It’s time to roll out the brand new Business Intelligence project. It has lots of fancy charts and graphs, and churns out really nice dashboards in just a few seconds. But the end users are hesitant to use it, and are just short of rejecting it outright. Has this ever happened to you? What could have possibly gone wrong? Well, did you have a Change Management plan?

Recently I was having lunch with a colleague, and they were discussing this actual scenario: A new BI tool was purchased, installed, configured and rolled out, but it was going unused. The business side didn’t trust it for various reasons and they preferred the familiar traditional reports cranked out by the legacy system. The company at that point had given up on it, and considered the project failed and the time and money wasted.

BI projects can be different from many other IT initiatives. The reports produced often drive a multitude of important decisions – from executive level daily dashboards to departmental production statistics to a sales person’s daily update. Trust and acceptance are just as important as accuracy, so Change Management is critical. Here are a few steps to help you create and implement a CM plan for your next BI project:

Listen to and partner with your users. From the very start of the project, build a relationship of trust with all members of the project team, especially the business side. Learn and understand the issues and undercurrents. By identifying the fears and concerns of the end users, IT can begin laying out the groundwork for overcoming the human side of the issues and obstacles to implementation. Do the users want to avoid and are uncomfortable with change itself? Do they feel ownership and control of the existing reporting process? Are there political undercurrents that may hinder acceptance?

Show the benefit. Why would users want to spend time providing requirements, reviewing data elements, and attending meetings for something that didn’t make their lives easier or better? At the beginning of the project make the benefits and reasons for the change clear to everyone involved. Besides, this information should have been determined at project inception anyway, so take every opportunity to reinforce it.

Identify key people and get buy-in. Who are the main creators and consumers of the BI reports? Political influencers – sometimes not the managers in charge – can either derail or promote the new BI tool. Find out who they are and get them on board. Preach the benefits. Have them participate in defining the data elements, metrics, and displays. Ensure that they are active participants in the process and that they feel responsible for its success.

Engage the critical users in creating and executing training. By having the key users participate in the training process, they become familiar with the new tool, learn more advanced tasks, and can hopefully become departmental champions going forward. This step can also be used to help convince those who are influential, yet not accepting of the new tool that the benefits outweigh the change.

Execute a proper User Acceptance Test. This is the critical step in establishing trust in the new BI tool. IT cannot simply state that the new reports are tested and ready. Instead, have the end users formally identify the key reports and metrics. Recreate the existing reports exactly, and then sit down with the users, comparing the new and original reports demonstrating that they match – to the penny. Do this again with any new charts and graphs. Leave no doubt in anyone’s mind that the new system is 100% accurate.

The above steps can be used as a starting point for your BI project, and molded to fit your needs. As BI professionals, we all enjoy the technical side of projects, but the “people side” is often just as critical. Having a well-thought out Change Management plan can help ensure that the all the technical effort that goes into a project is used to its fullest potential.