Updated on 23 September 2010
Don’t Share Details at the First Go
Buying the line of business into the project that they plan has been hard for most IT teams. However, it gets more important of late as the IT is getting aligned with business goals
The primary task for every senior IT manager is to work out a meticulous project plan, rather than approach the business without setting the right goals and expectations. It is equally important for IT teams not to set unrealistic expectations from the project outcome from a business standpoint.
Realistic Approach to Business
To make their lives easier, IT teams have to have their mandate clear before getting the business buy into their plan. However, I would recommend that an overview of the project in a structured format, which touches upon certain broad categories, needs to be shared with the business heads and the management. Experiences of CIOs reveal that if too many details, such as technology details, modules and actual implementation practices are shared, there would be too many aspects to deal with, or it could even mean no going ahead.
The reason could be that the IT team was also not very concrete about the business outcome of the project in the most tangible terms. Most times, the art of buying the line of business in comes with the experience of handling teams, and IT managers should get involved in discussions with the top management and business heads regularly to understand what they think.
The Modus Operandi
It is obvious that any project that is initiated by IT does not get full-fledged user acceptance testing. It is vital to have clear cut categories so that projects rolled out by the IT team are successful, at the end of the day. It is like a sales technique that one follows in selling any commodity or solution. Here, the top management and business users are akin to customers. However, a key advantage that IT managers have in this situation is that they can build relationships with the business groups and offer them a high level of service and personal advantage. Another advantage IT could use is personal concept selling - which has a two-way form of communication, the most practical promotional option for reaching customers who are not easily reached through other methods.
Speaking about how to buy the line of business in across projects, most companies have a budget (in most cases, a percentage of the sales turnover) that is allocated to the IT department. This is usually considered capital projects and treated as running expenses. The amount is spent for software subscriptions, infrastructure maintenance, hardware procurement, associating with vendor programmes and attending related for a and so on.
The other kind of budget is project-driven and the investments made are driven by the functional groups who are the sponsors of that project, a revenue based model.
For instance, the genesis of a project such as ERP is driven by functional groups and the IT team comes up with an execution model to tailor the project as per the needs of the functional business groups. A structured model with relevant solutions would get an easy nod from the business groups as they are the beneficiaries.
IT managers need to remember some features around the financial selling of any project: Take into account the complexity of the project, decision making time, right of ownership, the longevity of the project, heterogeneity of the project, tangible and intangible benefits in creating the required impact and experience for the users.
Make the case document very simple without mentioning unnecessary details, resource allocations, ensure transparency (which can help you defend any point raised) and a vertical-specific approach (which will closely address that functional group).
B Sreekumar, VP-IT, Suntec Technologies
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