What’s the secret to getting project buy-in when you don’t have specific budget or authority?
We’ve all heard it a million times. If you want to get something done inside an organization, and you don’t have budget or authority, you need a sponsor. That’s easy to say for a management professor. But in the trenches it can be a whole lot more complicated. Especially when it comes to an investment that tends to be more operational than strategic, which is often where intelligent document recognition (IDR) and document capture projects end up.
Having worked in large, highly matrixed organizations, this is a topic dear to me. Here are three ideas I’ve found useful for getting project buy-in and sponsorship.
1. Find-a-Friend—the more the merrier
This may seem obvious, but flying solo is tiring. If you have an idea you want to promote, it is always helpful to have peers. Especially peers with different reporting structures. This helps in a variety of ways. First, your peers are a great resource to bounce your idea off. They might provide you with insight to resistance points you may find, from their perspective. Alternatively they might see the value of your proposal as it relates to their job, and help you broaden the business case. Regardless, by making your case to your peers first, you help identify points of resistance, build agents of support, and prevent artificial barriers from being built when your project moves forward.
2. Align your idea with strategy
Not all projects are strategic. But that doesn’t mean they don’t support strategy. The key is aligning the two. In many organizations, cost savings, an implied value proposition of purchasing software, is of operational value; but it is not a strategic focus. So how might you overcome this? They key is to finding the link to strategy. If improving customer service is a strategic initiative, then providing the customer service department with information that helps them provide faster and better customer service is of strategic value. Find a friend in customer service, and find out what would help them achieve their strategic initiatives. Tie it to the benefits of your project, and you have a supporting sponsor (or perhaps the decision maker in that business unit becomes your project champion).
3. Study your audience
The time will come when you will need to promote the idea. And for every rule of thumb I’ve heard about promoting to executives, I have found an executive with whom it doesn’t work. Ultimately, the only rule of thumb that works here is to study and know your audience. If their Mondays are back-to-back with meetings, it is probably not a good day. Do they like to know how things work or are they satisfied with why it should get done? Again your friends can be helpful here. Ask them what their observations have been. Can you get on their calendar through a hallway conversation or should you work through an administrative assistant?
Some get-your-project-started advice from a CIO
Knowing that getting projects started can be a challenge, we recently worked with AIIM to develop a very popular webinar about getting projects started. It was presented by Tony Peleska, CIO of the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency.
If you’re looking for help aligning your document capture project with business value and strategy, there’s a flipbook by AIIM and Parascript, titled “From Analog to Analytics,” available for download. This easy-to-read (and forward) book will walk you through key ways to align document capture with strategy.