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Wayne Eckerson

Welcome to Wayne's World, my blog that illuminates the latest thinking about how to deliver insights from business data and celebrates out-of-the-box thinkers and doers in the business intelligence (BI), performance management and data warehousing (DW) fields. Tune in here if you want to keep abreast of the latest trends, techniques, and technologies in this dynamic industry.

About the author >

Wayne has been a thought leader in the business intelligence field since the early 1990s. He has conducted numerous research studies and is a noted speaker, blogger, and consultant. He is the author of two widely read books: Performance Dashboards: Measuring, Monitoring, and Managing Your Business (2005, 2010) and The Secrets of Analytical Leaders: Insights from Information Insiders (2012).

Wayne is founder and principal consultant at Eckerson Group,a research and consulting company focused on business intelligence, analytics and big data.


Every new IT program needs to anticipate user backlash. Whether it's a new reporting environment, data governance initiative, or analytics program, users will resist what's new. That's because people don't like to change and they are frightened by what they can't control or see.

Reasons to Resist

Change can be personally threatening. If someone's prestige, authority, or career path is baked into the old ways, they will resist change, sometimes vociferously, doing or saying whatever it takes to undermine a new program. Similarly, change connotes uncertainty, and, when it comes to our working lives, most humans prefer to know what to expect rather than live for the moment.

Change can also be time consuming. Today's busy executives and workers have less time and more pressure than prior generations of employees and often don't want to spare the time or mental energy to learn new ways of doing things. They often prefer the old, less efficient way of doing things because it's less disruptive to their schedules and rhythms of work.

"Resistance is normal," says John Ladley, president if IMCue Solutions, a data management consultancy and author of Making Enterprise Information Management Work for Business (Morgan Kaufmann, 2010).

Symptoms. In his book, Ladley describes many ways the businesspeople exhibit resistance:

  • Foot dragging

  • Bargaining for exemption

  • Retreating to old ways of doing things

  • Poor attendance at meetings or increased absenteeism

  • Hostile or cynical comments

  • Lack of endorsements

  • Acts of political sabotage

And he writes that people resist a data governance initiative (or any other issue for that matter) for a variety of reasons:

  • Loss of identity, power or prestige

  • Personality traits (introvert vs. extrovert, capacity to embrace change)

  • They are overloaded with current responsibilities, with no time to learn new skills

  • They feel there's no value in changing for them personally ("What's in it for me?")

  • No one sought their input to devise the solution or program

  • Past initiatives failed

Managing Change

Create a Plan. Given the extraordinary lengths that most workers go to avoid change, it's imperative that you create a change management plan as part of any IT initiative. These plans identify who is going to be affected by the new program and craft communications, education and incentive strategies to get those employees to adopt new behaviors.

Identify Problem People. It's wise to identify individuals who will openly or covertly undermine the program and craft special strategies to deal with them. Sometimes, it might make sense to put them on the organizing committee if such participation might soften their parochial outlook. For lower level workers, it pays to spend extra time presenting the program to them, soliciting feedback, and reconvening at a later date to show how their input shaped the program.

Seek Help. Finally, it pays to seek counsel from your organization's marketing department to help craft a detailed plan that segments and describes end-user constituencies and devises a communications strategy tailored to each. The plan should define which messages get delivered to which constituencies via which channels at what times.

These days managing change is an entire industry. For more insight into managing change in a BI environment, check out these past blogs of mine:

- "How to Rein In a Renegade BI User (Like Me!)"
- "Managing Change: The Case of the Missing Wallet"

When implementing an IT program, be alert for the symptoms of resistance to change and be ready with a marketing and communications plan to thwart resistance before it sabotages the project.

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Posted June 7, 2011 12:01 PM
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