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Relevance of Leadership in Performance Management

Clear leadership is an imperative in successful performance management and business intelligence deployments, from both the internal project team and the technology vendor.

This article originally appeared on the BeyeNETWORK

With the United States in the midst of the run-up to election year, leadership is a frequent topic at cocktail parties, caucuses and the local coffee shop. The focus in presidential leadership is often on prioritization of domestic issues, foreign policy and “crossing the aisle” to find common ground in pursuing a bipartisan agenda.

In performance management, leadership is similarly an extremely relevant consideration. In this article, we will discuss the relevance of leadership for both end user organizations as they execute their performance management plans, as well as the vendors that deliver products and services for the industry.

For the enterprise moving forward with performance management, executive sponsorship is a prerequisite for successful deployments. Surely it is possible to develop a point solution to address a very specific business issue, but to attain the broader perspective possible from an enterprise-wide initiative, executive leadership is key. A recommended first step for a successful deployment is to develop a vision of what could be possible with your project. This vision will be based upon internal knowledge of core business processes, people and pain points, as well as an understanding of external competitive benchmarks and best practices. It is critical to have an executive sponsor with a broad understanding of the inner workings of the organization, balanced with a perspective of external market dynamics and competition. Second, this leader should take this vision and be able to apply it as a project that has short, medium and long term implications. The leader needs to both understand, and be able to impact, the scope and breadth of a solution. Falling short in the area of scope may result in investments that can help improve some elements of performance, but may not have the more dramatic long-term impact desired. Similarly, phasing of execution is important in order to have appropriate timing of the initiative including short-term impact for creating momentum of the project as well as longer term impact that enables performance management to become a competitive differentiator. Finally, the executive sponsor plays a crucial implementation role for the project. Although there is an important requirement for an experienced project manager to attend to regular updates and task follow-up, there is also a need for senior muscle to be able to arbitrate complex issues that cross departments and business units within the enterprise. Successful performance management is enterprise-wide in scope, and with so much at play, there are often departmental disagreements that require a senior executive to play the tie-breaker role, with decisions based upon what would have the most beneficial impact on the organization in the medium to long term.

A different set of considerations is relevant when discussing leadership from the vendor and service provider perspective. The still growing performance management vendor landscape continues to bristle with upstarts and challenges, even after what one could argue as the most active period of vendor consolidation in enterprise software history. Although most of the 100+ vendors in this category will self-proclaim their leadership in some area of business intelligence and performance management in their press release boilerplate, it is up to the buyer to separate the true leaders from the pretenders. In the vendor world, competition is fierce in terms of company positioning, development investment and commercial terms. The longevity of the platform you choose will likely depend on both internal and external standards for definition and integration of systems.

In looking at the development history and current road maps of many of the vendors, it becomes obvious that there are both trendsetters and followers. It is valuable to understand which kind of a company you are choosing for your solution. It is astonishing to see how similar the current product offering is from several of the larger vendors and how future product deployments are closely aligned.

Lastly, although functionality is important, leadership can also be assessed in terms of setting the bar for product quality, service and commercial terms. The more successful vendor leaders find a balance in all 3 of these areas, and the informed buyers can take this knowledge and apply it to their advantage during the software negotiation process.

Clear leadership is an imperative in successful performance management and business intelligence deployments, from both an internal project stewardship perspective as well as the selection of your technology vendor and service provider. Falling short of recognizing this impact (or not managing accordingly) will likely increase the risk for your project. This risk can be mitigated by applying executive time at strategic decision points along the way, and not treating the initiative as another enterprise software project for less experienced members of your team to rollout without significant executive guidance.

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