Below is six fail-safe steps to ensuring that you project is aligned with business strategy and therefore, making the approval stage easy. By providing the right information for the steering committee, in particular the funding and key executive decision makers, you will best place yourself to guarantee your project gets the green light.
1. Understand the approval process
Many organisations have clear guidelines, processes and procedures for allowing new company initiatives into their investment portfolio. As a Project Manager, it is our responsibility to work within this and to ensure that we fully understand and support the process. Working outside of this can be a waste of business resource and will not be looked upon kindly. If there isn’t a framework for approving projects then we still must position the initiative in its best light with the key funding and executive decision makers.
2. Determine the business need
Before meeting with the executives responsible for funding, you must first understand your company’s vision and strategic goals. In order to get approval, the project has to contribute to one or more of the corporate strategies. You must be able to provide detailed information on how the project is strategic to the business. For example, improving your sales revenues, support cost savings or improve productivity. The initiative you put forward is in competition for vital funding alongside other initiatives. It’s your responsibility to make it stand out for the right reasons. Non strategically-aligned initiatives are unlike to get the green light from the funding decision makers.
3. Identify key influencers and align to them
As a Project Manager, part of your role is to gain alignment with key decision-makers in the respective areas of the business. This often includes, but is not limited to, both Operations and Finance. Having established who in each area is a key decision-maker, you can commence your research. Explain how the project will benefit each audience. For example, Sales may want to engage better with current and prospective customers’, whilst Finance will want sufficient information to evaluate payback, such as ROI, NPV, and ROCE. This should follow on from discussions on strategic objective alignment with the executive decision makers.
It is critical that your projects are well planned in order to obtain the best result, which is to have everyone singing the virtues of your initiative. During various stages of your project it is useful to provide regular reports or updates to key decision makers/influencers to keep everyone on the same page with a consistent message. The message should continually reaffirm the strategic alignment and ‘sell’ itself on delivering tangible business benefits. It is at this time that an outline business case may be produced to capture this message, in other words, the reason for the initiative, the payback, costs, timelines and risks.
4. Specific information needs
You must have a clear and detailed understanding on the project and its sequential stages in order to be able to communicate what each of the affected business areas needs to support the project. For example, each of the areas will need to know the cost and time impacts on each of them during the commissioning, implementation and on-going support of the new initiative. Selling the features of the projects outcomes in terms of the desired benefits and their positive impact on the affected business areas will certainly improve the chances of the gaining approval.
5. Common information needs
One of the most important needs is a determination of the initiatives return on investment (ROI). This is quite simply the benefits in mathematical terms divided by the cost of delivering the project. However, ROI is often discussed in terms of the payback time required to achieve the ROI. Often we see companies requesting ROI in a number of terms to create an even playing field when evaluating competing projects. As an example, these can include simple ROI, payback, NPV, PV, and ROCE.
The ROI involves analysis and should consist of detailed metrics, tangible examples and operational considerations for your project. This include internal factors such as affected areas time, travel expenses, and other items. It is at this time that the outline or possibly detailed business case requires sufficient information for it to be even considered a worthy contender or consideration against other business initiatives.
6. Obtain approval from Executive decision makers
Having gained approval ‘buy-in’ from all affected areas, the next step is to present the final project business case back to the funding and key executive decision makers. This group will invariably be looking for the ROI to be within applicable targets and how the projects outcomes will provide tangible and long lasting benefits to such things as bottom-line performance and competitive stance. This can be further supported through providing clear mapping of the outcomes from the project to the organisations strategic objectives.
Want to know if your projects are on target to provide the right business value? Or if you simply want further information around Project Management, speak to one of our qualified customer service team today on +65 6818 5771.