Getting top-level backing for any IT project is vital to its success. First and foremost, this will be critical in securing funding approval for any upgrades you need to keep up with developments and embrace new technology.
But beyond this, having the CEO in your corner helps get other people on board and ensures that if you do need extra support, it's more likely to be forthcoming. The attitudes of the boss often filter down, so if the CEO is passionate about your project, others will be too.
However, this can be tricky, especially if your boss still views the IT department as a cost center rather than a driver for change or revenue generation. Therefore, it's important you know what techniques to use to overcome any resistance and turn a skeptic into an enthusiast.
Here are a few things to bear in mind when pitching your idea to help get the CEO on board.
1. Be proactive - and prepare the groundwork
The first step needs to come long before you have a specific IT project you need backing for. It's all about being proactive and building a strong relationship with the CEO from the start. You shouldn't be only going to them when you want funding - regular interactions are vital to success, so make sure you're having conversations frequently. This also helps you develop an understanding of the CEO's personality and what they're most likely to be responsive to.
2. Keep the CEO up to date
Specific updates on new and interesting developments should be at the heart of these conversations. Most CEOs will appreciate being kept in the loop, so try and highlight a few particularly interesting news items that relate to your sector. Even if you're not actively looking to incorporate them, it shows you're on top of the latest innovations and helps build their own knowledge of the sector.
3. Pitch it in business terms
When you're pitching an idea, be sure to frame it in terms that the CEO can relate to - i.e., what's the business rationale for this project? Don't get bogged down in the details of how the technology will work or what it will require from a technical point of view. If you can put benefits such as productivity gains or long-term cost savings in real terms, make this your focus. Essentially, you have to convince your CEO that doing nothing will cost more than taking on the project, so make that a key starting point.
4. Keep it brief
Like any pitch meeting, brevity is your friend. Go in with an 'elevator pitch' prepared that summarizes the key points at a top level. If you can't explain what it will do in the first few seconds, a CEO is probably going to decide it's not worth the effort of doing. But if you have a single, clear goal that can grab their attention early, then you'll be in a much better position to go into details, knowing you've got them interested.
5. Be ready to answer questions
The CEO will undoubtedly have questions about certain aspects of the idea, so it's vital you've prepared for these in advance and are able to provide clear, concise responses. Remember they're coming at this from a different perspective, so what may seem obvious to you may be a perfectly reasonable question from someone who doesn't have a tech background.
6. Be realistic
It can be easy to get carried away with an innovative idea you think could be transformative for the company, but be wary of overpromising and underdelivering. Even the best-planned project will encounter setbacks along the way, so it's important to manage expectations and be realistic. An overly optimistic projection will only frustrate the CEO if goals aren't met, and this will make it much harder to get buy-in for your next project.
7. Show proof of success
There are few better ways to win over the CEO than with hard numbers that show success. Therefore, ask what you can do to demonstrate results early. If you're able to run a small-scale pilot without the need for board-level approval, do this and bring the results to the table when you're pitching for a wider rollout. If not, propose starting with an area of the business where you know you already have buy-in and stand the best chance of success. This lets you test your idea, make any changes and go back to the CEO with evidence of what it will take to make the project a success.