Understanding management gets your IT department what it needs

Crafting the perfect pitch can be difficult in a budget-conscious workplace. Knowing how management will react to proposals can help.

So, how are sales? What, you’re not in sales? Think again; every IT-related idea you present, and every IT-based initiative you attempt to get off the ground has a sales component to it. In fact, everything you do at work involves communicating, negotiating and influencing those around you.

You’ve got to understand your enemy. In the case of IT professionals, your “enemy” is management. You must understand who those individuals are, where they’re coming from and what they need. This is the only way to sell your ideas -- and make them stick.

The most important thing is to understand that there are two types of managers:

Managers who are driven by expenses. These managers always ask their IT staff questions like “How much will it cost?” and “What can we cut to save money?” They are also typically focused on the short term -- the here and now -- and rarely think about the long-term impact of their decisions. In our current economy, these managers may even be fearful of their jobs if they don’t keep IT-related costs to a minimum.

Managers who are driven by investments. These managers always ask questions like “How can we make things better?” and “What are our long-term goals here?” They see the bigger picture and understand that it takes time, money and effort to make everything in IT run well over the long haul. These managers are not afraid to spend money if it makes sense for business.

Understanding which of these two categories your managers fall into will help you shape your message when you’re trying to get them on board with new thoughts and projects. So, before you start selling management on your ideas, think about how they operate and tweak your message accordingly.

For example, for managers who are driven by expenses, show them how you’re using existing technologies to minimize costs. Show them the value of what you’re currently doing. This will encourage these decision-makers to allot the proper resources when you’ve got to go outside and acquire new products and services.

As for the investment-driven managers, your job should be much easier. Just don’t become complacent and assume the necessary support is always going to be there. Keep them in the loop and demonstrate the value of their investments.

You should also consider your own standing in your company. Do your colleagues trust and rely on you? Most people will listen to, help and buy into the messages of those they like and believe in. Management is often biased before they ever hear a single word from IT. If your reputation is less-than-stellar, they’re likely to just refute or ignore what you’re proposing.

Do what it takes to sell your message. You’ll get better at this as you continue to build relationships and fine-tune your own communication skills. Get management on board, prepare for objections and make the effort to keep them on your side. It’s a formula that’ll help you get what you want -- and what your company needs -- and take you far in your IT career.

About the author
Kevin Beaver is an information security consultant, expert witness and professional speaker with Atlanta-based Principle Logic LLC. With over 23 years of experience in the industry, Kevin specializes in performing independent security assessments involving information risk management. He can be reached at www.principlelogic.com and you can follow in on Twitter at @kevinbeaver.

This was first published in May 2012

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