Oh I See! Getting CIOs to view their jobs from a different angle

Oct 26 2009   5:32AM GMT

The ever-elusive “business buy-in”

Arun Gupta Arun Gupta Profile: Arun Gupta

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

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