I’ve been through more budget planning cycles than I’d like to admit, and regardless of the company, the process is essentially the same. Teams scramble to generate ideas and put together decks outlining why their project should be bumped to the top of the priority list for the upcoming fiscal year, and paint a picture of doom for the poor executive team if they forgo the proposed project. It’s a painful process for all involved, and the jury is still out on how “scientific” the results are when it comes to choosing the right priorities.
With those truths in mind, today I’m going to help you power-up your planning process. Maximizing your chances of success when it comes to pitching your project and actually helping your leadership team prioritize IT projects for the new year.
Pitching to Win
When it comes to pitching IT projects, I like Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez’s hierarchy of purpose because it forces a discipline around viewing and pitching projects through an organizational lens, as opposed to through a departmental lens (which is often where we start).
Part 1 – Laying Strong Foundations
The first two elements of this hierarchy will force you to step back and widen your frame of reference to ensure that your project is effectively aligned. Consider:
Purpose – why does your organization exist?
Priorities – what is the organization’s focus today and in the immediate future?
This is the first “gate” your project needs to pass through on the path to prioritization. If you cannot draw a clear line between your project and your organization’s purpose and priorities, it’s time to rethink where you want to spend your team’s effort.
On a side note – you should also be able to articulate both #1 and #2 succinctly, in your own words, as you sit and read this blog. If you can’t, this is a good time to go back and review your organization’s strategic plan to ensure that these points become second nature for you. Know these intimately and your pitch will become instantly stronger.
With a good grasp on #1 and #2, it’s time to think through:
Projects – which initiatives will drive the highest impact on the organization’s purpose and priorities?
Now, I get that this may seem a bit redundant – the obvious answer here is your project. But although it’s obvious to you, it may not be to the leadership team. We can’t assume that “the cream will rise to the top” because quite frankly, garbage often does as well (over 80,000 tonnes of it, in fact, in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch).
Make sure you are thinking bigger than ROI – this is the time to tie back your project to purpose and priorities, which may not necessarily tie directly to ROI. Frame your project through this lens first – we’ll have time to make the case for ROI soon.
With a strong handle on how your project impacts what’s important to your executive team, it’s time to identify:
People – who is going to help make your project successful?
Consider the areas that your project will impact and interface with. Identify the right people within those areas that you need on your side to make the project a success. Don’t just list names on a slide in your deck, though – get in front of those people and pitch your project to them. Let them help you identify your blind spots and refine your pitch to close those holes. In doing so, you’ll be building a bench of people that will help you champion your initiative, and some may even be at the table when it comes to evaluating the final list of prioritized projects!
Finally, it’s time to detail:
Performance – what is going to happen when the project is done?
The odds are good that you’ve had this pictured in your mind since Day 1. This is the final checkpoint, where you need to validate your initial thoughts with the work that you’ve done to get back to this point. The beauty is that you will now be in great shape to frame your project and it’s expected results through the lens of what really matters to your organization. Ultimately, this is how you maximize the odds of seeing your project at the top of the IT prioritization list once the whole process is over.
CIO.com has a great article on IT Resolutions for 2019…leaning on #6, #7, #13, #14 and #15 will supercharge your chances of success!
Ultimately, there’s no “perfect” formula when it comes to pitching, whether it’s for budget, prioritization, or anything else you need to make your team successful in the new year. What I can say, though, is that a pitch should tell a story – one that takes your executive team through a narrative that demonstrates you know what they care about and how your ask directly ties back to those priorities. Done well, you’ll be in a position to start thinking about managing your project execution well – but that’s another blog post for another time!