employees use BI or analytic tools on a consistent basis to drive their decisions. Why is BI adoption so difficult to achieve?

Most organizations are captivated by the technology and data aspects of the solution. This is where many companies fall short. Successful businesses can pinpoint problems, harness available data and BI technology, and combine it with change management processes to drive solutions that positively impact the bottom line.

Your company must first identify and understand the problem statement and be willing to trust the analytical data to change certain aspects of the business. Company leaders in general struggle with shifting from an intuition-based to an analytic-based decision-making process that a BI program brings to an organization. Today's technology provides a new wealth of detail and analysis exponentially greater than it was just five years ago. Business intelligence is ultimately about enabling fact-based decision making to drive real business impact and value.

The overall impact of a robust BI implementation change management process is gravely underestimated. In today's technology marketplace, trends of big data, data discovery, and visualization are sold as solutions that drive business performance and results. Merely having all the data won't solve your company's desire to positively impact its overall operations. Driving and maintaining real BI adoption requires an understanding that organizational change must be managed through three stages: rational, emotional, and behavioral.

Rational Change

Rational change management targets an individual's sense of logic and reasoning. It focuses on defining and proving business assumptions using factual data. Using data in BI to report on business trends, metrics to measure performance, or analytics to find new patterns or insights in data addresses the rational side of change. This is where most business analysts, statisticians, and data scientists focus their attention -- assuming facts alone will be enough to cause the business decision makers to act on their findings. Appealing to the decision's maker rational thinking only addresses one aspect of the overall change management process.

Emotional Change

Meaningful qualitative analysis and facts are important aspects of BI adoption because they build credibility with business decision makers. However, facts alone do not drive change. To enable decision makers to take action, real human emotions and cultural barriers that exist in every organization must be considered. Enabling decisions requires analysts to utilize critical communication and influencing skills. Analysts must also possess a clear understanding of the potential barriers to individual change, which may include:

  • Personal agendas: "What's in it for me?"
  • Protecting self-worth: "Does BI diminish my value to the organization?"
  • Prior experiences and biases: "Haven't we tried this before and failed?"
  • Misaligned reward systems: "This does not align with my compensation."
  • Influencers: "This is not consistent with what I am hearing from trusted colleagues."
  • Political risk: "Am I willing to go against the status quo?"

Getting decision makers to act requires overcoming these emotional and cultural hurdles. It is only when actions are taken that real benefits from BI and analytic solutions are obtained.

Behavioral Change

The final phase of the change management process is to ensure the organization has modified its behaviors and has adopted BI and analytics as part of its decision-making framework. Sustaining change requires paying attention to altering the long-term behaviors of the organization. In other words, change the company's culture. To make BI pervasive in an organization's culture, it must be approached as a long-term investment managed by a very visible program. Organizations successful in driving BI adoption have programs that enable repeatable and sustainable outcomes by:

  • Defining a strong business case and BI strategy
  • Developing and executing a communication plan
  • Organizing around core business and technology competencies
  • Defining governance to oversee the strategy and ensure policies and procedures are followed
  • Providing the necessary hard and soft skills training
  • Continuing to market and sell the BI program
  • Focusing on measurable results and aligning reward systems
  • Never losing site of the need to proactively manage change

Conduct an Analytics Proof of Value

Driving and sustaining long-term BI adoption can definitely be a monumental task that cannot be accomplished quickly. Building a BI program and gaining momentum for change requires a deliberate, incremental approach. By conducting an analytics proof of value, you may be able to improve your ability to identify the highest-value opportunities and deliver incremental BI results. This proof of value exercise ensures you target the right problems are and challenge leaders to act on real results before making significant investment to build an analytic solution. This approach includes the following five step process:

1. Assemble your team: Include motivated business leaders with real problems to solve and a small number of business analysts to help solve them.

2. Find the game changers: Identify the problems worth solving. Make sure they are solvable and have decision makers ready to take action. Select the best opportunity and move forward.

3. Solve the problem: Use real data to solve the problem with analytics. Adjust your hypothesis and approach if needed or return to Step 2 to select the next opportunity. (Rational Change)

4. Take action: This is the moment of truth. Business leaders must make a decision and take real action. If unable to act, do not move forward to Step 5. (Emotional Change)

5. Implement the solution: Build a repeatable production solution, remembering to communicate, educate, measure, and reward. (Behavioral Change)

Whether following a traditional or agile BI project approach, this exercise can be effective in helping you jumpstart the change management process.

No matter the approach, to truly drive adoption, your BI programs must identify the most significant analytic opportunities, ensure value alignment, and proactively manage the change process to enable decisions and actions. Only then will your organization achieve meaningful BI adoption and real business value.

Tony Lopykinski is managing principal at Maven Advisors. You can contact the author at .

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