I just spent three days at a conference in which 70 people

spent time listening, learning and talking about digital object repositories,

methods for naming and identifying these digital objects amongst shared

repositories, and methodologies for insuring quality of these digital objects.

The information and discussion was interesting, thought-provoking

and inspiring. The technologies we talked about, and the uses for those

technologies, were truly fraught with potential. However, at the end of the

three days, the discussion ended not with detailed hardware or software

requirements, the endorsement of one or more software packages, or even plans

for implementation. The end discussion focused (and rightly so) on how to sell

the idea and whether or not the idea was a good fit for your organization. For

this group realized that despite all the potential (and indeed there was much

potential in what we discussed) everyone knew that “if you build it, they

will come” is truly a misnomer.

In fact, too many times, people fail to realize that even

when you build something technologically fantastic, rarely will it be embraced with

the same level of enthusiasm as its builders.

I do not know of a single IT professional who has not at

some point in his or her career stood proudly by a technology achievement and

watch it get ignored by the user base it was intended for. This applies to all

aspects of IT, from infrastructure, to support, to development.

What happened? There are a hundred other reasons that new

implementations go wrong, including a lack of buy in at the proper level,

improper change management, failure to meet the intended need, the product too

late to satisfy the need, or the product was ahead of its time.

Like it or not, as cool as we think technology is (and we do

think it is cool, or we wouldn’t be in this field)–unless you are in the

business of research and design (which few of us are)–the key to the

successful use of technology is in how it is presented and sold to the end

user. Technology is simply a tool, and even though you and I know that using a

screwdriver to drive in a screw works better than a hammer, as long as the end

user of the tool is satisfied with the hammer, your technologically brilliant

screwdriver doesn’t stand a chance.

This can really frustrate us to no end, because it is

absolutely clear to us that what we created is exactly what “they”

need, and they are just too dumb to see it – right? I mean, come on, you have

to be braindead not to appreciate our magnificent contribution. Sheesh!

In many cases, you DO know better than the end user what is

needed, but then again, sometimes you don’t. What matters is that for any

technology solution, someone in the organization has got to feel strongly

enough about the solution to want it and want others to share it with. If you

do not get the buy-in, forget about it.

This buy-in usually has to come at multiple levels, from

those that can command change, to those that control change (not often the same

people) to those who are affected by the change.

That is why your best IT managers and analysts are often

good sales people and more often than not, they did not start out in IT, but

from within the business. For while our dedicated and hard-working IT staff work

behind the scenes to make the “IT miracles” happen, it is those who

understand the business and–perhaps more importantly–the politics of the

business, that can make things happen in the organization.

To make significant contributions in the organization, you

need to pair great IT ideas with the right people to sell those ideas to the

other users. Without this pairing, you are depending on pure luck.

Mind you, this is to some degree an oversimplification of

the successful technology adoption/implementation process, because we know

there is a huge amount of work that goes into it. But, at the end of the day,

lack of buy-in can kill you.

So what does this mean for you? It means that buy in is so

important to the process that it must be worked on before, during, and after a

technology project, and that giving it short shrift can get you in a TON of

trouble. If you don’t have a marketing plan for your project (often tied in

with your change management plan), you had better get one. Don’t assume that

just because you have top management’s approval and/or funding that it is

smooth sailing from that point on–your marketing effort to users has just


For those of you who are the designers, developers, and

architects out there, know that much of your success or failure for your work

hinges not only on the quality of your work but how it is being presented to

your user base. IT managers should understand that just having your staff

produce technically competent work is not the extent of IT management. It’s a

partnership, guys and gals, and the more often we remind ourselves of that

fact, the more successful we will be.