by Isaac Sacolick

4 keys to aligning executives on digital strategy and priorities

Sep 05, 2017
BudgetingCIODigital Transformation

Gaining executive alignment on strategic programs is critical because digital transformation requires organizations to move smarter and faster.

board ceo executives table
Credit: Thinkstock

Summer is over, everyone is back from their holidays, and most businesses will be heading into the thick of strategic planning and budgeting season. Those of you who have been proactive during the summer months have reached out to key business leaders to understand their growth objectives and operational risks. Perhaps you’ve spent some time researching new solutions, developing prototypes, and establishing business cases for investing in new technology driven capabilities.

Regardless of how well prepared you are or not, the next two or three months are pivotal in getting executive alignment. If you believe that your organization needs to take on more risk and move smarter and faster through its transformation program, then the last thing you want is for executive misalignment to cause delayed decisions and investments.

So here is some advice on how to best prepare to drive digital decisions.

1. Tell the digital story and site successes

We all like to say that digital transformation is a journey, but we often forget that our business colleagues on the ride are dealing with their month to month issues closing business, reaching new customers, or improving operations. You’ll need to update them on the strategy, demonstrate examples of successes, and provide them a roadmap.

My suggestion is to do this on a one on one basis and before any strategic plans are reviewed. Leaders want to be heard and have the opportunity to ask questions. 

2. Know where executives stand on issues before the big meeting

It’s one thing to develop relationships and know your business partners’ plans and objectives but during budget season you have to go one step further. You have to know where leaders stand on specific issues and in their minds, how they prioritize various opportunities. If one of your investments is put to a vote, do you know who will be supporters and who will be detractors? Can you anticipate how the vote would play out?

Make no mistake, requests for investments are sales pitches and you should borrow tactics from the best salespeople in closing the deal. If you can anticipate reactions, then you have the chance to adjust your pitch or have responses ready to handle objections. You can also be prepared with contingency options, so for example, if it will be difficult to gain the support for a full business program, perhaps present a second option of pilots and proof of concepts that aim to build confidence and demonstrate small successes.

3. Come with data, deliver with purpose and passion

While every presentation should include data, forecasts, and customer research, bombarding executives with facts may not be sufficient to get their attention and support. To get true supporters, you need to demonstrate both purpose and passion with your pitch.

Can you tell a story that demonstrates the benefits of the program? How will an investment improve a key customer’s experience using a product and service? Can you describe a security incident at another organization and how a specific investment will help reduce the risk of it happening at your organization? Can you share incites from employees that participated in your pilot programs? Can you include anecdotes about what your competitors are doing and how your investment offers advantages?

4. Prepare a moon shot project so it can get shot down 

Finally, here’s my last bit of advice. Present one project that is unlikely to get buy in. There are still executives in the room that would rather avoid digital and technology investments and want to slow down the transformation. Presenting one of these less popular investments gives executives a place to voice an objection without compromising the strategic program.