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Pitching Your 2018 Data Science Budget

Last week we offered some suggestions on how to attack your data management initiatives in 2018 according to your organization’s level of data expertise.  This week we follow up with some tips on how to pitch those new data science technologies and initiatives to increase your chances of getting resources allocated to your projects.

As a general rule, when pitching your budget for data related activities, it is important to avoid simply listing products and technologies that you think your organization needs.  What senior executive is going to fund a bunch of acronyms that he’s never heard of and doesn’t understand? A more effective approach is to provide a vision of the future where these technologies are helping answer important questions and achieve strategic goals.  For example, pitching the ability to know things that people in your organization desperately want to know about their customers will be far more successful than pitching a Tensorflow project that sources data from Hadoop.

Speak in terms of ROI

When seeking budget, you are essentially pitching an investment and making an argument for why you need the money.  You have to present your case as a story which ends with more money coming into the business than what goes into the project.  Start by defining a problem and then propose the technologies and people assets necessary to solve it.  Generally the dollar amount of such an investment and the costs needed to sustain the data science assets over time can be clearly articulated.

What is less clear is how this money, and more, is going to come back into the business, so this is where it is important to identify concrete potential for savings and new revenue areas.  What will the company see in return after one year?  Two years? Five years?

Remember also that decision-making doesn’t rely exclusively on quantitative rationale and that it can be helpful to make emotional appeals as well.  Make note of efforts that your competitors are making so that your colleagues understand the consequences of falling behind.  Envision a future where data is easing challenges, making people’s jobs easier and playing a meaningful role in your company’s success.

Speak in terms of hot buttons

Big data can solve a broad spectrum of business problems.  It may be helpful to ask executives what their concerns are and also the roadblocks they face in trying to set the guiding strategy.  You will find that management is more eager to hand over cash when there is a benefit that resonates with their own agenda.

Consider Competitive Advantage

Look at your competitors and express how your project contributes to making your company’s offering better than theirs.  Will your data science initiative result in a far better product? Will it allow you to operate at a lower cost and pass that savings onto shareholders or customers?  Is the effort necessary simply because you have already fallen behind your competition and need to catch up?

If you are doing things correctly, your data science investments will alarm your competition and encourage them to follow suit.  (So, even if you’re successful getting budget and changing your business, never let your guard down)

Speak to the impact on people and processes

Management frequently thinks about their business in terms of people, process, and technology. While you’re hoping to introduce groundbreaking technology, management will be thinking about that bigger picture. In their minds, the technology is just part of the solution to a business problem. You need to think through a vision that shows who will use the technology, how they’ll be trained, and how the company’s business processes will be changed. As we’re fond of saying, the ROI on a new business intelligence system is zero – the system simply represents the I, the investment. The R, the return, comes from doing business differently with that system.

If you think your investment will take needless hassle and effort out of people’s lives, mention it!  Maybe the new system will change how the sales team targets accounts, allowing them to identify and prioritize leads with the greatest likelihood of purchasing.  Maybe it will automate administrative procedures for employees that could be spending their time on tasks demanding more intellectual rigor.

Demonstrating that processes can be improved and people’s lives improved in concrete and specific ways will embolden your case and help you win resources.

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