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“Outside for a square go in the car park!” An analyst’s view from the floor: Gartner BI & Analytics Summits, February 2016

By Alan D. Duncan | March 01, 2016 | 0 Comments

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Last week, I was in Sydney for the first Gartner Business Intelligence and Analytics Summit of 2016. A great kick-off to the year, with a lot of engagement around the themes of business value of data. Typical of the Australian way of life, the overall environment was relaxed, easy-going and enthusiastic. A warm response to my sessions on making the business case for analytics, and the difference between “explorer and detective” analysis styles.


Fast-forward a week. Via a two-and-a-half day, drop-in-tune-in, drop-out again trip to New Zealand and a 30-hour return journey to the UK, I’m in London for our second Summit of the year. London is a different proposition to Sydney. About 40% bigger in terms of attendee numbers, It’s been two intensive days, with 7am starts, additional meetings squeezed in during breaks, late finishes and twenty one-on-one interactions over the piece. Really, really energising but on top of the travel, pretty exhausting!

Overwhelmingly, the questions I’ve been dealing with have been about business engagement and “selling” analytics. Almost everyone I spoke with is struggling to go beyond having the technical delivery capability to deliver data and produce analytic models, to actually articulating the rationale for analytics at a business level. In essence, they can articulate “what we want to do and how we want to do it”, but aren’t able to identify “why were doing this, and for whom”.

It takes a shift of mindset to develop a business-oriented narrative. To connect with the business stakeholder on their terms, you need to define a proposition that identifies and articulates:

  1. The business problem to be solved and the benefits that will accrue;
  2. The specific and measurable outcomes that will show the benefits have been achieved;
  3. A recipient stakeholder that cares about the outcome.

Only when you’ve got these three things is is worth moving onto the questions  of “what are we going to develop, and how are we going to build it”. Data and analytics leaders must set aside their desire to share with business leaders all the details of how the work gets done. Sorry folks, but business leaders don’t care how the work gets done – that’s your job! You’re on a losing ticket from the outset if you start by boring the business stakeholders by focusing on how hard things are going to be, and how much work you’re going to have to do.

Finally, at dinner with some Scottish clients, I was asked “what do you do when you’ve got a stakeholder who says ‘I want analytics’, but can’t tell you why they want it”. My initial response was along the lines of “move onto another more enthusiastic stakeholder.” After further examination, the scenario was expanded to say “the stakeholder doesn’t think business value is important.” So I jokingly suggested that the stakeholder needs to be invited outside to the cark park for a square go

(Don’t worry, it’s a Scottish thing. This is NOT an official Gartner point-of-view on stakeholder engagement!!!!)

Next stop, Dallas for our US Summit 14-16 June.


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