CIOs: 10 ways to get your controversial project approved

From speaking the right language to knowing how colleagues make their bonus...


Top tips you need before walking into the boardroom to get your tech project approved Photo: Shutterstock

These are tough times for anyone with an innovative IT project in need of backing. When budgets are tight and the cost of failure is higher than ever, sticking with the tried and tested methods seems like the safe thing to do.

But arguably, it's times like these when businesses most need innovative ideas that can push the business ahead of competitors. So what are the secrets to getting sign-off for your dream scheme?

1. Speak the language of business

Key to getting project approval is knowing your audience. Tech talk may impress techies, but chances are you're going to be pitching to a far broader group.

"You've got to talk to the business in terms the business accepts and understands," Clive Longbottom, founding analyst at Quocirca, told

"Going into the business and saying, 'I think we should go to the cloud because it means we'll have a much smaller IT estate to deal with, we won't need so many sysadmins and licensing will be a lot easier' - you're not going to get the money."

Instead, Longbottom said CIOs should present the project in terms of how it can add value to the business, lower business costs - not necessarily IT costs - and lower risk in order to get a better reception.

"If you can create messages that fit into those three buckets the business will listen and the business will be saying, 'So hang on, we're going to get lower risk, lower cost, and we'll have better capabilities... how much do you want?'," he said.

2. Relate everything back to the bottom line

To get backing for a tech project, CIOs have to convince the business they have as much of an eye on the bottom line as anyone else in the organisation.

"Going in at the moment and going, 'Well, we know that the business results are down by 14 per cent and we're talking to everybody about taking cuts in holiday entitlement and cuts in their salaries and it's looking like figures are going to be down by 30 per cent next year but can you give us £2m please because we'd like to replace a load of servers', could well be a career-limiting decision," Longbottom said.

Without changing the proposed project, CIOs can present their idea in a way that demonstrates how it will impact business revenues. This in turn will demonstrate that the CIO is concerned about the success of the business as a whole, not just the IT department getting to play with the latest technology.

"Being able to go in and say, 'Well, actually we figure that by putting in place this change the impact on the business will make it so that instead of being a 14 per cent cut in revenues it will be a 10 per cent cut in revenues' will get the business listening."

3. Don't fall into the 'because it's cheap' trap

However, while you want to show you've got as much of an eye on the bottom line as anyone else in the business, portraying your project as a purely cost-saving exercise could hamper the future development and implementation of your proposal.

"I would never lead with it being cheaper because...