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How to get the Board to approve your proposal

Aaron Kumove | June 30, 2015
...And what to do if it fails to get the green light, writes Aaron Kumove, in part two of his column on ‘getting IT project governance right'.

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Last issue I wrote about what the qualities are that make for a good IT project board and the qualities that make for a good board member. This issue I would like to turn that around and focus on how, (if you are a sponsor or business owner), to get a Board to approve what you are taking to them.

First, be clear and succinct in your presentation (both written and oral.) Your paper and presentation are just one of many that a governance board may address in a single board meeting and there may often not be a lot of time for them spend on every item on the agenda. The message for you then if you are presenting an item to the board is don't waste their time! Poorly written papers full of hyperbole and motherhood statements that waffle on and from which it is hard to extract what is being proposed and why, don't stand much of a chance of getting approved.

Second, let's talk about salesmanship - and make no mistake - when you are asking a board to approve something you are in sales mode. Assuming that your paper is clear, concise and well structured, you still have to convince the board at the meeting that what you want is worth approving. Unprepared presenters who don't inspire confidence can derail a good paper. Likewise, if you attempt to compensate for a poor paper with hyperbole, obfuscation and over the top salesmanship you will likely get found out. In short, state your case clearly and concisely, be well prepared to argue it persuasively without bullshit and you stand a decent chance!

Third, know your audience. Given that you are in a sales exercise you need to know who the board members are and what will resonate with them. If for example the board members are very risk averse and you try to sell a grand vision without focusing on how you will manage the risks you may get an undesirable result. Conversely if the board is looking for a significant breakthrough and you present a "me too" approach you might not get them engaged to support you.

It never hurts to prime the pump by covering your paper off with key board members before you get to the meeting to get them on your side. The meeting can then become a formality.

In short, know whom you are selling to and make sure you give them what they are looking for.

Fourth, understand the environment within which you are operating. If for example your organisation is currently tight on cash, now might not be the best time to ask for a significant investment regardless of how good you think your case is.

 

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