Data Share House
A young and ambitious BI trainee, I was confident technical skills were sufficient to make me a living BI rock star with no chance of failure. Entering the big shark corporate life with confidence in my expertise I hit straight into a wall. And that wall was called people.
At university and in my personal projects at home, the problems I encountered in my work were from IT nature - I would learn how to fix the problem, and all issues would be solved with a few clicks. Maybe that's why my brain entered in a state of shock when my brilliant BI projects started failing in a corporate environment because an office manger doesn't like the way I space characters, or because my work only gets utilized by 10% of the task force, while the rest keep running dodgy Pivot tables all over the place.
What do I do? What do I do? I'm not a people person... On a sociable day, I like facing only 1 an not 2 office walls and I greet a colleague while waiting for my coffee. How can I make them like my work, let alone use it and promote it?
My first attempts were to make small talk with my users, trying to understand what was going on in their head and how I can turn some of them into my allies. This didn't end spectacularly well, as we didn't share many common interests. Unfortunately, I don't follow reality shows and I have no clue what footballers or fashion icons tweet about. Getting personal made my situation even worse.
I had to find my own way to overcome this. I started building an image of a self-aware geek - expressing and underlining my natural awkwardness, and applying self-humor where applicable. That was the first approach which gave some results. My colleagues started to respect me more as a professional, even though still finding me weird as a person. I finally started receiving credit for my work - I couldn't believe it.
From the position of a more respected man, I started encouraging them to tell me anything that annoys them or they would like to see in my projects. The response was overwhelming. And while some requests would never get to see green light, others were easy to implement, and their originators became my army of BI allies across the organisation. I really didn't mind altering the font or moving a column right if that makes all the difference for someone. Furthermore, people like if someone listens to what they say. Making them feel heard is a powerful tool. Maybe too powerful.
My feedback promotional campaigns resulted in easing my work immensely. Not only the adoption rate of my tools skyrocketed to 70-75%, but also I had a good number of BI-friendly people who would proofread my projects before launch, saving me many hours of painful proofreading.
Since that experience, I kind of opened a self-proclaimed BI Feedback Hot Line, and I have kept it open for years. I make sure my team listens to our users, implement the simple requests which have no implication on the logic and consider the more difficult ones for real. And I know when that hotline bling, that can only mean one thing.
This story was sent to us via our LinkedIn page and comes from Germany.
Send us your story and we'll be happy to share it with the BI community!
Arguably, the way we manage unexpected events could result in the ultimate success or failure of our business. Thus, learning how to effectively tackle challenging surprises is critical in the fast-moving world we work in.
The most fundamental thing to understand about managing surprises is that most of these are not surprising at all. It could be a risk which we undervalued, a detail which we failed to take into account or a person we overtrusted. Anyway, the responsibility to predict surprises is entirely ours and we shouldn’t, at least consciously, fall victims of these.
And how does that relate to Business Intelligence? Isn’t it all data and IT stuff, which are mostly technical?
In a world where BI was in its independent universe, surprises wouldn’t matter at all, but in our business reality, BI solutions are affected by the dynamics of people, processes and authorities. Thus, at the building stages of a BI process or tool, we should make an in-depth assessment of anything that could change. There is no need to list endless scenarios of earthquakes and military coups, just make sure every aspect of your BI processes which could change (despite this doesn’t seem likely), is easily amendable.
For example, let’s look at two common BI objects:
“Year” – it is predictable this would change. Fixing such an object as permanent would make your tool unusable the following year. Of course.
“Main Currency” – imagine you bill in USD ($) and you build your tool in a way that it converts to and from USD whichever currency. Your USD is a fixed, non-amendable object. You have traded this way for the last 10 years. However, if tomorrow, for whatever reason you adopt global billing in EUR, your BI tool, if not prepared, is already useless or subject to a costly rebuilding. Except.. if you had pre-built your tools to accommodate such a change with a click of a button.
Another common example of "unexpected" change is when a process is tied to a person. People get involved with processes, and they lose motivation too. Not predicting an employee could leave and setting processes around people, not roles, is a risk to your BI and data management.
By applying the principles above to the tools and designs you build, you could save valuable resources. By outsmarting "unpredictable" future changes at the right time, you could minimise the damage surprises could potentially do to your BI processes and reports.
We are no strangers to the common data management issues which plague most contemporary businesses. Staying true to our mission to minimise admin and clear more space for strategy and customers, we have developed a plethora of techniques which enable us to smartly manage the flow of data with no extra cost involved. These are rather principles, than set rules, and we adjust them to the realities and culture of each client.
1. Talk to your people
It is not senior management who executes the endless processes which keep the organisation running – it is your people. Hence, they are the ones who really know the imperfection of your processes, and the impact of these on your operations. The majority of flaws can be fixed with little to no investment, however, smooth processes designed for those who use them are a true game changer.
2. Question every single action
The majority of processes are there for a reason, however, in every organisation, there are countless examples of bureaucracy which spoil the work of your people, damage the experience of your client, and erode the motivation of everyone involved. Revise your processes and leave only what is really essential.
3. Define clear objectives
Managing data, even when your processes are smooth, could be a challenge. Inconsistencies and errors occur, and these multiply by the number of the departments involved in a process. Be clear on what your data objectives are, and make sure everyone is aware of these. If you need five data fields to be correct 99% of the time, promote this in every possible way.
4.Train and support your people
Communicating objectives, requires defined guidelines of how these objectives could be achieved. These guidelines could be detailed and process-driven, or simply mark the principles/ final objectives which should be followed; depending on the nature of the process and the culture of your organisation. Nominate champions across the organisations who bring expertise in the process locally.
5.Use BI to ease admin, not increase it
It is easy to get overwhelmed by building sophisticated reports, which in turn require more admin, and create more work than the work they save. Make sure you keep a simplistic approach which focuses on the defined objectives and facilitate the smoothness of your processes.
6.Skip middle management
We all know employees love their mid management but not associating your project with the latter could raise your chances for a successful project delivery. There is no reason to send reports to middle managers who then communicate down to their team, when you can automate reports which get delivered directly to the inbox of your people who work “on the floor”, featuring only information relevant to them. After all you are a BI specialist, not HR. Such an approach increases their responsibility, and also gets the data professionals closer to the everyday operations, opening new communication channels.
7.Integrate BI, processes and people
Don’t fix each part of the process/report individually. Together with the rest of the key stakeholders, agree on a vision of the ideal state of a certain process. Then, use Business Intelligence to integrate the rules/process with your task force. It is common for IT to astrange individuals from a process or demotivate them. Personalise and customise as much as possible to avoid fatigue and sense of full automation.
8.Recognise your data/ process champions
Some organisations tend to focus on the output of poor performers, however, we advise you to take a more positive approach and recognise your champions. This way you promote your values, your processes and your best. The rest will follow –if it doesn’t – then, alert HR. Optimism brings better results (this is scientifically proven) – be a successful organisation, and don’t chase your people – encourage and recognise them for the right behaviours.
9.Open a hot feedback line
Allow your people to share feedback on your processes, then implement the logical suggestions which in reality enable you to achieve your objectives as an organisation easier. You will notice an immediate sense of pride in your task-force and a much greater data entry quality.
10.Stay true to logic, not your historical decisions
This is not a one-off exercise, and business intelligence/ data processes need to be constantly redesigned to be in line with your organisational reality. Objectives, principles and processes can and should be amended when the change would further empower your business. Nonetheless, most of the potential changes would be unnecessary if you have built an optimally customisable BI product.
You have probably noticed that the above 10 tips are not as data focused as the title of this article suggests. However, we reassure you that following these would bring positive results not only in the way you manage your data, but in your organisation as a whole. Because this is the nature of what business intelligence does – empowering business through data, with a passion for people.