Untie those purse strings

The board needs convincing that your IT investment will be worth every penny spent.

The board needs convincing that your IT investment will be worth every penny spent.

How do you persuade the board to back your IT project and stump up the cash? Web services are a strategic business imperative - and they'll save us money, too.

All too aware that IT expenditure can disappear into a black hole of apparently unconnected, one-off projects, the board replies, "Prove it".

Finger-in-the-air predictions just won't do any more. The board wants tangible evidence of fast pay-back and long-term benefits before it will consider dipping into its coffers.

So how do you convince it that your IT investment is worth backing in today's cautious climate?

There are five steps to winning your business case.

On board with the board. Don't fight your battle alone. Get the marketing director on your side and turn your pitch into a campaign that highlights the value that customers and the company will get from the investment.

Speak to the human resources director about how the technology will reduce the administrative burden. Find out how much time is spent on day-to-day tasks that can be easily absorbed by the technology. And calculate what those savings mean in monetary terms.

Keep in touch with expectations. People like to be kept informed. Set realistic and incremental goals and go back to the board at regular intervals to let it know how you are getting on and what you have achieved. And as you pass each milestone, calculate how much value you have created and how you plan to augment that value at the next stage.

Demonstrate return on investment. This can be achieved in three ways: cost avoidance; improved productivity and new value creation. Demonstrate that IT is a value enabler and illustrate your business case using a combination of these three criteria.

Cost avoidance is good for winning allies - it shows that technology can make it cheaper to undertake a business process or to eliminate duplication.

Show how improved productivity can be achieved by freeing staff from mundane, easily automated tasks. And demonstrate how their untapped intelligence can be exploited to release further value.

Explore how technology can help create new value by providing the organisation with improved ways of doing business or better serving customer needs. Quantify the impact on the bottom line.

Live in the real world. Express your project in terms that resonate in the real world. Staff cannot do their jobs without a desk, chair or telephone - nor can they make the company competitive without the technological advancements that you are proposing.

Explain how the technology works, what it will involve and how soon you will see results. Demonstrate how it can become an integral part of employees' lives, how customers will benefit and service will improve.

Watch your language. Don't baffle with acronyms; don't alienate with techie-speak. Consider the business context and your audience and make your pitch in words that make sense to the people you are appealing to.

Bits and bytes are unlikely to win you fans; substantiated benefits will. Get board buy-in to your project by using readily understood words and concepts that are rooted in everyday business.

This five-pronged approach to your IT investment pitch can help win over the board. It merely applies good business sense to concepts that are commonly over-complicated, frequently articulated in acronyms and techie-speak and which are, as a consequence, difficult for non-specialists to grasp.

Technology makes processes function and can, if financed properly, make business better, faster and more efficient. But not without board backing.

Andy Tinlin is chief information officer at KPMG Consulting.

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