During a panel discussion involving a few vendors and CIOs, someone asked a question to the panel. “My business users do not seem to be interested in the project, even though I know for a fact that the
implementation will bring substantial benefits. How do I get business buy-in?” Such questions come up every now and then (words change, but the context is similar). It’s as if evolution will be denied to a few.
Isn’t it amazing to see that IT heads ignore the signs of discomfort or lack of interest in their enthusiasm to push ahead? Rarely do CIOs pause to reflect upon the message which comes across quite clearly — the one which says,
“No! We are not interested in this wonderful project”. In some cases, this rejection could be due to the CIO’s inability to clearly articulate the project. Thus the business buy-in case is not compelling enough, nor does the benefit statement truly reflect the real case.
Many a time, other priorities consume business users. Thus they prefer to have the CIO focus on these priorities rather than on the latest fad which an IT vendor may sell. In a few rare cases, the digital divide
between the CIO and the CXO may be the raison-d’être for the disinterest in moving ahead.
The basic principle in all cases is to listen first, and then talk. Communication is not about your ability to use your linguistic skills such that the other needs a dictionary to decipher it. Ensure that you understand the listener’s frame of reference. Effective communication always happens when the involved stakeholders share a common interest and are willing to listen to each other.
Finally, if you still face the same question of “How do I get business buy-in?”, then stop pursuing it. After all, you don’t want a scenario where the system is developed to sketchy specifications and no one uses
it. Why are you interested in the project when your customer is not? Sometimes, the answer can be no too.
Useful pointers to ensure business buy-in
Cheat Sheet: How to write a business case
Writing a business case
How to write an effective business case
In not so distant a past, I had an interesting set of meetings with four of the top 10 global IT vendors and consultants who were bidding for a large engagement. Without exception, each party wanted the deal badly enough, considering the scope of work and the market expansion it may create. However, at the end of the evaluation process, I was feeling really nervous, not about the project, but about client confidentiality and what it means.
In the early part of the century after the recession brought about by dot-burst and 9/11, the IT industry had a lot going well for them. Many traditional industries started outsourcing and offshoring, and in one case, an inadvertent mention of a client name in a small newspaper column resulted in a written apology from the vendor CEO to the client PMO and VMO. It also resulted in a reduction in future business prospects.
Fast forward to the present, where vendors do not put in the customer name in presentations, but the words and context gives away the customer to anyone who can use a bit of market intelligence. This is obviously to protect the customer identity. So you may get referred to as “Top 3 FMCG company in India”, “Global 5 retailer” or “Large merchant banker in UK”. The case study that follows almost gives away the name, but still leaves a little room for guess work.
Pause to last month, all the above mentioned safeguards were present, and guess what! Without exception, each presenter mentioned the customer names, stating that it was confidential. Talk about various the non disclosure agreements that lawyers may have spent months preparing! Or warnings given by the CIO, PM or the business head!
Are NDAs worth even the paper they are printed on ? And in India, they are indeed printed on non-judicial stamp paper.
When I asked some of them on this “slip”, there were no convincing answers. I’m not sure if there are any measures that you can take to address this situation.
Have you seen similar behavior? How do you protect your and your company’s interest in such a scenario? I would be very skeptical in doing business with such vendors, especially if it was something that brings competitive advantage in the mid-term.
It’s with a sense of excitement, gratification (and to some extent butterflies in my stomach), that I write the first post for TechTarget India. “Oh I See” started many years back as a mirror of my musings and beliefs. After the initial euphoria when everyone said “wow”, the posts became intermittent. This is when I realized the huge commitment required to sustain a diary, especially if there others want to read the entries. All the more so, since Oh I See moments do not happen with a regular periodicity; they just happen.
I have collected these thoughts for a while now, storing them for the right time. And then came along another Oh I See moment, since many of the thoughts were not relevant anymore. So I started asking others to share their “lighting the bulb” (reminds me of the clipart from early presentation days) instances. This seems to be a better way to sustain the momentum.
Collective wisdom is the promise of collaboration and sharing using the Internet as a medium. Irrespective of the X.Y version that anyone attaches to the Web, the fact remains that all of us can do better than just a single individual acting in isolation (of course, conditions apply here as well).
Virtual social media offers many benefits. So much so, that it now takes significant effort just to keep in touch with everyone. A long time back, I found myself a bit short of being classified as a “connector” when I read Tipping Point (by Malcolm Gladwell). Today, most teenagers influence many hundreds using the Internet. So does it mean that the new generation is full of connectors?
This forum should see an update probably once a fortnight, since I for sure will not want to read anyone more often than that. So do stay tuned …