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Contributing Writer

Mailbag: How to get boardroom buy-in

Mar 31, 20043 mins
Data Center

* A reader offers some sage advice on how to get the nod from the top

Getting members of your executive team to buy in to a project is one of the most difficult challenges IT managers face. You can think a project is foolproof and absolutely necessary, only to have it shot down within seconds of your PowerPoint presentation.

A consultant, who is a faithful reader of this newsletter, offers some sage advice on how to get plans for your project heard, accepted and implemented.

The first step, he says, is to show up with a very strong plan. This may seem like a no-duh statement, but too often project leaders are so swept up in the excitement of the idea of the project that they don’t think it through. They go with their initial thrilling thought and hope that will get others engaged.

Remember, these are seasoned people you are trying to convince – they’ve supported winners and losers and they are jaded. They’ll need more than just your excitement to get onboard.

The consultant recommends having your cost estimate and savings accurately and thoroughly documented. Be prepared to “show examples of how other companies who have done the same project saved money,” he says. He points to wireless LANs and VoIP as two technology areas where this will be critical over the next few years.

So how do you get this information? Reach out to your peers. Use your network of industry affiliations, past colleagues, college friends in the field – cast a wide net – to find peers that have launched similar projects. Dig deep into their experiences and listen carefully to how they solved problems. Then adapt their situations to yours and don’t be afraid to play devil’s advocate. The more you vet your own argument, the less off-guard you’ll look once you step into the boardroom.

The consultant points out that you’ll need multiple case studies. “The need for repeatable success and savings is key to any technology argument,” he says.

Within your plan, you have to show how you’re going to dispose of the old technology and integrate the new gear. He uses VoIP upgrades as an example. “The VoIP conversion will be riddled with legacy PBX and [new] VoIP technology for a while. There will not be many complete conversions.” So don’t try to gloss over this reality and inherent expense. Lay it out straight in your presentation.

To really show that you have thought about every angle, the consultant recommends performing small-scale deployments “under the radar.” “This will help prove out the integration of new services and technology. “Real live data, experience and users internally are always great justifications and testimony,” he says.

This leads to his next recommendation: gather advocates. By doing a test-run and inviting some users to participate, you’ll also be gaining internal advocates. This will help later when you’re trying to do a wide-scale rollout. It will also help mitigate risk, he says.

These are just the first steps in gaining boardroom buy-in. As you start to move the project along, you will have to revisit the numbers, the scope of the project and the results you’re getting. But starting out strong will help you maintain respect for and interest in the project through its lifespan.

Thanks to our reader for offering up these tips. As always, I welcome feedback, so send it along to