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Buy-in Not Drop-out
4 September 2014

elevator #1

The Ultimate Elevator Pitch

For any project, proposal or plan to work, you must have stakeholders buy-in.  Then the trick is to keep them engaged during the whole process.  As the CIO you will be the salesperson, the tech-person, the strategist and a politician.

Stakeholders are just that – they may be involved in the process, they may benefit from the outcome, or may be adversely effected if the plan or process isn’t put into action. They may be directly involved or be on the side-lines. So know who the stakeholders are and the how/why they are a stakeholder. They are at all levels of the food chain, not just the C-Suite. Think of a beehive, if it doesn’t have the worker bees it wouldn’t function.

You also need to ensure your stakeholders last the distance, your pitch needs to outline roles and their level of involvement at all stages – planning, execution and evaluation.

Technology, a change in technology is not the easiest sell and it is one which must be the clearest. The proposal should be understood by a broad audience, while there will necessarily be technicalities included, summary statements explaining them will help the uninitiated.  Remember even now, every organisation will have its “techno-phobes”.

Define project goals and the scope clearly. There should be a clear understanding of why the project is required. Include background information about the current situation, the project drivers, the challenges and what the identified benefit would be. Any proposal should always have the overall strategy and goals of the company put into the context.

Keep the proposal shorter, if it is too wordy, you will lose most of the audience. Graphs, images and white space all assist with readability.

All organisational areas which will benefit from the proposal should be mentioned and the benefits stated, we all like to think there is something in it for us.

Find your disciples, your advocates early in the process, have them pave the way, sow the seeds of change if necessary. Again this should be on various levels for it to be effective. The more influence they have on their peers the better.

Each proposal will have a downside, maybe more, don’t hide them, they will always come back to bite. State them and counter it with a benefit, think of contingencies. If you can demonstrate the downsides have been carefully considered, the impact will be much less. Transparency is critical.

Have solid verifiable facts in your pitch but don’t present impressive, positive facts in a dry fashion give them pizzazz, flair and make them memorable – graphics are great. We all like to hear good news and take away a positive outlook.

This is where social media can come in to its own – use these options to keep everyone informed and involved, build a community mentality and encourage comment and contribution.  Don’t shy away from asking for advice, it is unlikely we know everything and the advice given is an investment in the proposal and true buy-in.

The whole process must be democratic, while everyone may not in reality be on an equal footing, it must appear to be that way. The proposal should not leave any stakeholders with the impression they have been railroaded, that it is something imposed by management without consideration for operational levels.

Technical know-how alone will not ensure success. For the CIO in particular, being multi-facetted is essential. Part salesperson, researcher, communicator and politician are all necessary, so keep those hats right where you can see them.