The advent of the DVD player has brought new life to many movie classics. One film that has found new life is the WW II epic, Patton. One unforgettable scene is the opening speech by George C. Scott, as Patton, addressing his troops. This speech combines a clear, high-level description of the desired objective with a succinct summary of the value of the destination and the path to get there.

As the sponsor, leader or responsible party of a business intelligence (BI) or data warehousing (DW) project, you too will be called upon to address the troops who will be waging battle for your project. Like Patton, you must provide a clear description of the goal, state the value of the objective, define how you will measure the success of the campaign and motivate your team.

An army is ineffective if it is spread thinly across many fronts or attempting to advance in more directions than its resources or time allow. Your team must have a clear, unified understanding of the goal. An army that concentrates its firepower on a single objective is effective and overwhelming. Conversely, if your team has no clear understanding of the goal or expectations, you will all be ineffective at best, casualties at worst.

It is absolutely critical that you address your team and give to them your version of Patton's inspiring kickoff. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Be inclusive. Gather all the troops, top to bottom. Do not limit your message, regardless of your title, to management layers. This insures that your message is heard directly by all participants and is not passed through the filters of your subordinates, picking up the dilution and distortions of their "take" on what you want to accomplish.
  2. State why the project is important to the business. This may be repetitive for the team, but they can never hear it too many times. Be specific about why this project was chosen to fund and staff. This builds team morale.
  3. Tell them why you are involved – why you personally believe the project is important. The team needs to "buy in" emotionally to your commitment. This is what will drive them when it comes time for long hours and "over and above" performance during the crunch time of the project.
  4. State your personal vision for the solution – what capabilities it will enable and what will be different for the business when it is complete. Be very explicit, stating exactly what will be different for specific people doing specific tasks and accomplishing specific goals. This will drive the team to ensure that critical functionality is included in the system.
  5. Define how you will personally measure the success of the project. This will ensure that the team builds a measurable system and that success can be objectively quantified.
  6. State clearly and openly the expectations of the business. Be very specific. It is important that the team understands who has been told what about the system they are building. Don't be surprised if there are gaps that surface between what the business is expecting and what the team plans to deliver.
  7. Tell how the project fits into the "big picture" of the business. It is crucial for people to know how their individual contributions fit into the overall objectives and goals of the business.
  8. Videotape your presentation. There will be questions later about exactly what was said, and this tape will provide a record of your comments to resolve these conflicts. In addition, there will be attrition and turnover on the project team, and this tape will be an essential part of the training process for new team members.

The end result of your presentation to the troops is twofold. One, the team can rally around a specific, unified vision and take comfort in the fact that they are building what you asked for and what the business is expecting. Secondly, you will all identify gaps between what you are expecting and what the team is planning to build.
While defining your desired state, always remember the key to technology project success: accomplishable scope. The team will tend to commit to whatever vision you articulate. Unfortunately, often your internal resources lack the experience to know what is actually accomplishable.

You must ask pointed questions, not be satisfied with blanket assurances and make sure that the entire team is ready to sign off on the desired state as accomplishable. The tendency is for teams to overcommit and assume they can work brutal hours or otherwise make it happen through superhuman efforts alone. Experience has shown that this approach is unacceptably risky and not likely to lead to success.

It is common for your internal team to all be ascending the learning curve. To maximize your chances for victory, focus on incremental success in accomplishable steps. In cases where your internal resources lack the ability to discern what is accomplishable given the time and resources at hand, it doesn't hurt to seek out objective assessment from external resources.

While it is unlikely that you will deliver your message in front of a giant company flag, it wouldn't hurt to view George C. Scott's performance as Patton. Unlike Mr. Scott, you won't have the opportunity to do a second take, even if you need one. You'll get one opportunity to deliver your message. Strive to be as prepared, informed and passionate as he was when you address your troops.

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