Even though you know why predictive analytics is important to your organization, others may not. Some people in your company don’t understand it yet. That’s OK. But you need to get your executives onboard and buy in to the idea. Here the 5 steps that, in my personal experience, have been key in getting the resources you need.
Learn Their Language
One of the first steps in any forecasting cycle is defining the need and this should be the first step for getting executive support for predictive analytics and advanced demand planning. You must understand that it’s not just about presenting the benefits you know you can deliver but also highlighting what executives need. The last step in any forecasting cycle is managing and communicating the output. But before that, you collect data and model it. Think of garnering support from executives in the same way – understand the need, figure out how predictive analytics fulfills that need, then translate it to executives in their language.
It could be that they are less concerned with details and need summaries and high-level insight to make strategic decisions. They most often deal in numbers and sometimes just impact on EBITA or cash flow. They may not want to know the probabilities or what models you used but rather the risks and opportunities predictive analytics can reveal. Before you sell the idea of predictive analytics, you have to understand what they want to buy and what they can afford.
This is not only about educating executives but everyone impacted by predictive analytics (which is everyone). Whether others realize it or not, forecasts are essential because every business decision relies on predictions. When people see value, you see support. Another way to educate the organization about predictive analytics is building the brand of your function/department. After all, the people you need to influence won’t be educated about the benefits of your value proposition if they don’t know who you are or what you do.
This also provides a foundation for aligning your team’s capabilities with the goals and aspirations of the broader company. Moreover, a strong brand can enable demand planning to be proactive about its role in the company. A good brand is all about who you are and what you want to be known for in the organization. It may seem unconventional to brand an internal department in the spirit of an Apple or Amazon, but it can have tremendous benefits in one’s ability to compete for attention, budget and influence within an organization.
Find A champion & Find A Sponsor
This may or may not be the same person. A sponsor is someone that has some authority and ability to speak on behalf of the executives and helps with resourcing or sustainability. A champion can be anyone that is influential and acts more as a cheerleader for your process and department and really believes in what you are doing and helps other see its advantages. Do not assume this person/s must be from supply chain either. In addition to production and purchasing, I have found support for advanced analytics from in a CFO, a VP of sales, a director of online marketing, and even someone from HR.
Close The Sale
Salespeople will tell you that the number one reason people lose a sale is because they don’t ask it. Rarely are executives going to come to you with a pile of money/resources and tell you to build the planning department that you desire. You need to build the case and ask for it. This means a few things like understanding and developing a Return on Investment (ROI) for what you want. This is one of the biggest questions I get from people trying to build departments and I admit this is a tough one. But if you cannot tell your executive team how their investment will make money, how can you expect them to buy what you are selling?
It is very important to do your research both internally and externally, and, with confidence, provide what hard and soft benefits the company will gain from your proposal. Be willing to provide the hard truth that some may not want to hear about what is being missed currently and what the advantages and limitations of changing things will be. Be honest, once again be confident, and, whenever possible, have rigorous deductive proof. And don’t oversell, know when to stop talking and when to start listening – but not before you ask in clear terms what you and the company needs to be successful.
You May Not Get What You Want
To quote the Rolling Stones, you can’t always get what you want. But if you try, you might get what you need. Finally, to be considered a part of the executive team, and not an outsider, you must appreciate executives’ perspectives. You must be sensitive to the organization’s structure, limitations and priorities. At times, executives may be sympathetic to the need for a formal predictive analytics and planning function but may let other priorities come before providing enough resources to support it. Because of this, be patient – winning the confidence or support of top management may take time. Management may not be ready to give you all that you’re asking so take what you get. Use what they give you and make the most of it, and incrementally improve. Over time, they will recognize the need for this function the day will come when they can provide more support.