When I was 14 years old I convinced my parents to let me leave my sheltered, white-bread college-prep private school to attend public junior high. It didn’t take me long to make a whole new set of friends.

We listened to heavy metal at all hours, hopped on public transportation to go to the mall, and used the word “party” as a verb. My parents were not amused.

So they moved us from our comfortable southern California suburb to a house in the middle of a remote canyon. There was no public transportation. Radio reception was spotty, and the mall was miles away. There were no friends. I was captive. Mission accomplished.

There is a similar tendency to “sequester and protect” in business. I’m on retainer with a large bank’s BI organization. I pay regular “headcheck” visits to monitor their progress executing a series of recommendations my team made last year. The bank has since formed a BI Competency Center. They took our recommendation to hire additional skill sets, replace their aging data warehouse platform, and formalize data management. But they’re still struggling with executing the engagement model we suggested.

“We delineated roles and skills like you told us to,” lamented the Director of BI. “We announced the new org … We did the road show ... We put BI policies in place — we built a Wiki for crying out loud! So why aren’t people coming to us for their reports?”

Indeed the team had done a lot of the right things, including communicating their progress. But they fundamentally didn’t to change how they interacted with the business. In fact, by announcing a new organization and a new set of policies they had unwittingly built a wall around themselves. Then they sat back and waited for business users to engage them.

When people are disillusioned or impatient with the status quo, they find workarounds. Criticize it if you will but it’s human nature. When forming data governance and EIM teams, BICCs, MDM development groups, social media SWAT teams, and other specialty organizations, the key is getting out in front of business people, soliciting their feedback, and staying in front of them. Only by “keeping it warm” with your business constituents can you truly establish yourself as a cross-functional service that delivers regular business value.

But specialty organizations expect that if they declare themselves, people will just start showing up. Then they sit and wait. Call it ivory tower syndrome. I call it being Trapped in the Canyon.

Once we moved to the canyon I didn’t see my friends much anymore. Their parents refused to drive the long, meandering trek to our house. I spent a lonely summer desperately trying to weave a radio antenna from my bedroom into our attic.

Then I found a boyfriend with a motorcycle, and I was out of that canyon faster than my sister could say, “Jill went to the mall.”

I was resourceful. So are your business users. Now get out!

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