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Communicating project value

Evan Stubbs
August 29, 2011

Change is challenging because a significant component of business analytics revolves around encouraging an organisation to change existing practices. It is important to consider how change can be encouraged.

In practice, there are three main ways of encouraging an individual to change:

  1. Control
  2. Persuasion
  3. Influence

Even though control is sometimes a direct means of encouraging change, more often than not the scope of control is limited to the person doing the controlling. It is extremely difficult (and often futile) to tell someone to change without the person’s agreement.

Most change is enacted through applying persuasion and influence. People need to be persuaded that a change will be beneficial. Equally, people can be influenced to go along with a change even if they do not necessarily agree with it.

Persuasion and influence both require an understanding of what the change entails. They also require reasons why the change is worthwhile. And finally, these reasons must also be relevant and comprehensible. If they are not, they will be ignored.

Communicating the value proposition for business analytics involves taking objective measures and translating them into a contextually relevant and comprehensible framework within an organisation. An ideal communication strategy makes the information personally relevant, provide motivation, and acknowledges tacit cultural factors that aid in decision making.

When personal relevancy is missing, stakeholders often:

  • Form misconceptions about the initiative
  • Fall prey to fear, uncertainty, and doubt
  • Ignore the initiative entirely.

Planning your communication strategy

Although business analytics typically revolves around doing things smarter, implicit in any business analytics project is a need for change. The business analytics team rarely owns the processes that will execute on the insights it creates. Because of this, other stakeholders within the organisation will almost inevitably need to work differently if the value is to be realised. Effective communication therefore requires the business analytics manager to:

  • Convince others of the need for change
  • Achieve consensus on how this will be delivered
  • Generate commitment to this change.

A big part of a successful business analytics project is therefore identifying sufficient reasons for change. And, a major factor in this convincing process is typically the additional value that will be created by doing things differently. Building a comprehensive business case is a critical step in building support for a business analytics project. Without this business case, it is hard to identify specific examples of how the organisation will be better off after the project is completed.

There are many ways of defining the value created from business analytics. A project may create a variety of tangible benefits including:

  • An increase in average revenue per customer
  • Growth in customer acquisition’
  • Reductions in customer churns.

The same project may also create a number of intangible benefits for a variety of stakeholders within the organisation. These might include:

  • A reduction in effort required to deliver outcomes
  • Better insight and improved decision-making ability
  • Reduced uncertainty and improved confidence.

In an ideal world, defining and committing to these would be sufficient to get internal support. They are highly quantitative, they are typically well defined, and there is explicit ownership over the outcomes.

Unfortunately, as with most things, reality is more complex. No matter how apparently self-explanatory the business case and the reasons for change are, they still need to be communicated to decision makers and stakeholders.

Sometimes, this communication is easy. When this happens, it is as if the business analytics manager and the person she is communication with are on the same wavelength. Communication is painless, both parties are in full agreement, and little time is actually spent explaining the detail of the business case. In these situations, it is almost as if the need for change is self-evident.

Author avatar
Evan Stubbs
Evan Stubbs is the regional product manager for Analytics at SAS Australia/New Zealand and has more than 10 years' experience helping organisations extract value from business analytics. A recognised expert in innovation, he has held previous roles in multinational companies such as KPMG Consulting, Deloitte, and General Motors.
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