When it comes to kicking off (or growing) an analytics initiative, there’s an obstacle right out of the gate. It’s building the business case — the effort of persuading budget holders and other stakeholders that an investment in analytics will yield positive outcomes, which really means asking:

  • For investment, not budget.
  • For commitment, not approval.
  • For agreement to disruption, not agreement to change.

I know that’s hard, because I’ve heard you. In my conversations with clients, I frequently hear some version of:

  • “Where do we start?”
  • “What’s everyone else doing?”
  • “We’ve tried this and failed before.”
  • “I get dirty looks if I even say the word analytics.”

Yikes. Each of these are objections, even if they don’t necessarily sound like it. And objections like these squash too many programs — or tether programs that might otherwise flourish to small projects that don’t result in behavioral change.

So I’m here to remind you (in accordance with those current “I don’t know who needs to hear this” memes) of the following:

I don’t know who needs to hear this, but analytics initiatives don’t usually come with a magician’s reveal — they come instead with hypotheses and insights.

So please, give yourself permission (and seek explicit permission) to:

  • Stop thinking that everyone has this figured out. The grass is always greener, right? But there’s really no map — no road, well, more traveled. It’s not likely that your competitors have figured this all out. Fewer than one in 10 firms are advanced with insights. (Hat tip to James McCormick.)
  • Call “them” out for grading you. Who’s “them”? I don’t know, but you do. There are likely naysayers at your organization who are behaving as if analytics teams need to prove their value rather than act as collaborators. Reject the idea of being graded. Focus on allies, and encourage everyone to understand that you’re all in this together.
  • Focus on a small number of defined, articulated, meaningful milestones. You don’t need a grand vision, but you do need a plan. The plan needs to address specific gaps in insights that stall decision making at your organization or lead to bad ones. Find a problem to fix. Wrap some scope around it. Identify and share the dependencies. Fail, and capture what you learned — or succeed. Either way, do it with a story. (Hat tip to Cinny Little.)

Perfection isn’t the goal out of the gate, nor is the expectation of the magician’s reveal fair to you. Stay your course.

I don't know who needs to hear this...