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CIO – A Salesman before the Board

CIO – A Salesman before the Board

23rd Nov 2015


by Vince Sparks – IT Director Stobart Group


Most of us will at some time during our career been facing the challenge of selling an aspect of IT to the board. This could be an internal IT project, some new wizzy IT technology or a business project where IT have taken the lead to present.

Whilst the project may have passed the layers of organisational approval from divisional directors, finance and legal, there is still the potential hurdle of the board room pitch.

The project may be essential to the business and have an impressive ROI or have sponsorship from previous board initiatives, in which case there is hopefully a guaranteed success rate.

But how many times are we faced with projects where there the ROI is less tangible and the business case less obvious. At this point things can get a little tricky with less certain outcomes.

What can IT leaders do, when faced with the above situation to help projects get the required board approval. Whilst there are no guarantees and many variables at play I have come up with my own checklist. No golden guarantees and mostly obvious points to consider but this may help someone at some point either now or in future board pitches.

  1. What else is on the agenda?

Having some insight into the agenda can help with the pitch or knowing whether to pitch at all. Asking for funding when the pot has been emptied from five previous pitches may be less successful than a day when you are the only player.

Knowing that your colleagues are also pitching for funding can lead to deferring your pitch until the next board meeting and increasing likelihood of success.

In my experience the board can become victims of ‘Pitch Boredom’ following a seemingly endless succession of worthy cases requesting business funding!

  1. Who is in the board meeting today?

You may be familiar with the main board team and have daily contact to where by you can socialise your ideas before the main event.

Beware the last minute changes or non-execs who have to earn their keep, by challenging projects based on their experience!

The stray exocet from the guest board member can come as a surprise and upset the usual board composition!

  1. Plant seeds and water them

When you get your opportunity to provide board updates or pitch projects, remember to start selling the next series of projects in the pipe line.

Whilst selling the current project remember to mention those synergies of future projects and how that IT roadmap relies on other ongoing investments as part of the total package.

Asking for everything at once can be seen as greedy; so sometimes starting with one successful project pitch can be better than two failed pitches.

Plant the seeds early, often six to nine months in advance, water them on each board visit and when the time comes for the project pitch, the ideas are already familiar and the context understood.

  1. The obvious stuff

There are also the obvious considerations when making any presentation:

  • Keep to the language of ‘business’ and stray not into IT acronyms and techno babble

  • Make the presentation clear and concise – test it on colleagues before the board

  • Ensure demo’s are well tested and rehearsed before the event, on location using the same kit

  • If you have a clear ROI, then make sure this is obvious and if not, what are those intangible benefits and how can they be monetised

Whilst guarantees are not ‘iron cast’, some advanced strategic planning and consideration of the above points can pay dividends

Enjoyed this article? Why not meet the author at our CIO Event

 by Vince Sparks – IT Director Stobart Group

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