One of the first rules you learn in film production is that to make the final edit, each scene must advance the plot. If you examine a good movie, you'll see this rule holds true. Every scene that hits the screen advances the story in a meaningful way. The scenes that don't advance the plot in a meaningful, measurable way are discarded; thus the lament of so many actors, "My best work was left on the cutting room floor."

In order to survive in the world of business intelligence, you must also follow this cardinal rule. Everything you do, every phase you build, must advance the plot (the strategy) of the organization and specifically advance the agenda of your key stakeholders in a meaningful, measurable way.

Projects that don't advance any key stakeholders' agenda are at maximum political risk. At the very best, they will have someone meaningful claim credit if they are a blockbuster hit. Much more likely, they will wither on the vine as they run long and over budget and the political powers slice them up with scathing criticism.

You must have positive, ongoing, word-of-mouth support and positive "buzz" in the organization as you build and premiere your system. The only way to do that is to be a key part of advancing the agendas of people that matter. If you are key to their success, they will continue to promote you in all the right places.

We've all seen wonderful films that went nowhere at the box office. They had all the elements of success: great writing, talented direction, a solid cast of stars and supporting players, and well-executed technical production. Yet they achieved little to no commercial success. How can this be? They languish on the video rental shelves because they had no political and marketing support among the leadership in the film community. They received no advance marketing, no preview exposure, no test marketing, no premiere publicity, no favorable reviews and no sustained advertising.

How do you keep your project from gathering dust on the bottom shelves of your organization? Follow these simple rules:

Establish Political Value

  • Identify and rank your organization's key strategies and political players through the business discovery process.
  • You must align with and advance the key strategies of the organization.
  • Your project must advance the agendas of the key player(s) in the organization.
  • You must advance the strategy/ agenda of your sponsor(s) and key stakeholder (s).
  • You must advance the strategy/agenda in a measurable way.
  • Be careful of lip-service support for "mom and apple pie" initiatives/platitudes. Look for the real strategies driving the business forward.
  • Look beyond the titles. Identify the people who are carrying the organization forward.
  • Identify the projects and initiatives they are leading or participating in.
  • Identify information gaps in those projects and initiatives that offer maximum reward if filled.
  • Select the project candidate with the highest level of sustained pain at the highest political level.

Survive the Political Process

  • Keep your position neutral on all political matters.
  • Do not align with a combatant in an ongoing clan war.
  • Don't initiate a project that is a natural inflammatory agent between clans.
  • Stay informed and close to the ground on ongoing political matters.
  • Align only with sponsors/groups with which you have excellent political monitoring capabilities.
  • Develop a detailed scope statement. Have the business sponsor sign it and stick to it.

Tools for Political Survival

  • Agree in writing on ways to measure success.
  • Manage and maintain your own public relations and marketing campaigns.
  • Communicate project status to all stakeholders biweekly.
  • Develop and leverage your intranet site to communicate project scope, progress and benefits.
  • Publish your measurements for success, even if you fall short.
  • Communicate all problems, holdups, shortfalls, etc., immediately, in full (tell it all, tell it early).
  • Use all available media (internal TV, newsletters, Web, briefings, workshops, seminars, etc.).
  • Build your own personal communication channels to senior management and maintain them religiously.

The worst of all fates is to have your best work end up on the cutting room floor of your organization's story. If you put as much energy into these factors as you do into the technical aspects of your project, you will greatly increase your chances of being part of a blockbuster, award-winning production.

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