Better Ways to 'Sell' Your IT Projects

Susan Hall

This being budget season, a couple of posts at CIO Insight offer good advice for "selling" IT projects to the brass. They're written by Marc J. Schiller, author of "The 11 Secrets of Highly Influential IT Leaders."


The first suggests taking a cue from the popular TV series "Mad Men" and sell like those on Madison Avenue. It presents a scenario with the CIO Christine, who is trying to protect a $2 million cloud migration project in next year's budget. Rather than merely presenting the case for it, with plenty of facts and figures, the article suggests she present three options for the project, though there really is only one.


To quote Christine's adviser Martin in the article:

Slide Show

How to Sell Senior Management on a Data Warehouse

The real benefits of data warehousing are indirect: the ability for your company to make better, faster decisions that will save money and increase revenue.

When you present one option you set yourself up for a yes or no. And if things get rough, it's always easier to go with no. So, in place of the single option, you present three options. ... Madison Avenue is famous for that. They develop one good campaign for the client. Then, a few days before the big client meeting, they quickly throw together some crappy ideas to present alongside the really good idea. The client would of course throw out the obviously bad ideas and select the good idea feeling very pleased with himself for his brilliance.

Christine's presentation then highlights three versions of the cloud project, one too-expensive "ultimate" version, a bare-bones "budget" version and mid-priced middle ground, the one she really wants.


The second article, "Making a Business Case That Sells: Where CIOs Go Wrong," says these presenations tend to lack two key ingredients:


  1. An outcomes-based vision.
  2. The promise of real-life change.


Schiller advocates starting with the outcome your project will deliver. His advice to cut to the chase echoes that of InformationWeek columnist Larry Tieman that I mentioned in this post. Schiller says to find clear business metrics showing side-by-side where the company is today and whether it will be as a result of this project.

For the second element, Schiller writes about the difference between "enabling" something and actually "doing" something differently. He writes:

It means getting a crisp commitment from business users about what they will be doing differently in the real world as the result of the project. We're talking about real-world change commitment, not just requests for capabilities. It's huge. But that's also why it has power to sell. Because it truly makes the project a business project.

No matter what your level in the organization, selling your ideas is a key skill to be honed, one that will give you more to list under "accomplishments" on your resume.

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