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Get approval for your tech idea with these five questions

communication technology
(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/violetkaipa)

You have a great new tech idea and now all you need is your manager or an executive to support it. You’ve prepared a presentation telling them all about your idea but does it include the right information? 

This is where the difficulty lies - pitching a tech idea to a leader is tough. Technical pitches usually need business manager approval which means you can’t talk in depth about the technology. 

But hang on, if you can’t talk about the technology what should you include in the pitch? 

Your pitch needs to focus on the value of the idea more than on the detail of the technology. If the value of an idea isn’t immediately obvious, they will move onto the next. 

Don’t let your innovative ideas get overlooked. Make the value immediately obvious to business leaders by answering these 5 questions in your pitch. 

  • How much will costs go down?
  • How much will earnings go up?
  • What is the improvement in productivity?
  • How much will the customer or employee experience improve?
  • How much will the quality of the output increase?

Answering these five questions ensures the value of your technical idea is crystal clear.  

 How much will costs go down?

All businesses like reducing costs. If you can show how much your software or application will reduce current costs that is going to get the attention of your leaders. If your idea delivers a cost saving put that information up front in the presentation. 

There is usually a cost to build or put in place your idea before it starts creating the long-term savings. Make sure the up-front cost is clear in your pitch. You must also include any ongoing maintenance or support costs. License fees, server costs, patches and upgrades need to be included in the costs. 

If the costs seem high, don’t worry. Having up-front costs isn't bad as long as the other benefits make the idea worthwhile.

How much will earnings go up?

Companies exist to earn money. If your idea increases the income for the business that is something the leaders will want to know. 

This topic makes many developers uncomfortable. We can’t always know how much money, if any, an idea will earn. If you think your idea will make money, say so, but don’t guess. Never guess. Anything you say needs to be based on evidence. 

Before you rush off and start market research, or worse, give up on the idea, consider this: Ask the business teams what they think. Evaluating the viability of an idea is a skillset some business teams specialize in. find that team in your company and ask for 30 minutes with them to evaluate your idea. If your idea is good, it is in their interest to help get the info you need. After all, increasing company income benefits them too. 

Make sure you include the timeframe for the earnings. Will they increase immediately or at some point in the future? Is it a one-time increase or can it happen again in the future? The more detail you include about the timing, and duration of an earnings increase the better.

What is the improvement in productivity?

Getting things done is how a business turns time and resources into income. If your idea improves productivity, efficiency, or speed, that’s good news for the business. Make it clear how much faster things will go after your idea is in place. What time savings can you expect? If the idea improves efficiency, how much will waste reduce? 

The key to doing this well is to present the time savings in terms the business leader will understand. A 100-millisecond improvement in processing speed may be huge from a tech perspective, but it means nothing to the business. You must make it clear what the time saving enables the business to do. 

For example, if a process runs a million times an hour, the 100-millisecond increase in processing speed may reduce server costs because a lower number of servers are needed to support the process.  

How much will the customer or employee experience improve?

All companies care about the customer and employee experience (and if they don’t, they should!). If your idea improves either of these things that can help convince a leader to back your proposal. 

Be specific in your pitch. Make it clear who the idea impacts and how much their experience will improve. Proof is important, so your pitch must show how you plan to measure the improvement. It isn’t enough to say the experience is better, you have to show it. 

Surveys, turnover stats, and customer reviews are good ways to measure change. Again, this is the time to talk to the business teams that care about these measures. If you are proposing a way to improve experience the customer experience team probably know how to measure it.

How much will the quality of the output increase?

While some companies focus on cheap and cheerful, most strive for good quality. Better quality at the right price can be a valuable thing. If your idea improves the quality of a product or service that can be worth a lot. 

Think about the type of quality your company values. How does your idea improve that quality? Perhaps the build quality will improve, or a web service has less downtime. Whatever it is, say how much better it will be. And, just like experience, you need to say how you plan to measure the quality change.

A word of warning – be careful not to focus on cod quality as the metric. That is something the business doesn’t easily understand. Just like talking about productivity improvement, you should talk about code quality improvements in terms the business values. Will the system have less downtime? If yes, how much? Will the number of errors reduce? If yes, by how much. The more you tie the improvements to things the business cares about the better.

Conclusion

Successful technical idea pitches make the business value obvious to the audience. You could have the perfect idea but if you don’t make that obvious to the business audience you won’t get their support. 

Talk about your technology in terms of value, improvements, and outcomes. Translate every technical item into business value for earnings, cost, productivity, experience, and output. 

If you’re worried that your idea doesn’t improve all these criteria, fear not. A big enough improvement in a single area may be enough to get the support of a manager or executive. As long as you make the value obvious in your pitch you will have a better chance of getting the support you want.

Chris Fenning

Chris Fenning helps technical professionals communicate with business teams. He has 20 years’ experience working in, leading, and teaching technology teams around the world.