Tim Leonard discusses the keys to analytic success ...

To succeed with analytics, you need to put as much emphasis on the “business” as on “intelligence.” I rose up through the technical ranks and learned the hard way that you can’t be perceived as an IT person. You need to be perceived as a business person who uses technology to solve business problems.

So my keys to success are: 1) talk the language of business, 2) let the business do the talking, and 3) get quick wins and build on your success. Ultimately, it’s all about sales. It took me some time to check my technical content and language at the door to the executive suite. I discovered that the more I discussed architectures, schemas, and tools, the less business people seemed interested in what I had to say. But if I talked about business concerns, say increasing wafer counts per square foot of factory floor at a semiconductor company, then executives paid attention.

When I join a new company, I spend a lot of time listening to people and learning how the business works. If I open my mouth too soon and expose my business ignorance, I lose credibility. So, I try to master the business quickly. As I gain knowledge and confidence, I ask fewer questions and begin engaging in conversations. At some point, I know almost as much about the business as the business people. You know you’ve made it when a business person says, “You know a lot about the business for an IT guy!”

I also discovered that in key situations—like when you need executive support for a project—it’s best to shut up and let the business people do the talking. While executives appreciate a business-savvy IT person, they would rather hear a business person explain the need for a business intelligence (BI) solution. So, when it’s appropriate, I ask business people to deliver the presentations about data proposals, and I sit in the back and talk only if called upon.

To deliver successful projects, it’s also critical to follow a clear methodology that involves plenty of dialogue between business and the BI team. Executives need to define objectives, communicate them to everyone involved, define measures of success, and hold someone accountable for the outcome. The development team needs to hire the right people, with appropriate technical and business skills, to develop the infrastructure and applications. The business needs to assign the right business people to work with the development team to define requirements and provide continual feedback to ensure applications meet their objectives and needs.

This is an excerpt from the book, Secrets of Analytical Leaders: Insights from Information Insiders,” by Wayne Eckerson. To read more from the book, click here.

To read more expert insights, click here.

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