May 19, 2017

Solving SharePoint Roadblocks: How to Win an Executive Sponsor

7 minute read

 We talked before about the carrot frequently being more effective than the stick when it comes to improving information management practices on SharePoint, but what if that's not the case? When this happens, it's very helpful to have an executive sponsor on hand to remind the organization of the critical value of improving how enterprise content is managed.

One key point to remember throughout this post: first and foremost, SharePoint is a business platform.

Choose an Executive Sponsor and Build Your Credibility

We all know productivity will improve  while security and compliance risks will decrease if you’re able to improve your SharePoint information management experience. But what if that message isn’t getting through the way it should?

The first step, as you well know, is not to repeat your arguments. The answer most likely lies in your relationship with the rest of the business. Improve that, and your employees could soon be working as part of the improved enterprise content program. No more searching endlessly for documents or constantly putting the organization at risk.

A surefire way to build this relationship is to identify and leverage an executive sponsor to help your visibility and lend credibility to your cause. You can the executive sponsor to create awareness and motivate involvement at critical points in your initiative.

Then, you must build your own relationship and credibility with that sponsor. Here are five key tips:

1. Understand where business users are coming from

Demonstrating an awareness and  understanding of what key business groups are  trying to achieve will go a long way. People adopt technology because it provides value, not for its own sake. How does what you’re proposing tie into business goals, strategy, and eliminate pain points for your users?  These will be different depending upon the role of the user even when they may all be using the same system.

2. Be honest about your successes and failures

Time for some honest self-evaluation. How do your colleagues view your past performance? It doesn’t matter whether they’re right or wrong — perception trumps reality. If you’re not credible step two is going to have to be building trust.

Perhaps you need to shoot for some small wins first to demonstrate credibility, or you might have to admit past mistakes and be willing to talk about what you’ve done to improve.

3. Bring your team with you

In every interaction, every member of your team is either building or eroding the perception of the work they are doing.

Work with the team to make sure they understand the objectives, the stakes, and their role in presenting your case. If someone in the elevator asks why something is a good idea, make sure everyone on your team has enough information to answer regardless of whether it’s in their area of expertise. You can’t expect the organization at large to buy your argument if your team can’t explain or validate it.

4. Commit to your message

No one likes having to “sell” themselves internally. They feel their accomplishments are self-evident, and their expertise is such that their say-so should be enough.

Tough luck. If you want internal buy-in, you have sell your perspective. And that starts with selling yourself and the value of the initiative.

5. Apply this simple test to every point you make

Whenever you’re talking about what you want to get done, ask yourself whether you’re talking about the benefits or the features. A feature of a new SharePoint implementation might be detailed metadata capability. That’s less compelling than:

  • Saying an employee will save three to four hours a week in what is currently time lost searching for a record, or
  • They can rest assured their important records are being properly managed

Putting the Plan into Action

Now that we have identified and recruited an executive sponsor, we will need to create a plan and present it to the leadership team and their departments.

Show the Value of Your Vision

Everyone has the same amount of time in his or her day: 24 hours. However, C-Level executives seem to have less time, especially for administrative tasks that don’t drive profit into the organization. Therefore, when speaking with these individuals, it’s important to get to the point very quickly. If they don’t see the value in what you’re selling (in this case, the benefits of your SharePoint deployment plan) within the first 30 seconds, C-Level executives will most likely tune out.

Preparation is key. If you don’t prepare what you’re going to say, you’re likely to stumble upon your words. Think about how SharePoint governance can create value for the organization, and be able to explain in a few words how this value impacts them directly. You need to know how you can make a difference. In particular, how can you increase revenue and profitability and reduce costs by taking this initiative.

Then, stand in front of a mirror and practice your sales pitch. Practice. Practice. Practice.

Explain What’s in it for Them

It’s not all about you! It’s about what’s in it for the executive team, as they will be signing off on the budget. To understand what’s in it for the C-Level, you need to have a basic understanding of how you can impact the business. It’s not necessary for you to be an expert in business management, but you had better be able explain how you can impact the business.

For example, what drives profit to your business? What keeps the C-Suite awake at night? These are topics you, as an information governance professional, must understand and be able to articulate. Clearly explain how information governance can put more money into pockets through specific business impacts.

Last but Not Least: Own The Initiative

Once you have been able to successfully show the value and impact of information governance, you must own the outcome of this initiative. If you have been given the “green light”, then don’t hesitate to move forward. The last thing these executives need is another dependent. Remember, as an IG professional, you were hired by the organization to do a job.

Yes, you may need to put your sales cap on and sell your IG initiative, but after you have done so, it’s time to be an in-house leader and prove that you will own the outcome. It’s not practical to engage with executives every step of the way to get their blessing. If you do, your initiative has a high likelihood of failure.

Unfortunately, there is no Rosetta Stone or Google translation option for learning the language of the C-Suite. You will have to roll up your sleeves, put your sales cap on and drive this one home.


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