This was the title of a presentation that I made at the Butler Group BI Symposium in London during October. In this article I wanted to focus on just one theme that I discussed; namely meeting the management information needs of a variety of business units, each of which spanned a number of different countries across Europe.
This seems like a very obvious thing to say, but if you goal is to meet the management information needs of a wide range of business units across multiple countries, then it helps to work with quite a few of them to figure out what they want, where this overlaps with your project objectives and how to get everything aligned.
In my experience things have always worked best when the project team have recognised this early on. In a recent European-based project, my team initially spent nine months working with a group of 30 business people from ten different departments and eight different countries (of course this process lasted a total of nine months, we did not lock them up in a room for the duration). We called this group our Extended Team. Part of our work with them was gathering requirements – we started with a blank sheet of paper and asked them what metrics they wanted to run their company. We then went through the painstaking work of better defining these ideas, distilling them down into different themes, making mock-up reports and eventually iterative prototypes. At each stage, we met again with the Extended Team and got their further input.
Now while this is a great way of gathering requirements and ensuring that your product will answer real business questions, it is and even better way to create a core group of business people who feel strong ownership of the product and are proud of their association with it. In turn, this helps amazingly with driving cultural change. On returning to their day jobs after a typical two-day meeting, the members of the Extended Team would be very positive about what they were involved in doing and share their enthusiasm with their colleagues. Momentum starts to gather and you begin to create a buzz about the project.
As well as being the people who helped us to make the eventual business intelligence system user-friendly and business-focussed the Extended Team were also our marketing representatives in the regions and helped to build up positive expectations about the system.
We put a lot of thought into the type of person that we wanted on this Extended Team. We wanted people who were leaders, who were open to doing things in new ways, who were comfortable with technology and who took an analytic approach to their work. This group made a major contribution to the success of the project. It would not have been possible to scale-up our solution without their assistance.
Continue reading about this area in: Developing an International BI Strategy.