You’ve come up with a great idea to help your company grow, but you need to get your IT department on board. Indeed, often the most difficult part of any project isn’t coming up with the idea, but rather getting buy-in and resources from senior leadership.
Here are six tips to make sure your project gets the resourcing and backing to be successful.
Create An Outstanding Specification Document
Take the time to make the project spec as thorough and understandable as possible. Begin by describing your project, and the objective. Identify and discuss the business problem that your proposition means to remedy. Point out how your idea will benefit the entire company when you suggest that IT budget money should be used to fund the project.
As a non-tech person approaching IT people, make your spec “open” instead of “closed”. An open spec allows for more flexibility regarding how the end product or service will be produced.
Using an open spec will show the tech team you understand they are the experts in this endeavor, and trust them to come up with the best way to execute your concept.
Be clear and concise in your writing, leaving no room for doubt regarding your intentions for the project. Tell the IT people exactly who will benefit from your idea, and why. Make sure your spec has a solid foundation on which the tech team can build.
If you work at a company that is less bureaucratic then you should suggest cheap and inexpensive ways to test the assumptions behind your idea to validate that it will work and to make it less about opinions and more about demonstrated need.
Timing Is Key
Choosing the best time to approach the IT department with your proposal is crucial to how your request will be received. Take the time to find out about the type and number of projects they are currently working on, so you won’t be dumping extra work on the team before they finish their current workload.
If you know the end of the month is often hectic for the tech team, wait until early in the next month to start the conversation. Similarly, mid-week might be busy, while Fridays could be much more laid-back. Pick a time to reach out when IT employees will be the most receptive.
Fine-Tune Your Communication Skills
People working in tech appreciate coworkers who can communicate their needs succinctly. Gain some insight as to how your idea might be realized by the IT team and be ready to knowledgeably discuss their work with them. Ask questions and listen’ should be your mantra here.
You don’t necessarily need to learn to “talk tech”, but learning a little about what the IT department does will show interest on your part, and will be helpful if you think you might submit other ideas in the future. Technical knowledge might also enable you to offer assistance with your own project, saving time and money.
By approaching the conversation with a “How can we
” mindset you’re recognizing and validating the input of the person you’re talking to. That’s a key step towards getting their buy-in as well as information on potential opportunities, blockers and levers that will impact whether or not your project gets off the ground.
Treat The Tech Team Like People
In large corporate environments, it’s difficult to know everyone. Make it a point to find out some details about the individual tech team members if you don’t come into contact with them often. At minimum, learn their names, titles, and a bit about what they doover and above what you need to know to set up a presentation meeting.
Introduce yourself to two or three key IT people before you bring them your proposal. Prior to setting up a formal meeting, consider asking them to lunch or out for a cup of coffee to discuss the outlines of your idea. Social interaction can help break the ice and make the official presentation meeting more relaxed for everyone.
We’re a social species and at the end of the day people naturally want to help other people that they already know and like. That doesn’t mean you have to be a big socializer or the most popular person in the office to get things done but creating a human connection can go a long way to remove friction and creating allies and coaches for your project.
Get Some Backup
Before you pitch to the IT team, get some feedback on your idea from coworkers in your own department. Refine your presentation using the advice of those you know best in the workplace, and win them over.
Move on to other departments, approaching those who you think would be the most receptive to your idea. When you finally present to the tech team, you will be able to say that you have spoken to people from several departments who believe your idea would be of value to the company.
Social proof is a powerful psychological factor but beware – if you have quiet opponents to your project then they may look for ways to backchannel and jeopardize your project. Be aware of who these people are and either win them over or be thoughtful about when you get their input.
Don’t Give Up
What if your presentation falls flat? Don’t despair. Not every great business idea meets with success right away. Research has shown that people are sometimes reluctant to accept innovation in their own area of expertise, and even employees who are experts in the field in which they are making suggestions get rejected.
An initial veto doesn’t mean you should give up. Get as much feedback on the decision as possible. Was your presentation at fault, or was the idea itself considered infeasible? If your presentation was the root of the rejection, find out exactly why the group rejected your proposal, and make certain your next effort addresses the team’s specific concerns.
As much as possible you want the final decision to be a formality and a natural consequence of momentum in favor of your project from key stakeholders.
If they thought the proposal itself was bad then find out why and figure out how you’ll overcome those concerns the next time around.
Remember that other factors can influence how your pitch is received, such as funding constraints, or a too-busy tech department schedule. Asking for honest feedback will help you understand whether it’s a timing problem or a negative reaction to your proposal.
Following these tips can help your ideas gain exposure, thereby increasing the chances of implementation. Pay special attention to your spec document; many software project failures stem from poor planning and unclear or misunderstood objectives. An airtight spec will be easier to present, and will win you the respect of your company’s tech team.
Need help getting your innovative tech idea off the ground? Gigster can help.