Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Getting a green light for that IT project

IT groups sometimes have a reputation as a group that has trouble selling project ideas when it comes time for locking in funding from the corner office. Here a few roadblocks to avoid and approaches to try out next time you are pushing an IT project,

say rolling out Uplogix Local Management to all of your branch offices...

In a recent article, author Mark Samuels gathered feedback from IT veterans about the best tactics for getting a green light from the chief executive. Here are some highlights:

Make it relevant
It might seem basic, but a key to getting sign-off is to ensure that execs understand the value of the initiative. Make sure the value of the project is clear in business terms for the company.

"If it's a large scale implementation, such as networks, infrastructure or enterprise architecture, you must explain to the business why your core IT systems need to be maintained and refreshed," said Sarah Leslie, CIO at Iglo Foods Group.

"Identify where challenges exist and how investment in new underlying IT will help support new business opportunities. Everyone understands technology is now critical to success, so explain how the business will benefit from your ideas over time."

You can't fund what you can't measure
Beyond promises of value, execs want to know that projects they funded actually generated positive returns.

"Give clear indications of how you'll measure success, which will help drive both the project and the business forwards," said David Reed, head of information services and infrastructure at the Press Association.

When budgets are tight, sometimes the best way to break through a new project is to show that often doing nothing has an opportunity cost as well. Continuing expensive and outdated processes in a business-as-usual approach could be what's keeping funding from freeing up for new innovations.

Line up your allies first
As IT continues to grow more critical to the bottom line success of many companies, this is changing, but IT hasn't always had a reputation for in the C-suite for business-driven projects. Sometimes the next new thing, or a more clever way of solving a problem has been a distracting shiny object for IT groups. 

"IT people love nothing more than a good project to add excitement to their life and enhance their career," says David Allison, head of business systems at Aggregate Industries. 

It's best for supporters of a project to have a tough eye for value.

"The demand handling process needs to have a culture of looking to tear apart a business case and ensure only the robust ones get through," says Allison. "So on the assumption that the project is a sound one, the CEO needs to be presented with a project request that lays out the problem being solved, the options, the benefits, the risks, and the timescales."

Building your case
Often vendors have resources to help create the business case for justifying a new solution. Depending on the company, individuals involved and a host of other factors, resources like ROI Calculators, case studies from similar implementations, and pricing information are received with everything from gratitude to contempt. No matter where you fall, keep an open mind. Even if you take the information with a grain of salt, information in these resources could, at the least, be good fodder for conversations that will help you secure that green light.