So you want to be a CIO? Stop trying to be a chess master and start enabling other people to grow, says John Marcante.
Company buy-in for an IT project requires big picture understanding
Technology now drives nearly every corporate element, and while that has empowered CTOs, it also increases the burden of getting other departments on board with the ultimate technological vision. Simon Ritter, deputy CTO of Azul Systems, explains how you can get everyone in your company on the same page.
The Enterprisers Project (TEP): What is the biggest challenge to gaining company-wide buy-in for technology-focused projects?
Simon Ritter: For me, it’s how to communicate effectively the ways a project can save users time, money (or both), whilst ensuring that everyone understands what is required to make the project a success.
I’ve long held the view that nobody wants to buy a computer. After all, on its own, it’s simply a box with a few flashing lights on it. A computer without software doesn’t help anyone do anything. Similarly, nobody wants to buy software; that’s just a large collection of bits. What people want to buy is a solution to a problem they have. A solution is a combination of hardware and software along with additional infrastructure required to implement the complete solution.
Managers can often be resistant to spending money on infrastructure software because they may not see how this will save them money in the long run. Infrastructure software is like the plumbing in your house. When you fit a new bathroom, you will spend time choosing the right fittings and color scheme to make sure it’s just what you want. The plumbing is just there to make the fittings work. However, if you don’t get the infrastructure right, your new bathroom will not be a success.
The challenge, therefore, is to have all stakeholders of a project understand all the different components. They need to understand the impact each part has on the success of the project and the risks associated with not ensuring that each piece does what it needs to do. This requires clear communication and breaking things down into discreet risks versus rewards for each component.
Once everyone understands how the whole system fits together, much like a jigsaw puzzle, then the potential is there for a successful tech-focused project.
TEP: It can be hard to prioritize a technology-focused project due to budget or other factors. How do you know when to push and when to compromise?
Ritter: In this case, I think it comes down to experience on the part of the CIO or CTO. To succeed in this type of role you need to have a broad as well as a deep understanding of your business. What I mean by this is that you need to be able to see all different parts of the business and understand how they work together. When the priority of tech-focused projects needs to be evaluated, such as when there is a budgetary constraint, it is a holistic view that will help in deciding which projects to push for and when to compromise.
In addition, the CIO or CTO should always be working on building trust with all other areas of the business. By building trust all along, it will be easier to enlist support for difficult decisions about which projects continue and which need to be put on hold or canceled.