My name's Rick Schroeder, and I've been a member of Thwack since 2004.
I manage a health care network of 53,000+ computers across three states, and I've been enjoying using SolarWinds products like NPM, NCM, and NTA to proactively manage "Pure Network Services" across my organization.
In my environment "Pure Networking" means my team supports LAN, WAN, Firewall services, Wireless environments, and VPN solutions. Our babies are the Edge, Access, Distribution, Core, and Data Center blocks. We don't directly support user-accessible applications, nor servers or work stations or other end devices--we focus solely on LAN and WAN services, switches, routers, AP's, and firewalls. This truly makes my team the "D.O.T. for the Info Highway." Not dealing with edge devices and users and their apps is a luxury, but there's still a LOT of work to do, and I'm always looking for new tools and products that can help my team of six manage more systems in a better way.
When Danielle Higgins asked me to be a Guest Blogger for Thwack I was pleased to share some of my thoughts with you about information SolarWinds has given us to get what we need from Administration.
Sophisticated, powerful and well-developed tools that can improve our customers' experience are not free. Persuading Administration to allocate budget to purchase them can be an intimidating challenge. But as Joel Dolisy and Leon Adato explained, it's all about seeing the world from Administration's point of view. They are featured in a video for the Thwack Mission for August, 2015 called Buy Me a Pony: How to Make IT Requests that Management will Approve - YouTube SolarWinds has leveraged their knowledge to provide a resource you can use to build a successful pitch for allocating funds to get what you need--and it applies to anything, not just Orion products.
I watched the video and took away a lot of great ideas. I made notes during the video and then put them together into an e-mail that I shared with my team. We're using it as a guide for how to improve the network by learning the steps to make a winning presentation for additional resources (tools, people, etc.) to Management. You can use the same steps and get the progress towards tools and resources you need by using the concepts I've prepared below:
One day you’ll want to champion a new product. When you make your case for that product, your success depends on focusing on points that Management wants. Your job is to show them how funding your project will accomplish the things they find important.
Some examples of important items to decision makers:
- Growth (revenue, market share, etc.).
- Cost Reduction (improve cash flow, save $$).
- Risk (Avoid or resolve compliance issues, prevent exposure).
Find out how your new tool will fit the items above, then promote those features. This simple idea will give you a better chance of getting Administrative approval than if you spend your time describing to them the technical features or coolness of the product.
Target what will get Management’s attention and support.
Example: Suppose an e-mail system keeps crashing. You know replacing it will prevent that issue, so your goal is to buy/install a new e-mail system. If you can’t convince Management that your project will match their top needs, you won't get quick approval to proceed.
If Management pays most attention to Risk Avoidance, then show them how preventing e-mail crashes reduces Risk. Show SOX and HIPAA compliance will be much improved by a new e-mail solution and you’re halfway to getting funding for your project.
If Management is concentrating on bottom line issues, show how a new e-mail system will improve cash flow & save money. Now your pitch is much more likely to receive the right response from them.
If Management pays most attention to Dollars and Growth and Cost Reduction, then learn the cost of e-mail crashes & show them how your recommendation addresses those specific items. An example:
- Crashing e-mail services cost money. Find out how much and show them:
- X dollars of support staff time per minute of down time and recovery time. You could do the calculation based industry standard salaries broken down to hours & minutes and show the actual dollar cost of support to recover from an e-mail server crash. Talk about persuasive!
- 3X dollars in lost new orders as customers fail to get timely responses and turn to the competition because they can’t get responses to their e-mail.
- 20X dollars in lost order payments that come in via e-mail.
- 50X dollars in missed opportunities when our competitors get to the customers before us because our e-mail service is down.
Don’t make up facts. Being honest builds their trust in you and your team. The key is to create a solution to your problem that not only fixes your issues, but fixes Management’s problems, too.
Remember that telling the down side of a product is not necessarily bad. If you don’t include the full impact of your project to the business, decision makers may decide your proposal is not yet mature. They might think "So you’re asking for a free puppy? And you're not talking about food costs & vet bills and training, etc.?" That can be the path to a quick denial from them.
When you hear “no”, it may mean:
- Your pitch is right on, but the timing isn’t good for the company right now due to cash flow issues.
- You simply haven’t convinced the decision maker yet.
- You haven’t given the decision maker what they need to successfully take your case to THEIR manager. They don’t want to look foolish merely because you're enthusiastic about a product; you have to show you really know what you're talking about. Then they can champion your cause to their boss without being at risk.
- You haven’t shown how your application or hardware matches the company’s core focus (Risk, Revenue/Growth, Cost, etc.).
- You haven’t brought data that can be verified, or it’s too good to be true, or it simply is not believable.
If you haven’t shown the downsides, management knows you:
- Haven’t done due diligence to discover them.
- Are hiding them.
- Are caught up in the vendor’s sales pitch so much that you only see what’s shiny, and haven’t thought about (and found) problems with the product.
Your job is to treat “No” as if it only means “not yet.”
“No” does NOT mean:
- You can’t come back with this again.
- They're denying it because they don't like/trust you.
- Your idea is no good.
- You can’t have it due to politics.
Instead of accepting the denial and feeling you've failed, you can think of “no” as administrators simply saying your cake isn’t completely baked yet. Your interpretation should be they meant "Once your cake's fully cooked we're interested in having you bring it back for review."
When you hear “no”, ask questions to find out why “no” is the right answer for Administration at the present moment:
- What must be changed for the outcome to be “yes”? What is not being heard that is needed?
- Can we come back at a better time and talk about this again? When?
- How can we align the project better with the business focus/goals?
- Is there a better point in the budget year to look at this?
- Do we need other in-house skills, maybe an outside contractor, before we tackle this?
- Do we need a training plan to develop our staff’s skills for the new technology?
- Can we set up a small-scale demo to show you the product’s merits in-house via a proof-of-concept?
Remember: There are no “IT Projects”. There are only Business Projects that IT supports.
Help everyone on your team understand how they must make this project align with the Business’s goals when they present it to peers and administrators.
Example: Suppose your goal is moving away from Nagios to Orion:
- Bring the idea to your System Administrators, DBA’s, Apps Analysts--anyone who uses the old product (or who COULD be a candidate to use it)
- Get their input and wish list, then show them how your new tools will give them better access and insight into their environments' functionality.
- Ask them what they’re not getting from Nagios, listen carefully and then show them how Orion can provide those specific items to them.
- Set up a 30 day free demo and then get them excited about what a SHARED tool like Orion can do across the silos.
- Now you've turned them into supporters for the new project, and they can report positively about it to their managers.
Who is the funding Approver?
Who are the consumers of the new project?
Managers of Apps and Servers.
What part of the decision making process happens outside your view?
The CIO goes to the department Managers for their opinion. But you did your homework and the Managers have already heard great reports about your project from their trusted teams.
Result: They share the good news to the CIO, and the CIO OK’s the purchase.
It's all about finding how your good idea is ALSO a good idea to the decision makers. It's a formula for success.
Don’t overdo the presentation. If you want to lose the audience, include every stat, every permutation of dollars and numbers, show them a PowerPoint presentation with more than 10 slides, etc.
Your detailed/extra available information is not appropriate for the initial presentation. But keep it for answering future queries.
It’s more important the bosses feel comfortable with the solution than it is to overwhelm them with details.
Here are some resources I found on https://thwack.solarwinds.com/ that can help you get buy-in from decision makers. These tools may convince them that your project will make a significant contribution to improving the environment:
- Feature Function Matrix:
- It lists all the features that a great monitoring tool might have.
- It lets you compare what you have in-house today to what a competitive SolarWinds tool provides.
- Shows the gap between the services and information you have with an existing product which can be filled with the new SolarWinds product.
- Lets you identify primary sources of truth. Example:
- Suppose you have multiple ping latency measuring tools and you’re not eliminating any of them.
- The Feature Function Matrix lets you prioritize them.
- Now you can see which ones are most important, and which tools are backups to the important ones.
- Sample RFP’s
o Let you score weights of features.
o Auto-calculates the information you need to show the decision makers.
o Allows competitive vendors to show their strengths & cost.
- In the Geek Speak forum you can find items associated with Cost Of Monitoring. They might be just what you need to show management, highlight the cost of:
o Not monitoring.
o Monitoring with the wrong tool.
o Monitoring the wrong things.
o Monitoring but not getting the right notifications.
o Forgetting to automate the monitoring response.
Here's hoping you can leverage the ideas I've shared to successfully improve your environment. Remember, these processes can be applied to anything--getting a raise, adding more staff, increasing WAN pipes, improving server hardware, getting a company car--the sky's the limit (along with your creative ways to sell great ideas).