Getting Approval For Your Project

There comes a time when you’re looking at a reporting or budgeting challenge and you realise that not only should there be a better way, you’ve gone out and identified what that way is. Maybe you’ve done some preliminary investigation or even engaged a consultant to help you with that process.

However, while you may have identified your preferred solution, you may not yet have the capacity to approve the expenditure.

It’s often easy to forget that in a company, more often than not there is a whole team involved in making purchasing decisions. To get that new system implemented, then, is a matter of convincing the individual decision makers of the value of your proposal. While there are many investment criteria which you might need to resolve, here are six which relate to persuading the individuals within the business:

  1. First off, there needs to be a clear business problem or opportunity that is very visible to the executive team, or the body which is going to make the investment decision. A member of that team might already be on-board with your proposal and become a sponsor or supporter of the project. The team may not speak the same professional language that you do – Doctors are different to Marketers who are different to CFOs who are different to Production Managers. Consider what value your project will deliver to each person within the decision-making team and highlight that value for them so that they can understand the problem in their own ‘language’.
  2. Next, identify the other people who have formal or informal influence over the investment decision. This means getting buy-in from a range of stakeholders, which might include the risk managers, financiers, IT consultants and significant end users. Identify those who have veto power (ie without their support nothing goes ahead) and work to overcome their objections first.
  3. The decision makers need to be able to trust your judgement. It helps if they like you, but they must have confidence that you (and the solution you’re recommending) can deliver on your promise and that your analysis of the various factors is robust.
  4. The business problem must be causing enough harm to drive a want for change, or have sufficient positive benefit to make it worthwhile. This means the problem you are seeking to resolve, be it inefficient reporting, lack of connected-ness or buy-in to planning, needs to be significant enough to give momentum to the change.
  5. The problem must be high priority. There will always be business problems and opportunities and leaders can only address a few at a time, so this needs to be at or near the top of their priority list. One leader puts it like this – ‘We will always have more vision than money’. In that context of your business leaders making a resource allocation decision, you need to highlight the importance of getting resolution to your challenge sooner rather than later.
  6. Finally, the impact of not doing something also needs to be defined. A business I worked for required that every business case considered the ‘do nothing’ status quo and what that would mean in comparison to the proposal. The benefits of going ahead with your implementation need to exceed the cost, hassle and risk of failure by enough to make it worthwhile. So it’s important to quantify those impacts and benefits as much as possible, and to identify how to mitigate or manage any inherent risk.

Where does this leave us? Knowing how to present your solution to the decision makers and what will make it easy for them to say ‘yes’, will bring you one step further to getting your solution implemented and the efficiencies you’re looking for.

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