Six smart steps to help you win project approval

At a certain point the success or demise of an IT project depends on an IT manager’s business proposal.

Unfortunately, a large number of managers fail to express their project’s benefits to the business and lose the interest of decision makers, according to two Canadian technology experts.

“A lot of the merits are lost in the translation because very often IT people do not know how to speak the language of the business,” according to Andy Woyzbun, lead analyst at Info-Tech Research Group in London, Ont.

“Decision makers don’t want to hear about bits and bytes. IT managers need to talk to them in terms of achieving business value and reducing risk,” said John Cash, account executive at Bell Canada.

While large corporations would usually have formal proposal procedures in place, IT managers in small companies essentially go through the same steps, although with slight variations. “With SMBs the vetting committee and decision maker might actually be the owner,” said Woyzbun.

Here are a few pointers that might help ease the corporate language barrier and get that IT project off the ground.

Determine if budget is available
No matter how good your project is, it will never be approved if there’s no money for it, said Woyzbun. “Do you research, find out if the company is in a position to spend for the project.”

Identify the business value
A person with a background technology might perceive a different set of benefits than a business-oriented person would. In your presentation, make sure you play up the business value of the project.

Executives want to know if the project will speed up processes, enhance service delivery, increase sales, save money, or reduce risk, according to Cash.

Learn more about your company – especially the pain points
In some organizations, Woyzbun said, It managers tend to operate in a vacuum. “They are not aware of the needs and concerns of departments outside of theirs.”

Knowing what your company’s pain points are can improve your ability to present possible solutions.

Speak the language
Stay away from tech jargon. Write proposals and do oral presentation using words that would be understood by non-tech listeners, said Cash.

“Your presentation and materials should be couched in the [language] of your listeners. Individuals tend to agree with people they understand.”

Get them excited
A key element in getting a project approved is to fire up the decision maker’s level of excitement. “Get them to buy into your idea. Make them avid supporters,” said Woyzbun. He said IT managers should convince decision makers that the project is the solution to their problems.

Assure them of your capability
Experts say it’s also important that decision makers are confident you can carry out the project and deliver.

Make it clear to them what you can and cannot do. If you feel you need assistance, suggest which departments or individuals can help you out. In some instances, you might also recommend the contracting out of part of the project.

Apart from everything else, project management specialists cite two reasons why  getting approval of your proposals is vital:

  • Your reputation as an IT manager depends on it. Getting two many proposals shot down could mean send the message that you can’t express your thoughts properly or cannot bring useful suggestion to the table.
  • In most cases other people have also invested their time and effort into the project. They depend on you to get their ideas through the door.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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