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Make It Clear

Make It Clear

Sometimes your business case stories fall on the deaf ears of executives who don't understand IT value. Here's how to ensure your project requests won't be rejected.

What gets your goat the most? How about the rejection of vital IT funding requests for no good reason that you can discern? Maybe the doomed proposal was a crucial systems infrastructure upgrade. Or a much-needed, next-generation transaction processing system. How can executive decision-makers reach the pinnacle of power and still not "get it" when it comes to IT? What can be done to help them see the light?

It turns out the answer is: a lot. What follows are ways to recognise symptoms of IT value blindness, explanations of why the problem occurs and suggestions for fixing it. The trick is not to try to change the decision-makers - but rather to change the way you and your team are delivering your message.

Warning signs of executive IT value blindness are easy to spot. Start with the age and background of the decision-makers. If these execs are eligible for senior citizen discounts at movies and restaurants, and have spent most of their careers in capital-intensive environments (for example, manufacturing, transportation, utilities), they may not "get" IT because they have never experienced the transformational power of technology at a deep, personal level. Another signal of possible IT prejudice is a fanatical insistence that benefits must always be tangible to "count". This attitude often reflects an insecurity about things that can't be seen or touched. A third alert is the lack of understanding of how and why IT investment selections are made. Murky methods may cover up foggy ways of thinking about technology value.

Once we've spotted symptoms, it's time to drill down to the real causes of the problem, such as:

"I don't believe it" (rejection of fundamental assumptions). Too often, what we believe are shared givens between us and investment approvers are not. For example, a CRM project request may assume that everyone agrees that sales-force productivity increases are critical to the company's future success. But such an appeal can fail with nonsales executives. For instance, a key manufacturing-oriented decision-maker may believe that sales depend on adequate production capacity, not better-informed salespeople.

"I don't see it" (weak data-to-decisions explanations). Just because you and I know that better data is fundamental to nourishing business success, doesn't mean others do. People tend to rely for future successes on what worked in the past. Action-oriented executives (doers, not thinkers) are especially prone to this. They often boast about the depth of their experience and success of their gut-feel decisions. But, they may not intuitively understand how they or their subordinates need faster, better data in today's more complex, rapidly changing world.

"I can't measure it" (too soft for comfort). Battle-hardened senior managers can be highly sceptical of any proposed benefits that appear untrackable. They've seen too many mushy promises lead to project flops. Their solution becomes: no measurements, no acceptance.

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