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BD #12 - A Stakeholder "Hack" to Grow Your Influence in an Organisation

Using this approach I've converted whole functions to become champions of emerging data strategies

We talk a lot in the data community about bringing stakeholders on the journey with you.

But what does that mean?

And how exactly do you do it when trust and awareness are low?

This week I wanted to capture an approach that's worked so well for me it's become my go-to approach. I've had this turn entire departments -that were initially reluctant or resistant to a new data initiative - into an army of champions, helping push and sell the benefits across the organisation.

First though I wanted to play with the polls feature and test the water for a potential value-added service we could start to get more from Beyond Data and the many great folks like you that read it.

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Nothing is set in stone yet but I think a community to gather and share thoughts / experience would bring a lot of benefits to all of our learning. If it had some budget I could spend that on cool stuff like getting great speakers in for private talks etc.

Anyhow, back to the stakeholder engagement stuff...

The problem with good ideas

If you're in data it's highly likely you're technically minded, highly numerate, and like to find innovative solutions to problems using the data at hand. The challenge with this, however, is the mismatch between your experience and those of your stakeholders.

Whereas complex, technical solutions can get us excited and motivate us to become highly engaged in a project - the opposite is often true for many of our customers and end users. Not only do they not care for the techie stuff, it starts to breed fear and mistrust that this solution might get away from them.

So what do you do?

Peers = Trust

You can certainly get better at selling. I think internal "sales" is a vital component of driving impact as a data professional in many organisations. I intend to write about it at length in the future as it's a skill that takes a lot of work and can be difficult to grow.

There's another way though that leads to lower resistance.

The truth is, people will always trust their peers and friends more than an outsider. You might be close to them but this is all about risk. If they don't understand what they're getting into they're taking on risk with regards to the outcome.

The best way to derisk something? Show them the exact same results, with someone in their exact same context. Better yet, get that person to do it for you.

If you can get peer stakeholders to deeply understand and promote your ideas, they'll do a much better job of "selling" it and growing your influence than you can. If you've not delivered anything to point at yet, take the time to really understand someone in that peer group. What are their core value drivers (more on this concept in general in an upcoming issue)? Once you understand them, work tirelessly to get your solution framed in a way that makes sense to them and aligns with their view of value.

Once they get it - they'll do the rest.

Nothing gets someone on board better than thinking the idea was theirs in the first place.

You can take this a step further when it comes to presentations at the bookends of a project. Instead of delivering the entire time talking about the work and techniques I've taken to spending lots of time crafting the presentation with a stakeholder and letting them do 80% of the talking. This ensures they deeply understand why things have been done and how they link to the business, and it ensures they'll deliver everything in a way that's familiar to their peers. These presentations rarely need deep technical discussions - and you'll be there anyway in case they do.

Final thoughts

This has worked wonders for me. I've seen it turn the tide on an otherwise frustrating project and build genuine buy-in across the organisation. 

It might be obvious to some but ask yourself, when was the last time you had end-users explaining your work for you?

All the bestAdam

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