Monday, July 15, 2013

Get Your IT Project Approved

At a tech event I attended recently I asked a room full of IT Directors if they would say that internally marketing and selling a technology project to their leadership was one of the main hurdles in keeping their company’s technology infrastructure healthy. The feedback was a unanimous yes.

This topic comes up over and over with IT Directors I come into contact with.

How does an IT Director go about getting a technology project approved by Operations and a budget allocated from Finance? And all within increasingly shorter time frames so that productivity gains can be made without falling significantly behind competitors who were quicker in snapping up [insert your favorite technology game-changer here]?

Current Environment

The problem is further exacerbated by the fact that, according to a Gartner CIO survey, since the 2002 dot-com bust IT budgets have been flat to negative and for 2013 are expected to shrink. IT departments must also wrestle with lean human resource allocations and nothing to speak of as far as the luxury of an IT team member who is well-versed in sales and marketing and can create the business case for a technology project.

The scenario I see over and over is that the IT team knows how to select a solution and plan a project that will have favorable ROI results for the company, but not the time/expertise to articulate it to leadership.

Needing a Paradigm Shift

What it really boils down to are the non-IT people (aka the Operations and Finance folks). More often than not they still view their company’s entire IT budget as pure cost, which is why they want to cut it every year because in their mind technology dollars, like keeping the lights on, the roof repaired and the trash taken out is all about minimizing cost. Just find the cheapest option and we’re good.

The truth is that while a portion of an IT budget is to keep the phones ringing and the computers booting, increasing percentages of IT budgets are really strategic spends, not cost at all. By recognizing and allocating strategic IT dollars they enable the IT team to find, select, and implement technology that will increase the overall productivity and efficiency of the entire organization. If spent correctly a strategic IT budget can mean that for every dollar spent, two or even three dollars can be realized in efficiency benefits.

Wearing Someone Else’s Shoes

As IT actions become more important to the strategic success of companies, the IT team needs to be better at communicating to other departments.

One example that comes to mind is a client, that I’ve been helping over the last couple of months, who was looking for a new messaging and collaboration system to replace their aging Exchange environment.

After working with the IT Director to choose the right solution we both sat down and planned out the “sales plan” to make the case to the CFO. We worked together to create and provide the CFO with end-user demos and feature overviews of the solution, ROI calculations of the new solution (Google Apps for Business in this case) vs alternatives (a new Exchange server or Office365), a change management training plan, and a budget.

Because the right solution was chosen by the IT Director, the evidence that the analysis and collateral pointed to was a pretty straightforward “yes,” that the CFO was able to deliver with confidence, and the project was able to move forward.

Best Practice

When getting approvals from Operations and Finance for a technology project take the time to give them what they need to be able to confidently say “yes”. Concentrate on metrics that matter to them, ROI calculations, compelling feature-sets, comparisons of alternatives, provide them with the change management plan and scaling expectations of the new solution to meet the needs of the organization over time.

Michael Jefferies' passions include volunteering at orphanages in Asia to brainstorming with other Newminders on how to make workflows better. He is happiest when problems are being solved and work is becoming more fun and efficient.

Since joining Newmind in April 2012, Michael has been consulting with clients to discover their organizational objectives and working alongside them to identify, analyze, and implement technologies that can help take them there. He believes that IT budgets are not merely a cost of doing business, but instead an opportunity to increase fun, efficiency and profitability.