As businesses across most industries look to technology to streamline operations, improve the customer experience, and drive revenue growth, alignment between the business office and IT has never been more critical. Clear, consistent communications and other practices demonstrating a collaborative spirit are strong steps in the right direction, but alignment requires more. True alignment means tech leaders must deeply understand and elevate organizational goals and priorities in everything they do, especially when it comes to investing in product development.
These eight best practices will help IT managers at all levels generate buy-in for a new product investment while simultaneously demonstrating a strategic, solutions-oriented approach to safeguarding and growing the business.
1. Clearly define the business challenges your product will address – and how it supports a larger strategic goal or priority.
While it’s easy to become distracted by emerging trends – especially when they dominate news headlines (Hello, ChatGPT and crypto!) – not all businesses benefit from all technologies. When building the case for your product need / idea / solution, you must help keep all eyes on the prize. Your C-suite conversations should be much less focused on the “how” (AI, machine learning, etc.) and much more focused on the “why” (reducing costs, improving ROI, enabling agility, etc.).
2. Demonstrate the positive impact your solution could have on the business (vs. failing to address the problem or addressing it in another way).
Beyond the big idea and how it supports one or more of your company’s strategic priorities, be prepared to qualify AND quantify the potential value of the investment. For example, if the platform or app supports an improved client experience, is there industry and/or internal research that demonstrates demand or preference for such a tool? Similarly, can you show the financial benefit associated with retaining X number of clients (vs. the financial detriment associated with losing these users to the competition)?
3. Be prepared to speak to the resources required to successfully plan, build, launch, and maintain the new product.
Put on your Project Management hat for this part and be prepared to dig deep into:
- The steps required to get your software solution to launch / market
- The timeline for these steps to be completed
- The internal and, if needed, external human resources needed to support successful product development (including project management, product management, UI / UX design, back-end engineering, QA, and maintenance)
- The needed financial investment (being sure to tie this part of the conversation back to Best Practice #2: the potential ROI)
4. Understand and communicate openly about any business risks associated with the product or project.
Beyond the common risks associated with any software development project (shifting timelines, inflation of product specs, employee turnover, etc.), it’s vital that all business leaders understand product-related risks to the overall business. Common areas of risk include:
- Regulatory compliance
- Securing private personal and financial information
- The impact of technology downtime on the business (everything from brand reputation to lost revenue)
- The impact of technology on staffing and supply chain (New channels often demand new resources.)
5. Clarify any needs for outside support and introduce preferred partners.
Begin by evaluating your internal resources through a clear lens, asking and honestly answering:
- Do we have the bandwidth to successfully complete the software build while adhering to project constraints?
- Do we have the skills / capabilities to ensure the best product outcome (one in which project management, product strategy, front-end design, and back-end engineering combine to deliver the right solution to solve the right problem)?
- Which existing priorities may need to be set aside to allow for focus on this project? Is setting such existing efforts aside feasible?
If you decide to outsource all or part of your project, there are several different ways to approach it; this ebook explains two common models of product development support. Regardless of your path, find a “partner” instead of a “vendor,” as a partner will work with you to achieve a common goal, rather than simply providing a set service for a set price.
6. Encourage a cadence for providing high-level updates with time allowed for meaningful discussion, as needed.
While the C-suite doesn’t need to be aware of every little project or product detail, regular reporting of progress toward major milestones, as well as the emergence of significant challenges and opportunities, should be shared on a regular basis.
7. Touch on the iterative nature of product development.
Software product development is unlike many other areas of business operations because of its iterative nature. Explaining this (and what a Lean Agile approach looks like) early and often can be helpful for all stakeholders.
8. Invite and genuinely encourage questions, comments, and concerns.
Perspective / feedback from your non-technical peers can be helpful in identifying opportunities or pitfalls your tech team may not have considered. Plus, providing space for others to have a voice in your product encourages buy-in and a spirit of collaboration.
If you’d like to chat about your product idea or project needs, let’s connect. Revelry specializes in helping businesses create custom software to compete, scale, and succeed.