Department of “No”. How data professionals should respond… | by Megan Rashid | Jan, 2024


How data professionals should respond to business enthusiasm for projects they can’t deliver… yet.

Young girl with brunette hair shows her thumbs down.
Photo by Thomas Park on Unsplash

A meeting request for a “quick chat” rolls into your inbox from a senior business leader. You introduced yourself during the Christmas party, and the two of you briefly discussed your background in analytics. However, he’s never worked directly with you or the analytics team before.

You join the Zoom and make some small talk before he transitions to the topic of conversation. He’s come across a blog post on how a competitor used machine learning to profile their customers and identify new areas of growth within their market segments. He’s hoping you can build some models to do the same because his business unit has been especially impacted by recent market stagnation.

As a technical expert, you begin reverse engineering the data and development environment needed to build, train and manage ML models for this business application. After your assessment, you recognize it’s not possible with the current data availability and tech stack. So it’s a no. The business leader who started the call with so much excitement walks away disheartened.

This is just one example.

The non-technical people want to do something, and they need the technical people to help them do it. The non-technical people are often starting from a case study. They’ve learned about a technical solution and can recognize the inherent value in applying this to their domain. Granted, these case studies can be vague:

  • “Competitor A saved 5% on logistics costs with analytics”
  • “AI saves 1,2M in machine downtime costs annually”
  • “Automation reduces customer referral wait times by 2 business days”

Saying “No” early to non-strategic or out-of-scope requests is important to shield data teams from non-impactful work. The “No’s” are tactical and needed. Very few people say No without any reason, but how you say “No” is just as important as when you say “No”.

You’ve got your reasons

Regardless of where your data/analytics team sits in the organization, the business often associates and understands them as an…


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