How to successfully pitch a project to your CIO

Getting CIO approval for projects can be tricky. Here are some tips on how to create a persuasive pitch and increase your chances for success.

How to successfully pitch a project to your CIO

If you are having trouble getting your CIO to approve your projects, you may not be creating a clear pitch that gives a greenlight. Creating a winning case for project approval must include detailed information that explains what the project is all about, why it is absolutely necessary, how it solves a business problem or need, how much it will cost, what resources are needed, and when the project will start and end. The other vital point to remember: CIOs are busy, so keep it brief and cover key information.

Explain how it solves a business problem or need

Start by sharing important background information on what has prompted the need for the project. There must be an immediate or long-term need for the project, and the project must solve a business problem, address a need, or create a new opportunity that offers a sustainable benefit. Include details about what the problem, need, or opportunity is and how the project will address these. If the CIO does not understand what has triggered the requirement for the project, it will not get the go ahead. Before most CIOs will greenlight any project or approve budgets and resources, they will want to have a clear understanding of why the project is necessary. Be prepared to present solid fact-based evidence that supports the need for the project.

SEE: IT project cost/benefit calculator (Tech Pro Research)

Outline the envisioned project scope

Provide the essential, core details of the project. Include the vision behind the project, who will be involved, high-level information about the project scope, when the project is anticipated to start and end, what resources are needed, and why these particular resources are needed. If you do not have the scope of the project worked out, provide as much information as possible to give the CIO a good sense of what will be involved to execute the project. This will give your CIO the information needed to assess whether the project is likely to address the business need you identified earlier on.

Discuss the risks of not proceeding with the project

If there are risks associated with the project not proceeding, you need to identify and try to quantify those risks at a summary level. This will allow your CIO to have all the pieces needed to make a more informed decision on which way to proceed. Make sure to assess all the risks before presenting them as part of your justification. Risks can include internal factors like lost opportunity, increased costs, lost productivity, increased turnover, or other external factors like tax, legal, or regulatory issues.

Provide details on how much it will cost

Once you have gone through the key justification for the project, the CIO will want to know how much this will cost the company - in terms of budgetary and human resources. If available, provide realistic estimates of the total project. If this is not available, come prepared to discuss which vendors are being considered and be ready to get estimates to provide to the CIO on short notice. Remember, no matter how great the proposed project is, if the project is unaffordable or can't be resourced it won't be able to proceed at that point. Even some of the best of project ideas have been shelved until another time due to budget constraints. Your goal is to realistically and clearly pitch the need for the project and its benefits to the CIO. In turn, it will be up to the CIO to evaluate if the benefits of the project outweigh the costs and pitch it to the CEO and executive team.

SEE: Tech budgets 2018: A CXO's guide (free PDF) (ZDNet/TechRepublic special report)

Discuss your role in ensuring the success of the project

One of the last things your CIO may want to know about is how you fit into the project. If you are the project, program, or portfolio manager, this is easy. If you play a different role in the company, be prepared to answer why you are pitching the project, what role you plan to play in it, and why you are qualified to do so.

Successfully pitching a project to your CIO relies on you being able to provide information clearly on the project, its intended scope, costs, and your role; more importantly, how it solves a business problem or provides a significant benefit.

Also see:

Image: iStock/Jacob Ammentorp Lund

By Moira Alexander

Moira Alexander is the Founder of PMWorld 360 Magazine and Lead-Her-Ship Group, and a project management and digital workplace columnist for various publications. Moira has 20+ years in business (IS&T) and project management for small to large busine...