Several companies I am working with right now are going through various assessment and discovery programs to create justification for larger projects. This builds on the material presented online last week.
The problem is, most assessments are too technical. A change is needed if justification is going to be found in your discovery/assessment process. Here are some points to consider:
- The assessment should be asset focused. This means that the questions being asked focus on critical data and applications, rather than infrastructure. This type of questioning process starts with asset owners who understand the value of their data and how it is used to generate company profits.
- Business driven. The discovery process is conducted with business people first. Questions deal with the business, the data used in the business, and the processes used to conduct business. Keep you client’s clients in mind, and you’ll be speaking their language.
- Verified through technical discovery. Once the business level discovery is complete, you the seller, should have a picture of how data is being created, but whom, and for what. You will also have ideas on what this company could be doing to improve their situation. What kinds of automation, risk mitigating strategies, and technology applications would make things more efficient or more secure. Once you have this, send your technical people into the IT areas for see what is really going on technically. Validate your hunches and figure out what they really need.
- Recommendations are written at the asset owner level. Putting together your findings is the next step, but more often than not, these findings are too technical and not meaningful or understandable by business level people; those who will ultimately approve budget. Make concrete recommendations – recommendations your business level clients can visualize.
- Back up recommendations with technical appendices. I like to treat this as a separate document – something that can be handed to technical people. The documents you hand to business people must be short, easily absorbed, and strategic. Technical people may have questions and will often not see value in strategic level writings, so having some technical diagrams, data collected, or other evidence that your technical people know what they are doing is a good idea. This needs to be something that can be handed directly to IT.
- Present to asset owners. Your goal is the personally present your recommendations and justification to asset owners, helping them visualize what you are recommending and why. I like to use the phrase, “What if we could do this or provide that to your customers by doing…?” Going through several scenarios, I am looking for nodding heads or signs of interest. There may be some things presented where they look puzzled or disinterested. Either provide more detail to get buy-in or move on to the things they agree are important. This is where you will focus your value proposition and proposals/agreements.
- Have your technical people get with their technical people. Once you have buy-in, your technical people can work with theirs to make sure you have their complete agreement. Your technical people should have already developed this relationship before the discovery process takes place. This paves the way for acceptance all around.
Remember to focus on the urgent issues – things with high impact, high likelihood. Many of the things we deem important are not important to decision makers. We can either work to educate them on why they really are important, or move on to the things they are concerned about.
© 2011, David Stelzl