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Getting Buy-In for DMS, Part 1: Learning Your Boss' Priorities

Why do operations managers fail to get the greenlight on technology projects?


You've got a technology project that would clearly be beneficial to your team or your entire company. You discuss it with the business owner, and she says to go ahead and research it.

You find three providers, do demos, get pricing, and after 10 to 20 hours of research, come up with the one you think is the best solution to meet the needs. Upon presenting it to the business owner, her response is, “that’s great research, but it’s not in the budget for now.”

What happened here?

Failure to get the greenlight wasn’t because you didn’t have good research or because you didn’t explain the value, it’s because you did not have hard data about your problem compared to other priorities competing for the business owner’s budget in their heads (not yours). 

Did you know the business owner is concerned about phishing attacks feels the need to beef up cybersecurity resources in your firm? How does your problem compare to her problem in terms of sense of urgency and priority?

So, what do you do about it?  Gather intel about the perceived business problems your boss (or the business owner) thinks she or he has. Why is doing this so dang important? Because you want to see if the stars align with your operational problems and his/her business problem before you spend a ton of energy and time researching a solution. If your operational issues do not overlap with what he/she feels is most urgent and important in the business to address, your project is a non-starter.  

Instead, you are much better served (and serving) by figuring out how to help address one of the business owner’s key issues in order to free up time and resources to tackle your operational issues in the near future.

Here’s a great example. Maybe the business owner is most worried about revenue – maybe your firm hasn’t brought in as many new assets or clients as projected or needed.  Therefore, how will solving the operational issue help address that key issue? If freeing up 20 hours each quarter means you can focus on hosting a prospective client workshop, then guess what? Now you have overlap. Now you may very well get a mandate to solve your operational problem because it overlaps with a key business issue (how to bring in more revenue).

Your Task

Schedule time to sit down with your supervisor or business owner to get a better understanding of where their business priorities lie. Even better, take him/her out to lunch! Then, you'll have fewer distractions and he/she will feel more comfortable to simply "chat."

Here are two great questions to ask:

  • As you look out at the next 3 to 6 months, what are the key risks and challenges you see?
  • What worries you; what keeps you awake at night?

→ Read Part 2: Aligning Priorities


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Jo Day

Jo Day

Jo loves learning about interesting problems and how people are solving them. Jo is well known for connecting people and ideas and is a great catalyst (moo!) to change. Where some people see the world through rose colored glasses, Jo sees the world through processes. When Jo isn't hanging out with her family, Jo's favorite hobbies are being anywhere outdoors and coming up with new business ideas – just for fun!