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Project Plan Presentation; Explain & Convince

One of the key business skillsets in data science is doing a great project plan presentation. Now this is true for almost every job, but in particular for data scientists. Why? It has to do with the nature of data science projects. Specifically the innovative aspects of data science projects.

As data scientists we are at the forefront of innovation, changing how people and companies do work. Hence we not only convince people the project is worth doing. We also have to convince people to change their historic way of working. People will be skeptic, part of convincing them is based on your technical expertise. There is a comfort in numbers and projections. But there is also a softer side to your storyline. Today I want to focus on some pointers on how to share your ideas with maximum impact.

In this series we earlier discussed how to write a great project plan, you can check that out here.

Craft a positive outlook

If my project succeeds, this will happen… The way we work will improve, get more cost efficient or we make more sales. All projects strive for something, what is so important is to start off at this final product and build this better future in the minds of your audience. It is however even more important to not build this outlook from a negative starting point. Let’s look at an example:

“Think of a new machine learning algorithm you want to design for an app of the company’s home inspection team, those guys that go to homes and check on the state of window frames for example. There is a reasonable chance you started this project because currently the home inspection team misses a lot of cases, or they call in maintenance crews far to often and find to many faults. In any case there is a problem in the status quo and room for potential improvement.”

It is now up to you to help paint them a picture of a new and better future, this algorithm will make their lives easier. However it is also up to you to realize that their first perspective can’t be that their current lives are bad, difficult, or any other negative connotation. Compare these 2 sentences:

“When this app is successful, we will be able to together work on new services and expand the business.”

“This machine learning algorithm will help our maintenance crews decrease their extreme workloads.  “

Which sentence inspires to move forward? Which sentence implicitly states the status quo is full of problems? I have seen a lot of presentations that explain the project benefits by going into detail on how big the current problems are. The thing is everyone is either aware of these problems or perhaps does not even recognize them as a problem. This loses your audience. Focus on the future, and invite your audience to travel with you.

The gift of responsibility

So we are traveling together, you are probably looking for a project team. What you should try and focus on is to give people their own responsibility as much as possible. Craft clear roles and communicate them. Do this the right way and you will have hit a major milestone in the project’s success. Let me show you 2 sentences again:

“To design the app perfectly for your daily jobs, I need your help to tell me what works for you.”

“You will have to tell me how to design the app, if you can test how to work with it on a daily basis the launch will be successful.”

What I am looking for here is to give a clear purpose and responsibility to your coworkers in the project, make them part of the success or failure as much as possible. Compare sentence 1 and sentence 2, which one conveys this more directly? Communicating this properly helps you in multiple ways, both by allowing you to focus on what Is in your own control and by sharing responsibility for the projects outcome. Put all this together and you are more likely to receive the commitment you need during the project.

Tell a story of your end results

Now that you have discussed where you want to go and who you will need to do what along the way, its time to ingrain your end goal into the minds of your audience. The key here is to tease your end result enough, by showing some examples and mockups, but avoid filling in all the details. Instead let your audience fill out the details and leave some room for questions.

See you know where your going, but what you will do precisely when you get? You may have an idea of how the new algorithm will fit into the daily work of your home inspectors, but  keep an open mind, if someone else has a great idea then leave space for that.

The story you should tell is focused on the practical day to day activities, don’t compare the current workday to the future workday, describe only the future. People know what they do on a daily basis better then you so you run the risk of coming across as someone who doesn’t know their facts. People don’t know the new future you will develop together in the coming months, so share some little bits. Take a look at this:

“When you enter the building, you will be able to take your ipad and take pictures of the current state of the building as usual. From this point on, the app will be there for you whenever help is needed. Unsure of the level of degradation? Unclear if you really saw every part of the window frame? For every question you will either automatically be guided by the algorithm or easily consult a coworker.”

Wrapping up Project Plan Presentation

These 3 pointers should help you convince more effectively that your projects are, worth doing. Craft a positive framework, delegate roles and share responsibility will help you build your future. What tips do you have to tag people along for your projects? Let me know below.

See you in a click!

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