People analytics projects can require a considerable investment of time and resources. The more complex the project, greater the investment. For that reason alone, give careful consideration to what tasks you take on.
Keep in mind that business leaders have their own agendas, and may each have their grocery list of questions that they want the data to answer. All these competing interests clamoring for attention would overwhelm the analytics team if there’s no selection process in place. They won’t have the capacity to entertain them all, so they have to manage their resources and the expectations of their stakeholders. Negotiating the barrage of requests from various stakeholders—projects of varying size, scope, complexity, and value—is a juggling act.
Prioritization is the way to manage the use of resources and efficiently serve company needs so projects that have the most value to the business get put on the front burner.
Who is responsible for prioritization?
Governance, like security, is that thing you often think you don’t need it until it’s too late.
You should have a Governance Council that oversees the people analytics governance model. Comprised of stakeholder representatives from the legal, HR, Communications, and other business leaders, its role includes deciding the prioritization of projects. It also enforces the first commandment of project prioritization: Thou shalt align thine people analytics projects with thy business strategy.
Once alignment with corporate strategy is assured, consider other criteria:
Business impact and value.
It’s easy for business leaders to justify the feasibility of any analytics project by saying that it has value. You could probably make a case for every single project having value, but the question is how much? Since everything’s relative, the question is how will it deliver value. Is there a clear, proven link between the project and the expected value, or is it vague, undefined, and more of a probability than a certainty? For example, there is a clear cost-saving value that comes from answering retention questions, but the connection between internal networks and revenue is tenuous.
Once you establish a link, the next step is determining the extent of the impact.
In determining impact, you’ll also want to consider the ROI or projected financial value: is the cost less than the expected ROI?
Think about the timing—Will it have a long-term or short-term impact?
Consider the opportunity cost of undertaking the project: how does it fit in with other projects currently underway?
Do you have enough resources to complete the project?
- People that have the time and the skills,
- Relevant and sufficient stakeholder support or sponsorship,
- The right technology.
Without this trio, the project is handicapped.
When considering resources, think beyond what is necessary to begin the project, and consider stakeholder expectations for consistently providing insight. Although the analytics team might take a project-focused approach to requests, sometimes the project may develop beyond a simple one-off answer if it provides consistent value for decision-making. For example, the people analytics team builds a predictive model that produces insight and stakeholders derive so much value that they want to replicate it every quarter. This underscores the importance of considering resources upfront and for the full project lifecycle.
How difficult is it to access and how complex is it? Data must be available, accessible and useful (structure and quality). Is the data fit for purpose? Does the data or use thereof fall within the ethical standard?
How to Prioritize Projects
It all boils down to finding the right balance between complexity and impact.
Project complexity is determined by factors such as resources, data, and ease of implementation.
The Complexity-Impact Matrix (below) is a visual representation of that balance and shows the four types of projects you might pursue.
These are low-complexity, high-impact projects. For example, they may have readily available data, use simple statistical methodology, and immediately deliver value. Typical projects: recruitment, retention, and attrition, because datasets are relatively straightforward and the ROI is easy to calculate. Good to focus on delivering immediate value.
These are high-complexity, high-impact projects that take a long time but deliver high value. When scaling the function, you’ll want to focus on these types.
These are low-complexity, low-impact projects that people might want to work on because they’re interesting and/or easy but don’t move the needle. Avoid them.
These high-complexity, low-impact projects might be fun to work on or come from a place of curiosity but aren’t of much real value to the organization and have no far-reaching impact. Avoid them.
In the early days, when your people analytics function is getting off the ground, focusing on quick wins is crucial to prove the value of the practice. An example is a project that answers the question, “Why are people leaving the company?”
Once established, and as the team advances, you’ll want to switch gears slightly to concentrate on quick wins and big bets. A big bet question may be something like, “How does performance management improve business performance?”
You might ask, how do I choose between quick win projects or any other category of projects that have similar levels of impact and complexity? Here, the tiebreaker is resource demand. High-value low-resource people analytics projects are obvious forerunners, while those with high resource demand and low value are non-starters.
There are clear advantages to developing a strategic, practiced approach to prioritizing projects. For example, in times of crisis, it allows your people analytics team to pivot to meet the new demands of the business.
Whatever framework your governance council uses, they will have to devise a way to score projects against the criteria mentioned above. Once completed, they can develop an analytics roadmap and projects sequenced according to dependencies and prerequisites, since some projects are foundational to the practice.
A sound approach to prioritization will avoid wasting resources, strengthen your organization’s reputation, and improve your digital quotient.
Pixentia is a full-service technology company dedicated to helping clients solve business problems, improve the capability of their people, and achieve better results.