Several years ago I attended a user group dinner meeting for System 32/34/36 and AS400 developers. I was the guest of my wife who was an RPG developer at the time. During a round table discussion a senior developer working in a small company posed the question, “How do I get my Finance manager to release funds for me to do improvements that would really enhance the company applications?” Several people offered suggestions but none were based on the actual problem, i.e. communication.
All of us in IT, whether we are application or database developers or DBAs, have run into the same situation. We know what needs to be done but are often frustrated by the rejection of our ideas due to pressing priorities or misunderstanding of the value of the solution proposed.
Where we fail in communicating is in a lack of understanding of the business’ goals and objectives and how we can integrate our solutions into those goals and objectives. You see, we speak German while management/finance speaks French. Unless we can translate the benefit of our ideas into the language of the decision makers they will not understand or approve our proposals.
Here are some tips to overcome the communication issue:
- Always submit ideas/proposals in writing. This solves a couple of problems; one, it allows you to review what you say to ensure you are logically presenting your proposal. And two, it allows you to concretely define the features, attributes and benefits of implementing your idea or proposal.
- Identify management’s highest priorities and ask yourself the question, “How will this idea/proposal lead to management achieving their goal/objective associated with their highest priority?” If your idea/proposal does not support any of their top five priorities, you can fully expect the proposal will be ignored.
- Understand the costs associated with the proposal. I once worked on a project that had a one-time cost of five million dollars. That may seem a lot of money but the return was an annual savings of 17 million dollars for the company. You can see with these figures that support for the project was very high. You need to know the cost of your proposal, even if it is a SWAG estimate, and you should be able to tie it to the benefit you expect from the proposal.
- Discuss your proposal with trusted colleagues who may be users, developers, and business managers with the intent of getting them to punch holes in your logic or numbers. One of them may help you sell the idea to a sponsor so the proposal comes from them. Yes, the sponsor may get the accolades for the idea but others will know it came from you.
By looking at these tips you will be able to translate your technical proposal to management’s priorities and may be able to overcome the normal arguments against implementing your ideas and proposals.