How To Deal With IT Project Pushback: A CIO Report


January 23, 2020 by Siobhan Climer

Perhaps one of the most difficult obstacles for IT leaders is getting buy-in from business stakeholders, even on imperative IT projects. This difficulty stems from the misconception that IT is a cost center. It’s not – or, at least, it shouldn’t be – but we’ll get to that in a minute.

IT project pushbackFor now, suffice it to say, IT projects have both direct and indirect benefits to every business unit. Whether it is technology focused on core applications – like email or Active Directory – or broader strategic initiatives – like cloud migrations, collaboration tools, or information security projects – technological innovation is leading the drive towards a digital transformation.

Unfortunately, these transformative tools can sometimes be intangible. A great technology implementation will likely remove obstacles, not add junk. But an absence of a useless ‘something’ is hard to show. At times, the real outcome of an IT project can be difficult for business stakeholders to comprehend.

To complicate things further, IT project pushback occurs when a plan is perceived as non-inclusive, uninformed, or disruptive.

IT leadership is responsible for not only understanding the technical elements of a digital transformation, but also for building the vision and communicating it to the business. Regardless of whether it’s fair, IT leaders must prove two things: first, that an IT project includes all voices, and second, any disruption to routine is worth it.

And that’s not easy.


IT: Cost Center Vs Profit Center


Dozens of technology leaders have taken on the cost center versus profit center debate. IDG’s, Wired, and TechRepublic have each explored the argument and come to the same conclusion: IT departments should be profit centers.

IT project pushback

IT leaders have a unique transoperational role that could bring efficiency to every aspect of the business. Whether they do often depends on their ability to build and sell a vision to the rest of the organization.

IT leaders get push-back on projects for a lot of reasons. Here are three tips for dealing with the most common obstacles in building buy-in across the business.


3 Tips On How To Deal With IT Project Pushback


1. Anticipate Resistance


IT project pushbackFirst, and most importantly, users don’t like change. Change is hard. But technology is all about change – it’s a constant. It doesn’t matter what the benefits or ROI of an IT project are; someone will dislike it. And yet, the change must occur.

So, anticipate the resistance and use it as feedback. Build the pushback into the project development process. This may involve an “airing of grievances” period, or a feedback window. Listening to users and IT staff is key to ensuring a project moves forward with as few hitches as possible.

It also gives you valuable intelligence that you can then use to justify the project. Once you understand how a project is perceived by users, you will be better able to deal with pushback from the C-suite.


2. Establish ROI


Take the cost center versus profit center debate head-on and arm yourself with concrete results in the form of dollars to share with the executive team. IT project pushbackIdentifying the ROI of a project can be time-consuming and requires a collaborative mindset as you understand interdepartmental efficiencies.

Yet, identifying the ROI is critical to obtaining buy-in from the C-Suite, especially the CEO, CFO, and COO. With an ROI in hand, you can dispel most myths around the value of a technology implementation with ease.


3. Contextualize The Project (during planning and implementation)


IT project pushback typically isn’t relegated to the boundaries of the specific project; in fact, many objections often point to deeper problems elsewhere in the organization.

You aren’t going to fill every crack in the organization with a single project, nor should you try. It is, therefore, important to contextualize the project within a broader perspective.

IT project pushbackStart your communications by building the rationale for the project. By starting with the why, instead of the how or what, you are more likely to gather champions from within, who will then assist and support the project.

For example, one of our clients recently deployed Webex Teams, a collaboration platform. They could have started the conversation internally by listing the benefits of Webex.

Instead, they started by listing the various channels currently in use (a mix of Slack, G-chat, Email, Zoom, Skype, text, SharePoint, and probably others) and exploring how the disjointed system meant a number of files had been lost and strategic initiatives maligned due to the complexity of the system.

Getting buy-in for the project after that was easy. The client had no need to walk through all the benefits of the new tool. They simply aligned each obstacle their current set-up entailed to a function of the new tool.

By contextualizing the IT project, you minimize pushback.


Discovering Partners That Help


Finding the right partner, experienced with the planning and implementation of an IT project, is one way you can deal with IT project pushback. A trusted partner will help you build a technology roadmap, identify project ROI, and build the right solution for your organization.

Learn more about how our team builds a technology roadmap with our Ultimate Guide to Creating A Technology Roadmap.

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About Mindsight

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About The Authors

Siobhan Climer, Science and Technology Writer for Mindsight, writes about technology trends in education, healthcare, and business. She writes extensively about cybersecurity, disaster recovery, cloud services, backups, data storage, network infrastructure, and the contact center. When she’s not writing tech, she’s reading and writing fantasy, gardening, and exploring the world with her twin daughters. Find her on twitter @techtalksio.

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