Convincing the Board: 5 Strategies for Technology Leaders to Secure Funding for Their Initiatives now and into the Future
This article explores the critical relationship between the IT Manager or CIO and the board of directors, specifically focusing on how senior management can successfully convince their boards to invest in their ideas.
We present five key strategies for Technology Leaders to persuade their boards and gain financial and political support for their initiatives now and into the future.
Mixing competing individual agendas, politics and data-driven decision-making to achieve funding for your initiatives as Technology Leader requires a particular kind of alchemy. If you are a newly-minted tech leader or find yourself struggling to convince part or all of your executive team and/or board of the value in your technology initiatives, the following advice should prove useful.
We have presented five key strategies for achieving funding decisions now and into the future. You can also follow the link to each strategy name for more practical advice.
Align initiatives with business strategy
Firstly, you must ensure your proposals are always aligned with the overall business strategy. Divergence = defunding. Demonstrating alignment can mean going the extra mile in connecting the dots for the board when describing your IT roadmap and its initiatives. How does a new network align with business growth? How does a seemingly-expensive external review assist in hitting your targets? By demonstrating how your initiatives contribute to the organisation’s long-term goals, you can establish a clear connection between their ideas and the company’s success, enhancing their credibility and increasing the chances of obtaining funding.
Polish your communication and develop your storytelling skills
You are in the role to advance the interests of the organisation – from time-to-time that means advocating for some really big (and costly) ideas. You must be able to effectively communicate the benefits of your proposals to the board. Presenting a well-structured business case, focusing on the anticipated returns on investment (ROI), and highlighting potential risks and mitigation strategies will help the board members understand the value and feasibility of the initiatives, increasing their confidence in the Technology Leader’s plans. But occasionally, you have to go an extra step and connect at a deeper, more emotional level – using storytelling techniques you can find here.
Embrace and practise politics
Thirdly, you should make a deliberate effort to foster relationships and build alliances within the board. Take a divide-and-conquer approach. By engaging with individual board members over coffee or lunch, seeking to understand their priorities, and addressing their concerns, you can win the opportunity to share the background and reasoning to your own ideas and create advocates one-by-one. Building trust and establishing a rapport will significantly improve the chances of gaining support and funding for initiatives that might otherwise be rejected by the board. This should be an early and ongoing technique you employ – it will assist you not only in your current role but in a potential future appointment to CEO, if that’s where your interests lie.
Use data and metrics to persuade, but present them as infographics
Broadly speaking, there are three techniques you can use to persuade others. The Greeks labelled them ethos, pathos and logos. Put simply, you can leverage your personal credibility (ethos), or an emotional appeal that resonates with your audience (pathos), or the persuasive power of data and logic (logos) to make your case. The best arguments use a combination of all three.
Presenting clear, data-driven evidence such as industry benchmarks, competitive analysis, and key performance indicators, will provide the board with a solid foundation for decision-making and demonstrate the potential impact of the initiatives on the organisation’s bottom line – that’s logos at work. Using the data to tell a story linked to the business strategy (see that point above) and presenting it in easily-consumed infographic-style notes is far more effective at persuading others than presenting a spreadsheet and asking your board to interpret it with you – that’s an example of logos+pathos being employed to persuade.
Report continuously to instil confidence and win future funding
Lastly, you should continuously monitor and report on the progress and results of your initiatives. Don’t sugar-coat underperformance – own it and present the logical next step or reassure the board that you have planned for it already. By maintaining transparent communication channels with the board, providing regular updates on key milestones, and addressing any emerging challenges promptly, you can create confidence and reassurance in the board members and secure continued funding for existing initiatives and future projects.
Convincing your board to do what you want is not just about the data or the logical application of funds. It’s largely about the relationship you have with your board. These five strategies are designed to enhance that relationship. By aligning technology proposals with business strategy, effectively communicating benefits, building personal relationships, leveraging data to support a story, and maintaining transparency, you can significantly enhance your board or executive team’s propensity to invest in your ideas. As a bonus, you will also positive yourself as an attractive contender for a future CEO role
The Last Word
This article is linked to four others that are designed to offer you key tools to manage your relationship with the board. They are: