Budget Time: Don’t Wipeout

surf-pipeline-crash-1If it hasn’t already hit you, be prepared for the tidal wave.  Budgets are being planned, projects are being prioritized, top management’s pet projects are being moved up the priority list, and everyone is pushing to squeeze out as much of the project budgets from the superiors as humanly possible.  It’s everyone’s favorite time of year: project planning season!

Depending on your personal experience, the last line may have sounded sarcastic, but the fact of the matter is that people either love or hate this process.  This is often a free-for-all, where you can’t tell your friends from the people who are moving in and taking your much needed project dollars.  They say all is fair in love and war, in a business parallel, all is fair in requesting budgets.  Different business groups are often pitted against one another, and opinions are free-flowing on the different business units.  Getting your projects prioritized and approved can be the difference between working on a 10 year old legacy system and getting that fancy new product all of your friends have told you about.

As hectic and overwhelming as this process can be there are some steps that you can take to help get project noticed and prioritized.

1)     Provide a QUALITY Executive Summary
Depending on the size of your company, the top level management staff can go through dozens if not hundreds of different project proposals during their budget building.  It’s likely that their main focus will be the executive summary rather than getting inundated with the various details.  Providing a quality executive summary with your elevator pitch for your project will maximize the time you have in front of your key audience.

2)     Minimize the Technical Jargon in the Summary
If you’re proposing a technical project, depending on your management team, it is likely that the audience is not going to have the technical expertise that you do.  Building the document in a way that a lay audience can easily read and interpret it without having to consult Google or Bing for definitions, will speak well about your ability to communicate and will help to build a better case in the mind of your audience.

3)     Establish the Value Early in Your Request
Projects that can save the company money in the short or long term are music to management’s ears.  When planning budgets for projects, those that provide the most value are going to quickly move their way up the priority list.  Providing details around the cost savings or improvements in employee efficiency will help to establish the necessity for your project.

4)     Build the Case Providing What-If’s
If this is a software implementation or hardware deployment that has to be done for your team to function properly, then make it overly clear how necessary this is for your business unit.  Don’t be afraid to show the negative costs associated with not doing this project, and build a solid what-if scenario.

5)     Establish Clear Needs and Reasonable Budgets
This may sound like common sense, but establishing your team’s project needs and realistic budget goals will also help to build your case even further.  If you don’t provide a realistic number, you may have to come back after the project is a few months in asking for more money.  No one likes to be in that situation, and this could impact your ability to get future project approvals.

Hopefully these tips will help you to get your project through the pipeline with the green rubber stamp, but your project didn’t get approved, there will always be the chance to catch on during the tidal wave next year.

If you have any horror stories to share or any other tips for getting a project approved, feel free to comment by clicking the comment button above, and as always, be sure to follow me on Twitter.

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