Tamsen Haught - Jul 29, 2013

The Best Way to Facilitate a Business Intelligence Roadmap Session

Embarking on a road trip requires not only a destination but also a map to help navigate the route from point A to point B. In the same way, creating an association's business intelligence roadmap ensures that the direction is established and the outcomes, goals, and priorities are identified before setting out. This is why DSK Solutions facilitates meetings with our clients to create a unique BI roadmap which establishes the scope, cost, and timetable for implementation. This guide outlines the best practices that we use for facilitating BI roadmap meetings with key project stakeholders.

The meeting we want to avoid. The meeting we want to avoid.

Beginning the meeting

Set expectations

  • Outline the purpose of the meeting and explain the benefit to the participants.
  • Make sure you can answer "What's in it for you?"  If they know how this project can improve their lives, not their association's lives but their own, they will have more interest in providing input.
  • Empower them to give input by explaining the importance of their interactions to produce a roadmap that is tailored to the association's needs and values.
  • Define consensus among the group.  Consensus does not mean everyone has to love an idea, it means you can live with it.
  • Establish clear ground rules and obtain agreement to these rules from all participants:
    • Everyone has a right to speak.
    • Respect must be shown to everyone, regardless of position or title.
    • There are no dumb questions or ideas.
    • Stay on task -- the group is meeting to define the scope and priority of each category of data.
    • Be mindful of time constraints. Starting and ending on time is important.
    • Get stakeholders engaged – ask for questions and concerns.

Begin with a great question

Often when you ask someone a direct question with no lead-up, instead of an answer, you get silence.  Instead of diving straight in (“What do you envision using data analytics for?”) begin by asking them to imagine a scenario that puts the participants in the right mindset to answer.  For example, you might say: “Imagine you are sitting at your desk.  You are eating your lunch while checking your email.  You are wondering how you will get everything done.  A co-worker comes in with a request for a new report that they need by the end of the day.  What are they likely to be asking about?”  By asking the question in this way, participants will be able to visualize themselves in a similar scenario and answers will flow more quickly.

Managing the session

Start small, build to large

Start by asking participants to write down their ideas in response to the starting question (above). That way, everyone has a sense of ownership over their own ideas before being asked to consider what others value.  This will increase their participation in subsequent activities.  You can ask them what types of data they use now to make their business decisions, areas of their department which they would like to improve or business questions that they have asked in the past and have never been able to answer before.

Once a list of responses is generated, put people into teams to share ideas - shoot for teams of three or four people.  Each team writes their ideas on a whiteboard or easel paper using a different colored marker. Collaborating in a small group will allow those who might otherwise feel intimidated to get more comfortable talking about their ideas. Also, being paired with individuals who might already be comfortable speaking up in the large group makes it more likely that everyone’s ideas will be heard.

  • Tip: Once each group has generated a list of ideas, you might have groups rotate to a different group’s board and revise the ideas on that board using their own marker to make it clear where each idea came from.
  • Bring the entire group back together to produce a candidate list of the key areas that the BI initiative should address. At this stage, remind participants that the goal is to get these thoughts out so that they can be discussed later, so there is no judgment of ideas. Record all ideas as they were stated, not an interpretation; repeat what is being said and use follow-up questions as necessary to make sure you are recording ideas accurately. For instance, you might say, “It sounds like what you’re saying is… (summarize what was said) Is that right?”  Keep asking prompting questions (e.g., “What else?”, “What other ideas are there?”, “Are there any other issues related to X?”) until all ideas have been written on the board.
  • Tip: You may have each group suggest one idea at a time, rotating from group to group until only one group has ideas left on their board; that group would be declared the “winner” of this brainstorming activity.

Group ideas by similarity

Find commonalities between the ideas that were suggested to create larger categories for data usage. For instance, many of the issues mentioned may map onto the areas of membership, finance, meetings, etc.  Focus on similarities in implementing a BI initiative:  Does the data come from the same source?  Does the data have the same owner?  What is the primary use of the data?

Prioritize categories

Use the groupings you generated as the basis for making decisions about what to prioritize in your association's BI initiative. Within each category, decide which issues are most important to address first. There are several ways to rank the importance of ideas:

  • Bidding: Each person gets 100 “dollars” to put into whichever projects they want. One by one, items are put up for bid, and the issues that have the highest bid total receive a high prioriy.  You might make the "cost" of a project based on the time and complexity of the implementation.  This is where DSK's experience can help develop an estimate on price.
  • Weighing Down the Speedboat: Using the visual image of a boat, add anchors to represent the issues that hold the organization back from success. The larger the anchor, the more of an impediment that issue is and the more that issue needs to be addressed. Assign each issue to the anchor size that corresponds to how much it is holding the company back.
  • Dot Voting: Each person gets the same number of stickers (five or ten, depending on how many items there are on the board) to put on the projects they deem to be the most important. This method is similar to bidding, but it provides more anonymity – everyone puts their stickers on the board at the same time, so it is more likely that people will be focused on where to put their own stickers instead of on where others are putting theirs.

Create a schedule

Create a chart on the board by listing the categories vertically in order of importance and a series of milestones (months or quarters, for example) horizontally. Fill in this chart with the issues from the prioritization exercise. The highest-priority items should be targeted for earlier milestones, moderate priorities can be worked into the intermediate milestones, and the lower priorities can be saved for the long term. Such a chart should look something like this:

Prioritizing Tasks

During this process, it is important to make sure the ground rules you established at the beginning of the session are being followed so that consensus can be achieved in an efficient manner. If a disagreement occurs, try to let it resolve organically, intervening only if it takes too long to resolve or becomes emotionally charged. Make sure everyone has the opportunity to be heard and the discussion does not lose focus or become dominated by only a few individuals. When DSK facilitates these sessions we bring our experience to the table to estimate the amount of time each milestone will take to complete.

Keeping People Focused

In every meeting it is inevitable for peoples' minds to wander.  Just accept it.  But the longer the meeting, the more likely it is this will happen.  There are a few tips and tricks you can use to keep everyone's mind on task.

  • Keep everyone participating.  When participants are writing or moving, then they will not be spending time checking emails or having side conversations.
  • Take e-breaks.  If you notice everyone is starting to check their email, take a 3 minute break to allow everyone to do a quick check of their email.  This 3 minute break will save you 20 minutes of poor focus.  Better yet, to completely focus establish a ground rule that electronic devices will not be accessible during the scheduled sessions.
  • Give two-minute warnings during each activity to keep participants focused. Doing so will keep you on schedule and maintain a sense of urgency.
  • Establish a parking lot.  Often in meetings, off-topic but business relevant items will shift the focus from the main purpose of the meeting.  Allow the group to decide whether this item should take priority over the topic you were dicussing.  If it does not need to be discussed now, write it down in the parking lot.  However, at the end of each meeting, you must circle back to the parking lot to determine next steps.  If you do not, your parking lot becomes a trash can and it will lose it's effectiveness.
  • Establish checkpoints.  Once you have completed one item on your agenda, recap your progress.  Then set the stage for the next item on your agenda and answer the following questions:  What are we discussing and why is it important?  By establishing checkpoints, you can effectively re-focus your participants.

Closing the Meeting

Recap what has been accomplished

Refer back to what was stated about the purpose of these sessions at the beginning. Explain how the activities performed will help meet these objectives. Evaluate the process and the results obtained.

Thank the participants and end the session on time

Written by Tamsen Haught