Any department or team lead who’s ever evaluated or proposed a complex IT initiative at a large organization knows that winning support across multiple stakeholders can make or break a project. Even solutions that promise big wins for the bottom line have a hard time gaining momentum. So, why is it so hard to find other sponsors for a cost-saving project inside a larger enterprise? If integrating a new cost-saving initiative will save the company money, why isn’t everyone on board? The answer boils down to the metrics that drive departmental budgets. Knowing how to deftly navigate these roadblocks – either as an internal project champion or as a C-level executive — can help drive critical IT projects forward to reap company-wide benefits.
#1. Department heads are hesitant to take on risk
Finding a single sponsor in an individual department who will be the first to champion your project is a challenge because the cost savings cannot be boiled down to a single line item. So, this person is taking a significant professional risk when putting the project within the context of their department first, since they’ll bear most of the responsibility for anything that goes wrong.
Solution: Mitigate risk by identifying multiple stakeholders early in the process across senior leadership, development teams and operations departments. Bring them in early to your overall vision to build shared ownership of the project and allow the most passionate advocates to emerge from the group.
#2. The benefits for one department alone aren’t enough
The agility, efficiencies, and cost benefits are realized across the entire enterprise, which is what makes larger projects so great. The downside though, is that it also makes these projects harder to sell. Those benefits don’t just affect a single department or group’s budget but provide savings across numerous groups. Each group on its own, however, doesn’t save enough to justify running the project.
Solution: Help your stakeholders quantify the benefits across the organization and arm them to the data to bring to the C-suite. You will be helping them gain greater visibility. In many cases the vendors providing the solution can assist with the heavy lifting needed to put these numbers together, so reach out to them for help.
#3. No one has the budget
The upfront costs can be daunting for a single department that is in the process of evaluating a new project that will be used across the enterprise. In many cases, the funds that are under their control simply aren’t enough to cover the initial CAPEX needed to get the project moving. In many companies, this means that the project is guaranteed to be DOA when submitted by a single department for consideration.
Solution: Propose ways to manage up-front costs so that it does not stall a valuable project. Get to C-level sooner with specific business gains to obtain budget allocations across multiple departments to pool resources.
#4. Ongoing OPEX costs are hard to share
Most large enterprises have outsourced their local help desk and site service personnel, so there is a charge every time they need to troubleshoot a machine with a failed drive or provide any other on-demand service. These fall into the category of unquantifiable OPEX budget items. These can range from lost data on machines that aren’t sent out for recovery, to user downtime and the potential loss of personal data that might have been on a stolen machine. These drags on productivity don’t come out of a simple line item in the budget where management can point to a direct cost savings.
Outline the intangible benefits as well, like efficiency and agility, which are great value adds for the discussion. While the cost savings or opportunities created by these benefits are not as clear cut, presenting them will demonstrate that you’re providing a more comprehensive view. Providing specific scenarios will also help illustrate the value, especially if the solution will save time or increase efficiency for a large portion of the organization.
Overcome IT project roadblocks by addressing the reality of a matrixed organization
The key to achieving real success with your project starts with small wins. The worst approach for an unproven concept would be to get a large cohort of decision makers in the same room and try to get them all convinced and on board at the same time. Conflicting interests along with the uncertainty and ambiguity of the outcome would make it easy for everyone to collectively shoot the idea down.
Start with one person, someone you can sway with relative ease, and convince them first. Ideally this person would be a senior-level individual in order to provide the greatest degree of leverage when convincing additional stakeholders. Using quantifiable costs savings will provide the greatest impact in this effort. Give specific examples within individual budgets and then show the larger aggregate savings in order to illustrate the collective value of the solution you are proposing.
As additional colleagues are convinced, it becomes easier to demonstrate a clearer vision to others, showing the ways in which the company will benefit as a whole. Small wins grow to large ones, as each new project sponsor becomes armed with a firm grasp of the overall savings, efficiencies, and advantages that your project will help each team achieve. Once a critical mass is reached, teams are assembled, budgets become allocated and your project concept becomes real.
Timing is also an essential factor to keep in mind. Managing the process of taking your idea from the whiteboard to POC, to production, requires relentless persistence as well as a great deal of patience.
In many cases it’s not just the people who need to be convinced, as windows of opportunity may only open during specific times of the year. Fiscal calendars may only allow budgets to be augmented during a predetermined period, or your project may need to be put on hold to wait for a new hardware or service refresh cycle.
Just because you are patient does not mean you are complacent, and being smart about when you begin your efforts is just as important as who is on your side when the project needs to be approved. Getting critical stakeholders on board first will dramatically improve your ability to successfully spearhead your next initiative.