Jun 17 2014
Our first in a three-part series from CEO Nick Kishfy (@kishfy) on how best to get internal buy-in for something built by an outside agency.
It happens all the time.
A forward-thinking employee (that’s you) wants your company to hire an agency to take on a technology project.
Maybe it’s turning a desktop application into a more user-friendly web application.
Maybe it’s an internal platform to make life easier for your team.
Maybe it’s a mobile app to reach your audience in a place where your company hasn’t had a presence before.
Whatever the project is, you’re confident that it’ll deliver big value for your company.
You’ve done your research. You understand why the project is important. You know that the potential payoff is huge.
Yet, for whatever reason, one or more of your colleagues -- a manager, perhaps, or your in-house software developers -- don’t see eye to eye with you.
And the project can’t happen without their buy-in.
It’s frustrating. You feel stuck. Like your message isn’t connecting.
Like people aren’t listening.
In more than 10 years of building apps for large companies, I’ve seen this scene replay itself hundreds of times. And there are highly effective ways to not only get your team to agree to the project, but to make them excited about it.
And once the project is completed, shipped and delivering results, you will be recognized as a champion of innovation in your organization.
The purpose of this three-part guide is to show you exactly how to accomplish that.
The first key to unlocking buy-in is understanding why you’re meeting resistance.
Although “it’s not in the budget” is one of the most common reasons stakeholders give for opposing a project, that’s rarely the root of the problem.
The same is true of almost all of the excuses that you’ll get.
If a project has the power to deliver significant positive ROI and help your organization meet its goals, and all stakeholders are bought in to that vision, then you’ll be able to find room in the budget.
Most of the time, the issues truly causing stakeholder resistance are fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) around the project.
Fear that the project threatens a stakeholder’s own projects, authority, image, agenda or job.
Uncertainty about the value of the proposed project, or about the resources and effort required to develop it.
Doubt that the project will do what you want it to do, either functionally or from a revenue standpoint.
Fear, uncertainty and doubt are powerful emotions -- often shaped by preconceived notions or past experiences -- and the biggest mistake you can make in overcoming them is telling someone that their emotions are wrong.
Not only will an adversarial approach get you nowhere, but it will win you a lot of enemies.
For your buy-in effort to succeed, you must overcome FUD by aligning the vision for the project with the goals of every key stakeholder.
Now, that doesn’t mean that every stakeholder gets to dictate the product roadmap; it just means that every stakeholder needs to understand how the product will help them achieve their own goals.
Aligning Your Vision To Stakeholder Interests
Everyone on your team has interests that dictate their decisions.
Sometimes these interests are aligned with the team or company as a whole, but often they aren’t.
When a software developer resists a proposal to hire an agency, he or she might, in their minds, be acting in the interest of their own job security.
When an executive resists the same proposal, they might be acting in the interest of appearing budget-conscious and not approving large expenditures.
The challenge, then, is to understand the interests of each stakeholder, and to align the vision for your product with those interests.
Often, a team’s goals are made known to the entire company; in that case, much of your homework is done for you, and you know the interests that your stakeholders have.
Every organization is different, but below are some examples of the interests stakeholders in various roles look to serve. Note that in almost every case, an app development project can help serve one or more of each team’s interests.
Think about how the project you’re proposing can align with those goals.
Can you show a sound launch plan and financial model to back up your assertion that the app will drive customers, and revenue, to the business? Use that to show the keeper of the purse strings why the project is a sound investment.
Have you asked the agency you want to work with for a detailed technical implementation plan that includes working closely with your internal developers? Use that to allay the doubts of your technical team.
Do you know what your marketing department is planning for the next quarter, and have you developed a strategy to incorporate your project into their campaign? That foresight can go a long way toward getting any marketing stakeholders on board.
Building your case takes effort, but it’s not complicated, and every time I’ve seen it done, it has paid off tremendously.
*Check out Part Two: Getting Internal Buy-In For Your App Project: Overcoming The Four Most Common Objections *
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