How to Get Executive Buy-In for Your Information Management Project
We’ve all been there.
We know that our information management technology is getting old, and it needs to be replaced. We can’t integrate to the newest artificial intelligence tools that could help improve the completeness and accuracy of the metadata, nor can we feel confident that we are managing records appropriately, and don’t even get me started on search. Despite these problems that we’re critically aware of, we sometimes find it difficult to get executive buy-in for the projects that are so desperately needed.
Here are three steps that you can use to get buy-in for your information management project when you need it most.
Their Focus is Your Focus
Some leadership is focused on the top line – generating new sales and opening new markets. Other organizations have executives that are trying to shrink expenses and squeeze more out of the sales they have. Your first step is to figure out where the focus is.
Knowing that your executives are focused on sales allows you to focus your communication on the barriers the aging system has to the sales process. You can speak about the velocity of the transactions, as well as the ability to create better proposals and responses.
If they’re focused on shrinking expenses, you can speak to the cost of maintaining the aging system, the risks associated with a problem, and the labor costs to support the workarounds that a new system would solve automatically.
If the organization is focused on growth, don’t talk about cost savings. If they’re focused on cost savings, don’t talk about new features that don’t have clear usage scenarios.
Talk the Talk - Speaking Finance
Your solution must make financial sense. While we don’t make decisions rationally, we do need to be able to rationalize them.
In terms of leadership, this rationalization most frequently comes in terms of a return on investment (ROI). In short, it’s the amount of time it will take for the savings to pay for the upfront investment. The shorter the time, the more support you’re likely to get.
The big challenge that most professionals have with this is they struggle to quantify the risks inherent to the system and the lost productivity in a way that’s compelling.
Everyone knows that a few minutes of savings isn’t going to lead to someone being let go, so multiplying a few minutes a day times the number of workers in the organization doesn’t work.
What does work is speaking about the other cost-savings measures that people can take when their time is freed up – or the additional revenue-generating activities that can come as a result of the change.
On the risk side, it’s about adding up all the risks with their probability and impacts into an overall number. Here, the key is a risk-adjusted loss. You multiply the probability of the occurrence (or frequency, if you know it’s going to happen more than once) by the cost of the occurrence. If there’s a 1 in 10 chance of a $100 loss, then you count that risk as a $10 risk. The individual estimates of risks aren’t as important as what happens when you can accurately summarize these risks.
If you can’t make the financial case for your project, it’s not likely to be approved.
The Emotion of Change
While you may need a rational argument to support the ultimate decision, that’s putting the cart before the horse – or, in this case, the elephant. We like to believe that we make rational decisions, but a great deal of research has shown that this is not the case. We make emotional decisions that we rationalize. Jonathan Haidt proposed a model where an emotional elephant is being ridden by a reason. It’s fine to talk to the rider when the elephant’s not interested in the outcome, but let a mouse cross your path, and no amount of talking to the rider will rein in the elephant.
If you want to get executive buy-in, it’s going to take an emotional hook to get them going. How can you establish a vision about how leading-edge or frugal or innovative your organization is? When you match the right emotion to the executives’ desires for themselves and the organizations, it’s amazing how quickly they can get behind and push your initiative.
Putting the Pitch Together
If you’re looking for how to get your project approved, look for where the executives are focused, how to create a rational environment, and how you can engage them emotionally.
About Robert Bogue, CIP
Robert Bogue is a father, husband, community leader, and servant with over a dozen years in business. A passionate learner and educator, Robert has editor credit on over 100 books, author credit on 27 books and numerous courses. Robert is also a recovering technologist with 17 years as a Microsoft MVP. He reads and reviews a book each week on non-technical topics, distilling the wisdom of many into a set of discovered truths. His Discovered Truths (http://www.discoveredtruths.com) project teaches everyone in the organization key interpersonal skills through short, engaging videos delivered each week to every employee. You can follow Robert on his blog at http://www.thorprojects.com/blog.