Best Practices in IT Investing: Getting Stakeholder Buy-in

Many IT professionals in local government are finding themselves in a catch 22—citizens and employees have lofty demands from technology, thanks to the increasing prevalence of mobile, social and online self-service models, yet budget is scarce. This leads to tough scrutiny of IT investments, and leaves many managers wondering how they can build a business case for technology investment—and what technology they should be investing in, too.

Four panelists addressed these questions during our recent webinar, “Best Practices in IT Investing.” Our panel included:

  • Anne Hartman, IT Director, Oneida County
  • Jakub Jedrzejczak, Enterprise Imaging Team Manager at Loudoun County
  • Rob Houston, Assistant to the City Manager and IT Manager at the City of Newport Beach
  • Kimberly Samuelson, Director of ECM Strategy at Laserfiche

In this blog post, the first in a series of three, we’ll explore the panelists’ advice on
getting stakeholder buy-in.

Anne Hartman, IT Director, Oneida County

Anne Hartman said, “I’ve been very successful at obtaining funds for all of my capital projects because I make sure the people who need to make the decision understand what’s important and why a particular project will benefit the community.”

Anne attributes this success to a few key tips and tricks. First, she said it’s important to establish trust at the beginning of the project. Be transparent with what the goals are, and make sure you’re personally responsible for communicating the follow-through. If a goal can’t be met, call the stakeholders up, tell them the issue, and manage their expectations.

Anne also emphasized the importance of clear communication to individuals outside of the IT department. “In IT, we use a lot of acronyms and talk very quickly. It’s important that the decision makers, whether they’re at the department level or the legislative level understand what I’m talking about.”

Kimberly Samuelson, Director of ECM Strategy, Laserfiche

Kimberly Samuelson seconded the importance of strong communication with internal stakeholders.  She recalled talking to a CIO who once said the best thing he did was hire a marketing person for the IT department.  Introducing a marketing person can help you gain more visibility within your organization when you don’t have the bandwidth to go out and tell everyone personally.  Kimberly noted that this doesn’t have to be a senior person, either— find a marketing major who needs some experience and hire him as an intern. He can make materials to help communicate the initiatives your department is working on. For example, an agency from LA County was working on a “green effort” and made a brochure to spread this message. “They distributed this brochure and all of the sudden they had people trading in their hardware and buying into the project,” Kimberly said.

Jakub Jedrzejczak,  Enterprise Imaging Team Manager, Loudoun County

Jakub Jedrzejczak, Enterprise Imaging Team Manager, Loudoun County

Jakub Jedrzejczak believes strongly in presenting hard numbers to stakeholders to encourage buy-in. “Every year when we plan, the first thing we look at is savings—how much can we save and what was our return on investment?” This then leads to building a strong business case. For instance, when Jakub was asking for another full time employee, he used projected growth numbers to build a business case that’s grounded in data. “If we don’t bring numbers, we cannot request money,” Jakub said.

Rob Houston, Assistant to the City Manager & IT Manager, City of Newport Beach

Rob Houston added that it’s important to balance the behind-the-scenes, “under the hood uplifts” like data center hardware and network dependency with higher profile projects that are public signs of a high-tech government.  Visible, tangible results that councilmembers can use and show off can help win their favor for future projects.

In the past, Rob and the IT department have worked on projects that the council has then presented at ribbon cuttings. This makes councilmembers feel involved and proud of the work that IT is doing. “On our priority list for our strategic plan, a mobile app wasn’t the most important thing, but to get buy-in and trust with our deciders, it became higher priority.”

Hear more from our panelists by watching the webinar on demand! Also, check back next week for our panelists’ thoughts on ROI and effective investing!