Business analytics projects are often characterized by uncertain or changing requirements — and a high implementation risk. So it takes a special breed of project manager to execute and deliver them.
Managers have used business analytics to inform their decision making for years. Numerous studies have pointed to its growing importance, not only in analyzing past performance but also in identifying opportunities to improve future performance.1 As business environments become more complex and competitive, managers need to be able to detect or, even better, predict trends and respond to them early.2 Companies are giving business analytics increasingly high priority in hopes of gaining an edge on their competitors. Few companies would yet qualify as being what management innovation and strategy expert Thomas H. Davenport has dubbed “analytic competitors,” but more and more businesses are moving in that direction.3
Against this backdrop, we set out to examine what characterizes the most experienced project managers involved in business analytics projects. Which best practices do they employ, and how would they advise their less experienced peers? Our goal was to fill in gaps in management’s understanding of how project managers involved in analytics projects can contribute to the new intelligent enterprise. (See “About the Research.”) We found that project managers’ most important qualities can be sorted into five areas: (1) having a delivery orientation and a bias toward execution, (2) seeing value in use and value of learning, (3) working to gain commitment, (4) relying on intelligent experimentation and (5) promoting smart use of information technology.
About the Research
This paper assesses issues that were top of mind for experienced project managers involved in business analytics projects, which best practices they used and what advice they had for less experienced peers. We set out to find common denominators and to describe trends relevant to experienced project managers.
We use the term “project management” broadly to refer to a disciplined way of improving a result, product or service, subject to constraints of time and cost. The idea was to highlight the discipline labeled “best practice” by experienced project managers. For “business analytics” we rely on the definition of Thomas H. Davenport and Jeanne G.