Deer in Analytics Headlights

Deer in Analytics Headlights

Nothing strikes fear into my heart faster than the sight of a stakeholder looking at me, frozen with their own fear, like a deer in headlights.  Never mind that I’m the one metaphorically shining the light in their eyes by talking to them about their analytics requirements.

Business stakeholders can find descriptive analytics projects confronting.  A stakeholder who is completely comfortable with providing requirements for an operational system may stumble over their words when asked about their reporting requirements.  This could be due to the level of abstraction required.  It could be down to not understanding the capability of their analytics tools and not knowing what sorts of things they can ask for.  Ultimately, it generally comes down to not wanting to waste time and money, make mistakes and look foolish.  Completely understandable human responses.

As with any project, you can really start on the back foot if you don’t get a reasonable sense of what the business needs up front and if your stakeholder is running scared instead of engaged and excited.  So how do you turn the headlights off and get everyone to chill out a little?

The best way we’ve seen of putting stakeholders at ease when it comes to eliciting requirements for descriptive analytics is to … not talk about requirements.  And certainly not talk about KPIs, measures, metrics or reporting.  Talk about their business.  Start the conversation in a space where they are completely comfortable and keep an eye out for where you can drop in a requirement or two.  Ask them about their products, customer base, a high-level understanding of operations, any changes they are looking at in their sales strategies.  The relevant KPIs and metrics will become apparent and you will be able to introduce them into the conversation as suggestions.

Once you ease your way in, the conversation flows more easily as everyone relaxes and gets on the same page. Other questions you could ask include - How do you know your business is going well?  What is the first thing you’d want to look at on your phone on the train to work?  These then become the scorecard metrics and the mobile view.

Have you had similar experiences with nervous stakeholders on analytics projects?  What strategies have you found to put them at ease?  In my next post in the series I’ll talk about how to ensure that you give your nervous stakeholders (probably the same ones!) visualisations that they can read with confidence.


Written by: Nilima Rao

Solution Advisor | BizData Solution Advisory Team