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Driving Powerful Partnerships with Agile BI (Part 2 of 2)

Building a strong partnership between the IT department and the business team will lead to the success of your agile BI program. That partnership will be achieved by building trust and having a business-benefit mindset.

In Part 1, we demonstrated the benefits of agile BI and discussed how important partnership is to successful agile BI projects. One of the common questions I hear from IT departments is, "How do we develop better partnerships with our business counterparts?" Likewise, business owners often voice concerns about the quality of their relationship with IT.

Following are lessons I have seen teams learn that improve partnership between IT departments and business teams.

Lesson #1: Partnership is earned through trust, which takes time. Be willing to commit to the long-term relationship!

Regardless of which side of the table you are on, don't expect to start using an agile methodology and see your partnership instantly or automatically improve. Strong partnership can sometimes take years to develop. Sometimes leadership direction (on one or both sides) creates conflict, or you must overcome a history of issues between teams or a history of poor cooperation within a team.

Whether you are working against a difficult history or are just trying to get off on the right foot building a new partnership, here are a few principles to help.

First, focus on making realistic commitments and keeping them consistently. Next, strive for successes that are important to your counterparts and will help make them winners. Build trust through being open and transparent when issues arise. Don't be afraid to point out your concerns with them or the risks of the project. The important thing is to strive for a long-term, consistent, positive relationship, based on proactive engagement.

Lesson #2: Agile gives you so many opportunities to highlight success. You get a chance after each sprint!

An agile approach helps both teams showcase the benefits of their project to management. Don't be trapped by the idea that successes have to be big. While you are working towards the big success story, your project may lose funding or the momentum of business support.

One key advantage of agile BI is that it can set up realistic and ongoing opportunities for sharing short-term successes. It's amazing how calling out consistent and everyday successes can have a powerful impact on the perception of your project or program, preventing the business from undervaluing the project. Keep in mind that your BI project is also gaining larger-scale value that you will be able to promote when the time is right.

Lesson #3: Passion for the business outcome, not the IT outcome, will ultimately define your relationship.

Often IT organizations focus too much on the technology architecture or their own departmental objectives. Business teams can also put too much demand on specific deliverables, losing focus on the real business outcomes or opportunities. These are not the objectives successful agile BI teams focus on.

Instead, you should focus on the project work that has the most business impact or is perceived as critical to the business at the time of delivery. When a strong partnership exists, driving objectives around solid business outcomes becomes easier. When everyone has the mindset that business outcomes are the name of the game, innovation and collaboration can flourish.

Lesson #4: Agile BI does not remove the burden of achieving long-term goals. Your agile program should be linked to your strategy and reference architecture as a guiding principle.

As pointed out in Part 1, business owners of agile BI projects may be skeptical of the benefits of smaller deliveries. One important point for IT is that your agile BI project must always take you one step closer to achieving your ultimate program strategies and your reference architecture.

By evangelizing your long-term blueprints with your partners and aligning on these strategies together, you help build confidence that agile is about building the entire "house." You are just building it one step at a time, and creating value along the way.

A Critical Mindset

Building an intimate relationship on earned trust and shared successes drives a lasting partnership. By not taking small successes for granted, you can improve perception and improve business value, both crucial to sustaining your project investment and achieving business impact.

In the end, partnership is achieved by having a business-benefit mindset, and building a strong partnership between IT and business teams will lead to the success of your agile BI program.

About the Author

Wes Flores of McKnight Consulting Group has over 20 years of experience in the data management field. Specializing in the areas of enterprise data warehousing, MDM, analytics and BI programs, he has worked mid-sized to Fortune 15 companies with a passion in promoting data as an asset. You can contact the author at Wflores@mcknightcg.com.

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