Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Business buy-in ? Why do we need that ?

In a panel discussion involving a few vendors and CIOs, someone asked a question to the panel. “My business users do not seem to be interested in the project, even though I know for a fact that the implementation will create big benefit. How do I get business buy-in ?”. This kind of question comes up every so often (words change, context is similar) as if evolution will be denied to a few.

It is amazing to see that IT heads in their enthusiasm to push ahead ignore the signs of discomfort or lack of interest, rarely pause to reflect upon the message coming across quite clearly that “No !”, we are not interested in this wonderful project. In some cases, it could be due to the inability of the CIO to articulate the project clearly enough for everyone to understand and be on the same page. Thus the business case is not compelling enough or the benefit statement is not a true reflection of the real case.

It could also be that there are other priorities that consume the business users and thus they would rather have the CIO focus on them as compared to the latest trend or new fad which the IT vendor may be interested in selling. In a few rare cases, the digital divide between the CIO and the CXO may be the raison-d’ĂȘtre for the disinterest in moving ahead.

The basic principle in all cases is listening first, and then talk. Communication is not about your ability to use your linguistic skills such that the other needs a dictionary to decipher, but to ensure that you understand the frame of reference of the listener. Effective communication always happens when the involved stakeholders share a common interest and are willing to listen to each other.

Finally, if you are still facing the same question, then stop pursuing it. After all you do not want a scenario where the system is developed to specifications that were sketchy and no one uses it. Why are you interested in the project when your customer is not ? Sometimes the answer can be no too.

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