Champions Play Vital Role in Success of Data Analytics Projects

Identifying champions within an organization is crucial for the successful execution of data analytics projects and is one of five things that are important to do beforehand, according to Innovative Solutions Partner co-founder Mustansir Saifuddin, who has shepherded a multitude of such projects over the past two decades. 

These champions play a vital role in driving project adoption, overcoming resistance to change, and ensuring seamless collaboration between project teams and stakeholders. And while the top driver of projects meeting their original business goals is an actively engaged executive champion or sponsor, organizations report an average of 38 percent of projects not having active executive sponsorship, according to Pulse of the Profession, a global survey conducted by the Project Management Institute.

The importance of champions

Influencing and advocating for the project: Champions possess influence, credibility and passion for a project’s objectives. They advocate for the project, promote its benefits, and encourage buy-in from other team members and stakeholders. By leveraging their influence, champions can rally support, secure necessary resources and create a positive project culture.

Overcoming resistance to change: Resistance to change is a common challenge in IT projects. Champions play a vital role in mitigating resistance by addressing concerns, communicating the project’s value, and alleviating fears related to change. They act as change agents, helping stakeholders navigate through transitions and ensuring smooth project implementation.

Facilitating collaboration and alignment: Champions bridge the gap between project teams and stakeholders, facilitating effective communication and collaboration. They actively engage with both parties, ensuring that project requirements, expectations and deliverables are well understood. Champions can also provide insights and feedback to refine project strategies and ensure that they align with organizational goals.

Consequences of not identifying champions

Failure to identify champions within an organization can have significant implications for IT projects:

Lack of project support and resources: Without champions, projects may struggle to secure necessary resources  such as funding, staffing and technology. Champions advocate for the project at higher organizational levels, increasing the likelihood of obtaining support and resources.

Increased resistance and stakeholder pushback: Projects without champions may face more resistance from stakeholders. Resistance can cause delays and reduce cooperation and adoption rates. Champions, on the other hand, can anticipate and address concerns, leading to smoother execution of the project and higher stakeholder acceptance.

Limited influence and engagement: Champions can influence others and drive change. Without identified champions, projects may lack key individuals who can actively engage with stakeholders, foster collaboration and ensure project success.

Attributes of strong champions

Knowledge and expertise: Identify individuals who possess knowledge and expertise related to the project’s scope, objectives and impact. Look for team members who understand well the technology, business processes and industry trends. These individuals can effectively communicate the project’s value and address technical and operational concerns.

Influence and credibility: Champions should have influence and credibility within the organization. Seek individuals who have established relationships, have garnered respect, and have a track record of successfully driving change. Their influence can accelerate project acceptance and generate key stakeholder support.

Passion and enthusiasm: Look for individuals who display passion and commitment to the project’s success. Their positive attitude and energy can motivate others and create a sense of excitement around the project. Passionate champions are more likely to invest the effort to drive adoption and overcome obstacles.

Effective communication skills: Champions need to effectively communicate the project’s vision and articulate the value proposition. They should be skilled at tailoring messages to different audiences, and should be adept at addressing concerns or resistance. Champions who are effective communicators bring clarity, ensuring project objectives are well understood.

Collaborative and influential nature: Identify individuals who possess strong collaboration skills and the ability to influence others. Champions should be adept at building relationships and resolving conflicts. Their collaborative nature should allow them to negotiate with stakeholders, which in turn will build consensus and foster a supportive project environment.

Steps to take in identifying champions

    To ensure you have the right champions:

    • Consider a combination of qualitative and quantitative assessments.
    • Interview potential champions to evaluate their skills, knowledge and enthusiasm for the project.
    • Seek feedback from stakeholders who have worked with these individuals in the past to assess their influence and credibility.
    • Collect quantitative data such as project performance indicators, adoption rates and user satisfaction surveys to gauge their effectiveness in driving project success.

    Research ties positive impact of champions to project outcomes. For example, a study by the change management research firm Prosci found that projects with effective change management, including champions, were six times more likely to meet or exceed project objectives. 

    Identifying champions within an organization is crucial for seamless execution of a data analytics project. If done early and well, it can help ensure the project is completed on time and within budget. 

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    Mariyah Saifuddin