This week on CIO Playbook with Jeffrey Hurley, I am continuing our discussion on project manager with some of the secrets to asking for funding of your organization or the project. Understanding how to ask for money and recognizing that it is very much a fund-raising activity is a very important component of the project delivery process. I suggested that managing a project portfolio is very similar to managing an investment portfolio; one of the primary activities in an investment portfolio is the process of raising funds. Once you have determined a project should be part of your portfolio you will then need to get the needed budget funding to begin the analysis and design work..
Avoid the Lecture and Present Solutions
Have a conversation and blend in the facts. Most of us know what it is like to be lectured to, thus it is best to avoid the perception of lecturing your audience; it will turn them against your ideas. We should be focusing on how to get our point across through the demonstration of understanding the business challenges the organization is facing and how technology will assist in solving the problem. As technology leaders we should be problem solvers and coming up with creative solutions to business challenges. If we wait for our business partners to come to us or to have a solution then you will end up losing the first mover advantages that could be reaped from adopting new technologies in your organization.
Be prepared to be challenged on what your assumptions are and what math you used to arrive at your conclusions. Healthy challenges to ideas is good, it will ensure that important risks can be avoided.
Be Straightforward and Transparent
We all know technology is expensive; business leaders, non-technology professionals, and technology professionals all know this. Thus we should not be afraid to discuss costs when we are seeking to provide a technology solution. Each audience is different, so picking the appropriate timing for sharing the cost of your projects is something that, as presenter, we need to discern. I have found that this can very day-to-day.
Be aware that even though technology is expensive, whenever “finance” asks for money back we seem to be able to find it. We are all aware that when we estimate our budget, it is usually months in advance of when we plan to spend it. Thus, things will change by the time we start spending money and it will most likely cost more than what we estimated. This is in direct conflict with our ability to give money from our budget back to “finance” when they are looking for cost savings. So how do you reconcile this dichotomy? This is a micro versus macro challenge and his hard to demonstrate easily. However, showing that individual projects make sense, yet when looked at across the whole portfolio individual issues get blended,
Demonstrate the Benefits
In episode #147 I discussed the building of a better business case. This point is where you will leverage the business case. Being able to demonstrate how spending money on technology will enable the future, drive revenue, or provide multiple key soft-dollar performance improvements will enable the business leadership team to make the best possible decisions on technology spend.
Avoid Fear Tactics
Many studies say that for personal decisions we are motivated by fear or by pleasure, however, fear tended to be a stronger motivator. I have found that while fear does create action it becomes tiresome and the decision-making team does not look forward to negative reinforcement. If you want to consistently gain support for your ideas and projects find ways to demonstrate the positive benefit they provide over fear-mongering.
Practice, practice, practice. I can’t say it enough. Going in prepared is the most important thing you can do to get your projects and budgets funded. Having the necessary confidence comes from practice. Many of you will claim that you can “wing it” and do fine and I argue this will not produce your best performance. All sports teams practice, all actors practice, weddings even have rehearsals. Choosing not to practice is selling yourself short.
The best approach to getting the fund you need for your next project is to be transparent about the process of determining the costs, the benefits, and having a conversation with the business leadership teams. It is clear that most of our business leaders do not want to understand technology, they want their issues resolved they aren’t interested in the details of how you solve them. The reality of our situation as technology leaders is we have to demonstrate an understanding of our businesses we support, delivery to the current business need, while laying the strategic foundation for the future.
Photo Credit: Lake, Howard. “Funding.” Flickr. Yahoo!, 22 Aug. 2010. Web. 31 May 2015.