Engage a Rabid Fan
The presentation is done and the materials are being packed up. The attendees are filing out, grabbing the last gulp of coffee with their bags and coats and I am invariably approached by several people who would like to discuss an EIM or ECM failure for which they were a leader or a passenger.
Usually the conversation starts with how solid the platform was and how much proof of concept was done, how capable the technical staff were and that all levels in the technology team were fully supportive.
After the discussion about technical strength of the solution is complete, I ask who the sponsor was, and from which department or business area? Invariably the sponsor was from Information Technology (IT), and from senior levels.
Re-inventing the back end of the organization with a correctly architected Enterprise Content Management (ECM) or Enterprise Information Management (EIM) solution is innovative and game-changing; providing a competitive advantage for the digital and information-driven age, but it is also gut-wrenching and disruptive and the change will bring out the fighters and naysayers at all levels in the organization, including at the executive table.
To sell this concept throughout the organization, to support you in the tough times you will need a rabid fan who is not from IT and who is perceived as not technology-savvy. This has to be a believer at the most senior level who understands the value of the change and can sell that value even if you are not around. Of course you believe the value. It is a conflict of interest not to. But your rabid fan will also be someone who believes; someone to support the project when the whispering starts just before and just after critical meetings. They will sow the seeds of vision when others sow the seeds of doubt.
Once you have defined the approach you will take start looking through the organization and approaching leaders who are respected and are from anywhere but IT. Do not take no for an answer. Be persistent. Sometimes it takes a few meetings to explain the value and for you to provide convincing arguments for your commitment and focus to the end benefits that will be shared by your sponsor, that your sponsor will experience in their business area, that your sponsor will use when they are defending the project in those times when support hangs in the balance.
Your business sponsor helps you with your business case, reviewing over risks, assumptions, costs and resources. Most importantly they will provide the business benefits, in their words. These will be in their vernacular, no matter who imperfect or technically awkward. These will be the words they will be comfortable repeating many times in many conversations around the boardroom table, down the hallway or at the water cooler.
The business sponsor will also be your rabid fan when you present to the executive. When the business case is done and it contains their words about the benefits they expect the project to deliver, they will help you review over the presentations to the executive and they will be there.
The executive is used to Information Technology (IT) chasing silver bullets and getting caught in the feature trap. Oh IT is good at disguising it, trying to make those features sound like benefits, but it is hard to hide and easy to spot when you do not have an IT perspective.
What the Executive wants to hear, especially involving something as earth-shifting and as monumental a change such as this, is benefits from a Business area leader. They want to hear the business sponsor stand up and say “Steve is going to deliver these benefits to me” and those benefits must be in the Business Sponsors words, their vernacular, their descriptions, even if technically not perfectly correct.
The Executive want to hear that the one who has the vision is not someone who is going to be distracted chasing squirrels. They want to hear that the person who is taking responsibility for what the program or project is delivering is a business person who sees the investment in resources to support IT as a valuable trade-off with other valuable programs and those values will make the business stronger, more productive, more cost effective, more competitive; whatever the value is.
In order to get the EIM / ECM project off the ground, you need a non-IT sponsor who has worked with you to build the business case (covered in several other blogs) and presentation (also covered in other blogs) and who will stand up in front of the Executive and declare the long-term value and return on the investment. You need that sponsorship and you need that representation at the Executive table.
That sponsorship needs to be with you not only when there are the peak periods and it is getting launched, but also when things get into the valleys and challenges appear. You need a rabid fan.