Dear CEO: A Letter from Your BI Team

April 15, 2009
155 Views

In which one of Jill’s clients puts his team’s success in writing.

Typewriter_spitecho 

photo by spitecho

Baseline Consulting was recently engaged by a large pharmaceutical company’s business intelligence team to give BI a shot in the arm. Paul, the Director of BI, had been frustrated with the general lack of support he was getting from business stakeholders. Our goal was to help Paul and his team to formalize their BI program, lay out an 18-month roadmap, and build a pitch to solicit additional funding from lines of business.

“They’re taking us for granted,” Paul explained when we asked about his users. “They don’t understand the complexity of their requests. They think everything should be cheap and easy and take four weeks.” Indeed, the business users saw the BI team as just another IT development organization. Rather than engaging them in sustained requirements conversations and discussing business outcomes, they had marginalized the group as nothing more than reporting order-takers. There were no rules of engagement. There was no collaboration.

Ironically, the BI team had a pretty good delivery record. Their analytical applications were comprehensive. Despite widespread disaffection, user adopt

In which one of Jill’s clients puts his team’s success in writing.

Typewriter_spitecho 

photo by spitecho

Baseline Consulting was recently engaged by a large pharmaceutical company’s business intelligence team to give BI a shot in the arm. Paul, the Director of BI, had been frustrated with the general lack of support he was getting from business stakeholders. Our goal was to help Paul and his team to formalize their BI program, lay out an 18-month roadmap, and build a pitch to solicit additional funding from lines of business.

“They’re taking us for granted,” Paul explained when we asked about his users. “They don’t understand the complexity of their requests. They think everything should be cheap and easy and take four weeks.” Indeed, the business users saw the BI team as just another IT development organization. Rather than engaging them in sustained requirements conversations and discussing business outcomes, they had marginalized the group as nothing more than reporting order-takers. There were no rules of engagement. There was no collaboration.

Ironically, the BI team had a pretty good delivery record. Their analytical applications were comprehensive. Despite widespread disaffection, user adoption had increased, and data quality had improved over time. In fact after reviewing the team’s progress we recommended that Paul stop focusing on battling the various line of business managers and go straight to the top: he should go talk to the CEO.

Paul demurred. A meeting with the CEO was outside his comfort zone. He wasn’t even sure he could convince his boss, the CIO, to support the idea. He didn’t know what points to bring up, and he feared he might even flub his lines. “This could turn out to be career-limiting,” he said nervously.

We suggested that before he scheduled the dreaded meeting, he write the CEO a letter. The letter would outline the BI team’s contributions to date, discuss the potential of BI to solve additional business problems and drive competitive differentiation, and explain the opportunity cost of cutting BI investments. We agreed that if, after writing the letter, Paul was still nervous about meeting with the CEO, we would find another way to tell the story of BI to the business and get buy-in.

Writing the letter brought up some difficult issues. Paul had to be honest about his team’s ability to speak the business’ language. He also admitted that the BI development process was squishy and roles within the team weren’t circumscribed. This left the business users guessing about the team’s delivery process, resulting in incessant questioning about timelines, functionality, and value.

We worked together with Paul to write a letter to the CEO that was well-crafted, clear, and made a compelling case for renewed BI investment. It explained why the firm’s physician management program would flounder without the team’s data expertise; outlined how much money the company could save by pushing out accurate physician spend figures; made the case for integrating R&D data; and outlined the strategic initiatives that would be BI-enabled. It was also specific about new resource needs, technology upgrade costs, and why they were part of a larger vision for an information-driven enterprise.

Our bet was that the letter would energize Paul, giving him the confidence—and the ammunition—he needed to schedule that in-person meeting with the CEO. Instead, with the CIO’s enthusiastic approval and a little relief, Paul decided to e-mail the letter to the CEO.

We weren’t surprised when, upon receiving the letter, the CEO called Paul to request an in-person meeting. But Paul was.

Nevertheless, he bit the bullet and led a meeting with the CEO, the CIO, the V.P. of Sales and Marketing for the U.S., and several other business leaders, leaning heavily on our letter, but explaining historical challenges and additional opportunities for BI and integrated data. At lunch afterwards, we celebrated the fact that the CEO had a new appreciation for the overall value of BI, and a new level of commitment. And that Paul, flush with his own success and looking forward to a new way of working, had increased his team’s budget by 30 percent.

Link to original post