Getting Executive Buy-In for Your Improvement Initiatives
For over 20 years I worked in the manufacturing industry as a designer, CAD or IT manager. One issue I have seen and experienced many times is the difficulty of getting upper management to understand the need and benefit of getting the latest CAD, PLM systems, or any other IT systems. In each role there was always the need for new software to keep my teams and systems as productive as possible. In this blog I will, at a very high-level, outline how I was able to get upper management to buy in on projects I felt were needed.
Very early in my career I was a CAD administrator. At the time we needed new CAD software. I was able to talk to upper management very often. I would try to explain and tell them the need. I would verbally walk through the benefits and even give them demos of the software. But… they would not want to pull the trigger on buying the latest software. I could theorize with them until I was blue in the face. It just didn’t matter.
Then, a mentor of mine recommended I put everything to numbers, such as creating a ROI and roadmap of what was required to implement the new software. So, I did. First, I did time studies against what we were doing today. I did this by getting input from various different users. This was basically recording how long it took them to do the most common tasks. I would always take multiple samples and then take the average. Then, using a trial install of the new version of software I was able to get comparisons for each use case tested against current software. I put the time savings to cost savings based on hourly rate averages. I also related it to increased engineering department output capabilities. For instance, our department could produce four projects a year. With the time improvements we can now produce five.
The next time I spoke with my manager, I simply put a one page short summary of total potential time and cost savings in front of him. Which in this case, immediately got his attention. He of course wanted to know how I came up with those numbers. I had to be ready to back my numbers up. I did this by giving him a more detailed page and walked him through my findings at a high-level. I also had a page outlining the general implementation roadmap with a timeline summary. Only three total pages, not a short novel. He could no longer just dismiss or put off the need. I received approval to proceed with my plan in less than a month after presenting my numbers to my manager. In this case my manager was one of the company owners, but having hard numbers and a tentative plan got the ball rolling.
One thing to note from the above example, by doing what I outlined above, it elevated my standing at my company. They were impressed at my willingness to push for, justify, and plan for something I believed in. Not just asking them to take on the burden of something I felt was a good idea.
This scenario was repeated throughout my career. I could bring in vendors to demo their product, put quote after quote in front of management. Meeting after meeting with vendors and upper management, I could not get management to agree until I took the time to document the true benefits in time and money (roadmap and ROI).
If you have product or process improvements you feel will benefit your company, you need to show your management that you truly believe in it. You need to do the needed research and documentation to show the benefit and how you recommend proceeding. You cannot just go and tell management there are problems. You must present a solution for the problem you are identifying. If you do this extra work, it will not only help get your request approved, but will also help how you are viewed by your management.
Look, I know what I am outlining is no small task. It can be time consuming, very time consuming in some cases. That’s why many times this never gets done and needed improvement projects never happen. There is just not enough time for internal staff to do the needed research, and get their day-to-day tasks done as well. That is why you need to partner with a company dedicated to help with product development improvements at your company, such as EAC. We don’t want to just sell you software, we want to help you and your company improve the way you design, manufacture, connect to, and service your products. We do this with our proven people, products and processes. If you and your company improve and succeed, we improve and succeed. We will do as much of the work as we can to help you get the needed numbers and roadmaps put together. There is always going to be some time needed from internal people. However, we try to keep this as minimal as possible.
In summary, if you can see areas where your processes or systems could be improved you need to put it to numbers. You need an ROI and a roadmap to take to upper management. It may seem frustrating at times, but you need to understand where management is coming from. They also have people they answer to. They can’t go to a board, or an owner, or their manager with just a demo and a quote. Not only is that not the information they are concerned with, but you typically don’t get that type of time with them. They need quick and real information to justify the need. You must be willing and ready to get this for them. Just remember, EAC is here to help you do this. Please reach out to us.