How to Get Executive Buy-In for Innovation Projects

How to Get Executive Buy-In for Innovation Projects


Whether you need to implement a new business intelligence solution, or you need to find ways to implement Big Data analytics across the organization, innovation is a must. Despite the pressing need for digital transformation, there are still many obstacles on the road to business innovation. To push forward new initiatives, business and IT teams often must achieve “buy-in” among top-level executive stakeholders, which requires a thoughtful and methodical approach.

Consider these best practices to develop executive buy-in for technology innovation projects:

Include Everyone

When implementing a transformative new technology such as BI or a cloud-based and integrated CRM, it’s best to include all levels of the firm in the process. You want buy-in from finance and IT on the budgeting for the project, especially as it might involve multiple layers and various company departments. Case studies can prove invaluable during this phase, as you can relate innovation to successes at other firms. And you can illustrate the reverse, where a company should have innovated but didn’t and know they’re an afterthought.

Speak Directly to Stakeholders

And you must engage the actual stakeholder users. If you’re for example installing a CMS platform, then talk directly with the sales staff pulling presentations while on the road, and the website managers who need to keep content fresh on the site. It’s essential to understand the specifics of “what isn’t working” so the innovation can be aligned as a solution, which will encourage widespread buy-in and later adoption.

Before suggesting a large-scale innovation, you should have an understanding of the various roles in the department as well as specific pain points. When you meet with the sales team for example, you need to “speak their language” in a different way than a customer service meeting.

Engage Early

The discussions with stakeholders need to happen early in the process, not after a vendor is selected and implementation is under way. Early engagement will help determine if the innovation is truly needed, or perhaps uncover another technology platform that should be considered first. For example, there might be thoughts that a BI solution is needed, but innovation in terms of better data warehousing and categorization is required before diving into BI.

Early engagement gives stakeholders time to raise concerns, and the team to get together to produce evidence about satisfying those issues.

Discuss Benefits (Backed by Data)

With some innovations such as BI platforms that are powered by new sets of Big Data, the payoffs might be unexpected. Here’s another time to leverage vendor case studies so can illustrate the productivity, profit, and customer experience gains that are possible.

It’s also important to discuss the longer-term benefits that should come as users become more experienced with the new innovation (CRM, CMS, BI, etc.) and dive into new features and insights. Set expectations as far as the expected ROI for the innovation, with the understanding that the understanding that increases in revenue/sales might take a little time. When generating buy-in, focus on how the innovation will improve internal workflow and customer activation, conversion, retention, and overall engagement numbers.

Transparently Talk About Risks

When presenting a new tech innovation, it’s important to openly discuss possible risks. Perhaps the implementation will go awry, or the UI of the chosen vendor will prove clumsy. Talk about the risks, but frame them in comparison to the benefits and the likelihood of the risks occurring. Discover the worst-case scenario that would be acceptable to the core decision markers, and then adjust to make sure the innovation project fits without the boundaries.

Communicate Throughout the Process

Once buy-in is established throughout multiple stakeholders and the vendor(s) are selected, it’s important to provide clear communication about timelines and goals.

Consider putting the new innovation in beta, and allow certain employee and customer segments to utilize its main functions. If this is a rousing success, then disseminate the news to the broader group. If it needs some work, then at least you have real user data to make refinements. Keeping the innovation to a smaller initial group reduces the chance of unintended negative consequences and potential branding hits.

The steps to generate innovation buy-in apply to nearly any type of business initiative or interaction:

  • Identify an issue.
  • Talk to people in person about their wants and/or dislikes.
  • Discuss ways for improvements (provide examples).
  • Openly mention risks.
  • And then engage in transparent communication.

Managers that take this route will find it easier to push through their tech innovation projects as they guide their companies to become modern data-centric organizations.

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