You have an idea. This idea is brilliant and no one else has thought of it. It’ll save the company millions. Which surely means a raise and promotion for you.
But first, you have to persuade the top tier of management that your idea is, in fact, brilliant.
Get management to green light your project with this 14-step strategy. Don’t let the number scare you—14 may sound like a lot, but doing things correctly upfront can save you time in the long run, says Melissa Henley, Laserfiche’s director of marketing, who presented the strategy at the 2015 Empower conference.
1. Identify the business case
Define the problem you’re trying to solve, and research the business need associated with it so you can build your business case.
2. Identify the key players
There are three kinds of people:
- Beneficiaries, who stand to gain from your proposal
- Subject-matter experts, who have insight into what it will take to solve your problem
- Stakeholders, who have the authority to approve or reject your business case
3. Identify the roles the stakeholders play
There are four different roles stakeholders can play:
- The Champion will help you get to “yes.” While he is typically not the ultimate decision maker and may actually have little power, he knows how to navigate the organization’s culture.
- The Decision-Maker is typically risk-averse because he is accountable for results. Moreover, he is unlikely to have the expertise required to understand your problem and relies on the advice of others.
- The Influencer is typically involved with revenue generation or revenue protection, and holds sway in the final decision.
- The Blocker typically doesn’t have the power to say “yes,” but helps provide decision makers with reasons to say “no.”
“If you can support your champion, coax your blocker, and convince your decision maker, you’re golden,” Henley says.
4. Find ways to persuade people
First, identify your organization’s priorities, whether they are improving customer satisfaction, lowering the bottom line, increasing revenue generation or others. You can then frame your project in those terms to your stakeholders, thinking in terms of what they care about.
5. Identify the business need
Next, listen to the beneficiaries to get their input on solving the problem, and analyze the processes required. Then go back to the stakeholders to make sure you’re on the same page about your solution, its constraints and its alignment with your company strategy. Be sure to record everything you learn. “This will save you a lot of time when you prepare your presentation to stakeholders,” Henley says.
6. Build a team
Make sure you have people to help build your case. Recruit the finance person to help you with the numbers, rally beneficiaries who are eager to have their problem solved, talk to customer experience people and other experts. You don’t just want their input—you want to get them on your side.
7. Think of other ways to frame the debate
How would it look if other departments solved the problem, or if you had different constraints, such as more time or less money? While you’re at it, consider what could go wrong and have a plan to address it. Be sure you consider the option of not doing anything. What would happen?
8. Specify what your solution needs
What resources will you need? What transition costs will be required? Which departments and people will have to help? Make sure you consider how your project will affect other departments and get their buy-in.
9. Determine costs
There are two kinds of costs:
- Project expenditures: includes development, testing and qualification, training and deployment. There are also travel costs and capital expenditures, such as equipment that needs to be amortized over several years. Here’s where the finance person on your team comes in handy.
- Operating costs: how much money it will take to maintain whatever you’re proposing—including which costs your project will eliminate.
Also look at benefits. Will the project make money or save money?
10. Calculate ROI
How long will it take for your project to pay for itself? There are four ways to calculate ROI—breakeven analysis, payback period, net present value, and internal rate of return—but what matters most is, what method are your stakeholders used to? Use that.
11. Figure out how to present it
Will you get to present your case yourself, through a meeting or conference call, or just submit a slide deck? It makes sense to ensure that your supporting document can stand on its own, even if you don’t get to present it. Remember that stakeholders have competing demands on their time and attention, so be clear, concise, and compelling when stating the business need, your solution, and the impact your solution will have on your business.
12. Work with stakeholders ahead of time
Once you have the slide deck done, test it out with your stakeholders so you have allies in the room when questions come up—particularly the head of the department that will lead the work and the head of the department that will benefit most from it. Also, make sure to include beneficiaries and subject matter experts to get their buy-in. Finally, remember to close your presentation with the benefits.
13. Dealing with resistance
Be prepared for the common types of resistance you might encounter. Have a plan to share content with those who think your numbers are overoptimistic, that you’ve missed things, or who question your timeline.
14. Decision time
At this point, you can expect one of three responses:
- Yes! So be ready for this. What resources will you need? Strike while the iron is hot.
- Maybe. You may need to do more work or come up with an alternative.
- No. But pay attention to why. You might be able to build a stronger case later.
Keep in mind that even when you get a “yes,” your job is only half done. You’ve sold the idea up and across—now you need to sell it to the people who will be using it. “Stakeholders can say yes—but it’s the people who use the technology who most often say no!” Henley says.
Simplicity 2.0 is where we examine the intricate and transitory world of technology—through a Laserfiche lens. By keeping an eye on larger trends, we aim to make software that’s relevant to modern day workers, rather than build technology for technology’s sake.
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