PRESENTING the case for graph value
In the past three articles, we have tried to articulate
The necessity for us to think clearly about the value case for graphs;
The outline of the way that we could achieve that value case, through a reasonably clearly defined set of process steps, a plan and a map to get us to that destination;
A proposal of how we could actually build that value case for our graph implementations.
In this fourth article, we want to explore the logical next step: presenting the value case for our graph application.
The logic for that fourth step is as simple as it is crucial: if we don't do an excellent job at presenting the case for something to our customers, colleagues, family members - be it a project, an investment proposal, or just an opinion in any kind of debate - we will most likely not win the argument. Optics matter. Presentation matters. How you present, the value case for a graph use case really matters. So let's explore that.
Who to present the graph value case to
The first thing that I think we need to ask ourselves is who exactly we will be talking to. Tuning our message to the receiver(s) of the information we will be sending is as vital as ever.
To do that, we really should be asking ourselves a crucial question: what persona are we talking to about graphs and graph value cases? Indeed, we know that these cases will be very different for different kinds of players in the field - for the simple reason that these players care about other things.
Broadly speaking, we see three types of players:
Technology players: our developers and/or data scientists love graphs for their intrinsic technical superiority. They love the fact that it makes their life as a developer easier. They love the fact that graphs are more flexible for data modeling than anything else out there. They love the speed at which they are getting their query responses. They love graph tech and care mainly about the technical merits.
Innovation players: these are fascinating characters that we are seeing in the graph industry. They typically have a keen interest in the technology behind graphs, have maybe held technical positions at one point in their careers, but are now very firmly interested in the business and/or technological innovation that the technology enables. Many large companies have actually created "digital", "innovation", or "transformation" departments' to regroup and allow these kinds of players - and they are often excellent allies for our value quantification efforts. Typically, innovation players have their finger on the pulse of graphs' technical and business impact, which is superbly engaging. They literally care about both aspects of a graph value proposition - both technical and business.
Business players: these are the actual owners of the business problems that graphs can solve. While rarely the primary contact for graph value case quantification, we sometimes truly luck out and get to work with these players. We often get exposed to the real costs and the actual benefits of (not) having a graph solution when we do. In addition, they are often the domain experts for our use cases and understand the impact of graphs like no one else can.
The significant bit here is that we need to tune the presentation of our graph value to these players. A generic, watered down, and basically untargeted value quantification will only resonate so much - especially when compared to the opposite, highly tuned and targeted approach.
When to present the graph value case
As many sports practitioners will testify, timing matters. Whether you are a tennis player at Wimbledon, a cyclist in the Tour de France, or a football striker at the Euro 2021 championship, they will all testify that being a split-second late will often mean the difference between winning and losing. Now, the presentation of our graph value case may not be exactly as time-sensitive, but still, there are critical timing considerations here.
Think about budgeting cycles. Every organisation of a decent size will have one. Typically once or twice a year, a company or department will have to advise its financial management how much money it will spend and/or acquire. There is simply no escape to that, and while some organisations may be able to move budgets around a bit within the budgeting cycle, most budgets have limited degrees of freedom.
Therefore, the basic recommendation regarding the timing of your graph value case is to be aware and in tune with your organisation's budgeting cycle. Make sure that you are part of next year's budget! And if you are not, then try to find creative ways around that - for example, by
slicing the budget into smaller parts that are less impactful to one budget cycle, or by
working with your vendors to reduce the impact on the first year's budget in exchange for later budget increases or by
escalating the need for budget flexibility in return for demonstrating the graph value returns.
Being in tune with your budget cycle does not mean that you accept all limitations as hard, immutable barriers. However, it does mean that you are sensitive to your organisation's rhythm and requirements.
How to present the graph value case
As we have already articulated before: it's not just what you say; it's also HOW you say it. A valid and truthful message can get lost in the weeds in no time if the presentation of the message does not resonate with the audience.
Depending on the situation, you really want to spend some time thinking about the most impactful way to articulate your message. Of course, that can mean many different things, but here are some points to take into consideration:
Think about the presentation techniques that you will be using. Are you using a formal presentation with some slides? What are these slides going to look like? How long is the presentation, and will it get the point across positively, fun and articulate way? Do you need to prep your audience with some material that you could distribute ahead of time? Do you need to practice your presentation delivery? All good questions to ask yourself.
Many graph projects are very visual. Spending time to think through the most potent visual examples is usually really worth the while - as it will immediately set your audience's associative brain in motion and make them think about the ways that the graph value case could apply to them.
Often, that visual presentation is part of a more significant demonstration or proof of concept environment. As with most innovative data applications, demonstrating it to the target audience in such a context can be highly compelling - especially as it can also mentally de-risk the audience's perception.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of questions but rather a method to get you thinking about how you will deliver the message that you have worked so hard to establish: your value case for graphs. It would be a shame to let that hard-fought case get lost because of poor delivery. So let's think through the motions, and do a superior job at that.
This article is by no means your definitive guide to presenting investment proposals inside corporations. PhD's have been researched on that topic, and bookshelves have been filled. We are, however, trying to get you, our graph enthusiast that is reading about this topic, to think through the motions of articulating the graph value case - and the presentation step is an essential part of that motion. We hope that you will appreciate the importance and be all the more successful because of it.