By Joey Smith – CIO, Founder, and Executive Coach of HigherHill Enterprises

There are many articles written on how to be a successful IT
manager. Usually these deal with methodologies for conducting an audit or
analyzing the technical environment, and not the basics. In my experience working
with IT leadership in a mentoring capacity, there are a few fundamentals that I
always insure are present and accounted for. One of the first complaints I hear
from IT managers is that they can’t get projects approved. There are five basic
remedies to this problem that work every time.

(1) Asking
Asking is extremely basic and could seem implied, but it is overlooked the
majority of the time. The number one complaint I hear from all IT managers is
that they can’t seem to support the business with what they have to work with. My
first question to them is “did you ask for what you needed”? They sometimes respond with a no, and their
canned response is that nothing ever gets approved for money or budget reasons.
This is especially true of the IT manager, because financial people don’t
always understand what is being accomplished in IT. Believe it or not, I
usually have no problems getting money to fund projects. In some cases, other
departmental budgets get cut in order to fund my projects. Keep in mind that they
don’t always get approved the first time. What happens to others is that sometimes
after a defeat, the IT manager’s confidence is gone to the point of not
returning to ask a second time. Not just for what they were originally asking
for, but for other requests as well. They become conditioned to the “no”
response. It is true that you only get what you ask for. The point here is that
if you don’t have what you need, keep asking for it. Once is not enough,
especially if you believe in what you are asking for. The worst that can happen
in asking is getting a no. In my mind, no represents an opportunity to ask
better next time.

(2) Responsibility
— The second formula for success after asking is passing the baton of
responsibility. A tried and true method of getting projects approved after a
“no” is having the executive sign a document saying that they understand the
need and that they take responsibility for not approving it. For some reason, I
see IT managers still responsible even after their project doesn’t get approved.
For example, you have a request for new virus protection software because you
continually get hit by viruses. It doesn’t get approved for financial reasons,
but you still retain responsibility and get blamed for computers going down because
of the protection software. Why is this fair?
This is a gutsy move and requires some fortitude, but it will set you
apart from other managers. If they make the decision, then it is their
responsibility. If you make the decision, then you take the responsibility. It
is that simple. With that said, make sure you are prepared to take
responsibility with your decisions and projects and don’t waiver. Be

(3) Persistence
The third fundamental is persistence. The truth is, the “squeaky wheel always
gets the grease.” Even though you have probably heard this a million times, it’s true and remains unpracticed by most. The ones that do practice
this principle get results. I can’t say it enough, if you ask once and you
don’t get results, ask again. There are several things you can do to make this
effective. Don’t ask the same way twice. Try a different approach or a
different angle. I always recommend learning everyone’s personality type and
becoming an expert on what makes other people tick. This could give you some
valuable clues on how to ask appropriately. For instance, using emotion on a
person that only cares about data will fail every time. If they are the data
type, use data to back up your claims. In other words, don’t use techniques
that apply to you only; fit them to match the person with the money and power. Another
way is to bundle the request with something else that gets approved. In order
to succeed as an IT leader, you are going to have to become an “asking”

(4) Confidence — Look
in the mirror, smile and tell yourself that you will succeed. This truly is a
fundamental quality and something IT managers struggle with, especially if they are not
used to dealing with business issues apart from technical ones. It is not just
about competence in one’s area of expertise. If it were that simple, all IT
projects would be approved, no problem. It takes belief and courage in one’s
competence to make the difference. Winston Churchill once said, “Courage is
the first of human qualities, because it is the quality that guarantees all
others.” If you show confidence in what
you are asking for, it will help others see your commitment and guarantee.

(5) Continual learning
— Also be prepared. I can’t tell you how many times I see managers coming to
the table without their ducks in a row. Know the lingo, know the industry, and
know what you are talking about first before asking. I have seen other managers
die on the vine when questioned deeply about their projects. They simply didn’t
have the answers. Know that you know that you know. If you are the expert, you
will get results. Your commitment before you go to the table is that you will
be fully prepared. This requires reading, seminars, mentoring, subscriptions, etc.
You may never be known for having all the answers, but you will be expected to know where to find them. Take the time to do a personal inventory of
knowledge. Where you see weakness or opportunity for improvement, find the
resources to fill those gaps.

How would you like to hear “yes” the next time you ask for
project approval? If you follow these
five important steps, you will get projects approved and have the resources you
need to take your business and department to another level.

Joey Smith is the CIO,
Founder and Executive Coach of HigherHill Enterprises. Joey is also the only
two-time finalist for the prestigious Georgia CIO of the Year Award and
two-time winner for the Microsoft Project of the Year. For more of Joey’s IT management insight,
tips and tricks take a look at his Ezine entitled IT Octane!