Today’s external market conditions can help you create new internal growth opportunities, especially ones that provide incentives for your employees to stay put.
What you are looking for is a list with the following information:
- Project or initiative description
- System or technology involved
- Names of companies investing in this area
- Reasons for their investment, such as what they are trying to achieve
- Investment amounts, including dollars, hours, people and duration.
I know that list sounds like a very difficult assignment, but that’s where the hot IT market can be very helpful. When IT investments start moving, people start talking. Vendors, in particular, can’t help themselves. They just love to brag about all the new great things they are doing at other companies in an effort to get you to also jump on the bandwagon.
But it’s not just the vendor community. Recruiters call more often and speak more openly about job opportunities and what stands behind them. Industry friends and colleagues that take new positions frequently talk about the new challenges for which they were hired.
With all these different people talking, the trick is to listen—and listen well. And the best way to listen is to not listen alone. Bring your people in on this effort. Explain to them that you want to improve your company’s competitive intelligence as a precursor to proposing new IT investments. Explain to them how they can use their personal networks to ethically collect this type of competitive intelligence. Help them understand how valuable it will be for your company to understand the overall trends in IT investment when it is supported by specific industry examples.
By involving your people in this research, you not only improve your ability to collect the information, but you also bring them into the investment discussion and teach them how to best support an IT investment request.
Step 3: Put It All Together
By the time you’re done with this preparatory work, you’ll have:
- General information on IT investment trends and IT skill shortages across a variety of industries
- A well categorized list of your best IT investment ideas for your company
- Data on the kinds of projects and IT investments your competitors are making and why they are implementing them.
Now, with the obvious caveat that you’re not going to sell management on a project your company won’t benefit from, it’s time to get into sales mode.
Schedule some time in an upcoming leadership team meeting to present a talk on “the state of the industry from an IT investment perspective.” At that meeting, share the overall market data and trends that are driving IT investments. Next, drill down to what’s happening in your industry, including how it is investing in IT. Make sure to keep the data aggregated and general at this point in the conversation. And when they ask you what’s driving all that IT investment, you reveal the detailed data they care about most: what your competitors are doing and why.
But don’t stop there. Once you have presented your competitive data, it’s time for you to present your analysis of what your company should do. You may argue for investments that are required to match your competition. You may opt for an investment that you believe will help transcend your competitors. Whatever it is that you want to sell, this is your opportunity to shine. Why? Because you aren’t selling IT projects, you are selling competitive positioning.
That’s how you leverage external market conditions and information to create new opportunities for you, your IT workers and, ultimately, your company. It’s a powerful formula. Go for it—and let me know how it works out for you.
About the Author
Marc J. Schiller has spent more than two decades teaching IT strategy and leadership to the world’s top companies. Through online courses, speaking engagements and corporate consulting, his company educates IT pros at all levels on how to be more effective, influential and successful in their IT careers. Get access to free videos and an excerpt from his book, The 11 Secrets of Highly Influential IT Leaders, at www.marcjschiller.com/resources.
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