5 Steps to Engage Stakeholders in Your BI Project

BI project stakeholders in a meeting

The success of a Business Intelligence project is dependent on getting stakeholder buy-in, so project managers must consider persuading stakeholders as one of the first steps in their project.

They should welcome this interaction! Stakeholders are often seen as barriers to project managers when they try to implement things like BI reporting capabilities. But in truth, stakeholders are your partners. No PM is an island. They need company resources to make things happen, and they also need advocates at all levels of the company so their project can make it off the ground.

Getting stakeholder approval more easily therefore requires PMs to change their mindset and approach stakeholders as collaborators and allies. By considering stakeholder concerns, needs, and personalities from the get-go, PMs can find easier success when implementing BI tools — or any other project, for that matter.

Step 1: Perform a Stakeholder Assessment

Your first step is to identify all stakeholders you will interact with. Go ahead and make an exhaustive list, then, include everyone who is important for the project’s success.

An appropriate stakeholder list for BI projects will likely include:

  • CTO (Chief Technology Officer)
  • IT Administrators
  • DBAs tasked with managing related databases
  • Business process analysts
  • Business end users (considered either as a collective group or as different user segments)

Once you identify all stakeholders, chart their personal stakes in seeing the project carried out versus their level of influence within the company. You can use interest as an X axis and influence as a Y axis to form a grid. This grid will give you your game plan for how to handle each stakeholder.

Step 2: Consider Motivating Factors for Stakeholders

Your next step is to role play. You want to assume the mindset of each stakeholder who has influence or input regarding your project in turn. This practice will help you define expectations and key metrics each stakeholder will look at.

For instance, the CFO may be concerned about the financial benefit of the project versus the cost. IT will be concerned about the level of added complexity in managing technical assets versus the benefits they gain.

Create a communication strategy based on these priorities. Ideally, you will be able to explain to each key stakeholder how the risks and costs of a project are outweighed by the net benefits. It is important to truly tailor these cost analyses by stakeholder role. Be clear on how each benefit will directly impact the stakeholder you’re talking to.

Step 3: Set Up a Schedule and Process

Once you have identified key stakeholders and made a plan for how to speak their business’ language, you will need to translate that plan into action. Your actions will consist of both group engagement as well as one-on-one engagement.

Set deadlines for as many of these meetings as possible. You will want a communication strategy in place for each one so that you can address stakeholder concerns, talk up project benefits, and prepare to answer any questions on details.

Remember that meetings will be ongoing as the project develops, so make time to meet with key stakeholders several times throughout the process.

Step 4: Identify Allies and Adversaries

After your communication plan and a first draft road map for your project are complete, you can then prepare for special cases.

A “special case” refers to any stakeholders who are likely to have strong positive or negative opinions about your project.

For people who have strong positive sentiments, consider them key allies. Tap them to help you improve your communication strategy, or add in scheduled meetings with them at your side so they can smooth the process of convincing holdouts.

For those likely to try and kill your project, think once more about their priorities and motivations. Create conflict resolution strategies that prevent small issues from escalating into personality duels. Devise persuasive arguments to placate their fears, address risks, and demonstrate the net benefit your project offers.

For example, an Izenda customer recently had a database engineer who was concerned about the amount of involvement that would be needed on his behalf for the organization to report in real time off of their own databases. He was worried that it would require a new data warehouse. For the PM involved, she was able to explain that with Izenda, you can use your existing databases to create reports, especially if you have reporting ready views. In the situation, the PM was able to address and ease the concerns the DBA had while presenting the benefits the project offered him.

Step 5: Carry Out Your Plan and Adjust Accordingly

The last thing to keep in mind before you carry out your stakeholder management is that the process is indeed a collaboration. You will want to guide the outcome of the project according to input from key stakeholders, especially the end business users.

Try to think of the process as an agile development project. Your proposal will show a rough draft of what you expect to happen. As the project continues, you will demonstrate works-in-progress that serve as proof-of-concept that can be adjusted for the next iteration. Just make sure to maintain expectations so the project stays manageable.

With these steps, you will have a comprehensive stakeholder management strategy in place. This will increase the likelihood that your BI reporting project will find success.

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