When you are starting a Business Intelligence initiative, one of the most important steps is the management commitment. Executive support is critical to any Business Intelligence program. Information Management published an article on this issue, entitled How to Get Executive Involvement - Ensure that sponsors and leaders understand the importance of business intelligence, written by Jonathan G. Geiger. In the article, Jonathan told about the great resistance to establishing an executive steering committee at numerous companies and some approaches for overcoming executive reluctance to participation.
In general, the executives are too busy, unaware or disinclined to support a given program, he said. Some executives simply do not know what BI is and why it is important to the enterprise. These executives may be receptive to requests for their time, but before making the commitment, they will need to understand how the BI program will help the company.This group of executives is ambivalent about BI. The best way to bring these people on board is to provide them with an executive-level briefing about BI, to show them examples of success stories at other companies within their industry.
The greatest challenge will come from key executives who think they understand BI but are openly nonsupportive. Most often, these detractors form their opinions based on personal negative experiences, misinformation or a desire to remain in control. Executives in opposition to a program cannot be ignored. These are influential people, and they are capable of derailing the program when it does not serve their objectives.
He commented about some approaches for overcoming executive reluctance to participation:
- Use an existing committee. Some companies are very resistant to forming committees. In such a situation, rather than establishing a new steering committee for BI, see if an existing executive committee exists with the same kinds of people that should provide BI oversight. If such a panel exists, consider appending BI topics to that committee's agenda on a periodic basis. While this approach does not provide a committed oversight group for BI, it can still provide direction, monitor progress, enlist funds/resources, and resolve issues. Over time, as the BI program grows, the members may choose to create a separate committee or devote specific meetings just to BI.
- Create a tactical committee. While it does not have the same level of authority, a tactical committee of middle managers can provide guidance on a day-to-day basis. If there is enough support for such a committee, it should be formed, and only issues that require higher sign-off would be raised to the executive committee. Keep in mind that limited executive involvement or response sends a clear negative signal concerning their perception of the program's importance.
- Make good use of their time. The BI director should set a process whereby executives can be assured that 1) they are needed, and 2) their time at BI steering committee meetings will be well spent. If executives feel their participation was worthy of their role, they will continue to participate; otherwise, they will send lower-level substitutes or choose not to be represented at all.