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TDWI Upside - Where Data Means Business

Marketing IT In-House: Don't Assume Too Much

Keep marketing your BI team because user management will not automatically see you as the technological authority.

Third-party BI vendors seem to know what's going on. Even if they aren't all very good at what they claim to do, they know that the in-house BI team does not earn user management's respect simply by belonging to the company.

You can earn and maintain a good reputation with users by respecting them, talking their language, and staying ahead of third-party vendors' messages.

Respect Them

Do not assume that users feel you respect them. Arrogant gestures, such as rolling your eyeballs or showing surprise when a user doesn't understand basic technical matters, can set you back for years.

So can the attitude that users owe you respect.

The HR director at one large enterprise quietly refuses to entrust certain records to IT. He takes pains to keep key information isolated.

At the start of each business quarter, he personally delivers the information to a government site where clerks format it to their specifications and keep a copy. This evasive move happens because IT conveys a lazy assumption that it deserves the HR director's respect and cooperation

It wouldn't take much for IT to turn him into a customer. He doesn't enjoy the extra work he's causing himself by evading IT but he needs a reason to trust and respect IT.

Talk the Way They Do

I cannot over emphasize the importance of this issue. Users want to hear their language. Form a habit of using vocabulary that demonstrates an understanding of the department you are attempting to serve. Of course, users have to adopt some of your vocabulary, too, but start by meeting them on their own terms (literally).

Say It Before the Competition Says It

Don't let vendors steal the show. Say what they say to your user management before they do. Make them sound like copycats. Pay attention to their marketing -- there's plenty of it. I get it in my email inbox and browser ads all the time.

If vendors claim to build the best dashboards in the world, explain to user management how you do at least as good a job. Include details about your enterprise that prove you have a decisive inside advantage.

If you honestly cannot deliver the same service, then step up and lead the process of finding the right vendor and coordinating the conversation between the vendor and your company. Be the technology leader. Nobody expects a leader to know everything.

You Have Distinct Advantages

Capitalize on your unique position. No vendor has the advantages you have to:

  • stay current on the shifting goals and requirements of your enterprise
  • understand the interpersonal relationships in it
  • build trusted relationships with users
  • give users the daily love they need

Many BI users are willing to look past the IT department for solutions, and many vendors are marketing hard to take your place. Align your conversations and behaviors with frequent marketing messages that remind everyone why you're the logical choice for providing and expanding BI services to your company.

Show continuous respect, speak "the people's language," and make vendors sound like copycats when they brag about the ingenious solutions they supposedly would deliver.

About the Author

Max T. Russell invites your questions about marketing. As owner of Max and Max Communications, he improves messages for BI, nonprofits, lawyers and alternative medicine. He and his identical twin, Max S., are heavy technology users who have been discussing and dissecting the challenges of IT in the workplace for the past 20 years. You can contact the author at

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