How to Get Your Ideas Heard by the Business?
We often get deeply involved with the project we are working on, aspiring to make it a success and become part of that success.
When leveraging our expertise, we generate a variety of ideas. In our opinion, each of these ideas has the potential to increase the chances of success of the product. I’ve repeated the word "success" three times already. Deliberately. Because this is what we all are striving for in everything we do. But does success mean the same thing to everyone? It surely does not.
Are you confident that you understand the success of the product exactly the way your client does? Can you name the objectives for the coming launch, its success and failure criteria, and the attributes the product must possess to survive market turbulence?
Typically, the reason your ideas don’t get enough of the client’s attention has nothing to do with disrespect or indifference to your contribution. It’s about missing the mark on the understanding of the client’s perspective of success and adapting your contribution to help move the needle towards that desired end state.
Oftentimes, we get happily married to our ideas forgetting that it’s not us who should fall in love with them, but the client. Frustration comes along with demotivation when the client blanks an idea out or puts the "maybe later" seal on it. Bad idea? Nope. A misalignment and a handful of some other things worth considering prior to sharing your idea with the client:
1. Wrap it correctly to present for easy decision making:
- Frame the problem, the business/user need/want. Give the context, create a sense of importance;
- Outline your solution. Go through the key points of that solution, its benefits to the business and the users, the changes to be made, the resource shifts required;
- Mention the alternatives you considered and justify your choice. Remember that doing nothing is a legitimate default;
- Suggest a course of action. The next steps, the first moves, how the responsibility is shared.
2. Qualify. Ask yourself these questions:
- Where is the money? Does your idea help save money, keep it, or earn more?
- What are the associated risks, if any? Challenges?
- Does it align with the product roadmap?
- Is it in line with the current strategic priorities?
- Does it drive any of the key product metrics?
- What’s the impact on the existing system?
- Does it stay in line with the regulations and constraints the business operates in?
3. Make sure to present it to the right stakeholder:
- Pitch your idea to a person that holds decision-making power or at least one that can pass your idea on to them without distortion.
Warning: don’t go for a wordy document, but rather make it a table, a couple of well-phrased paragraphs, or a summary with a bullet list. Brevity is paramount. Ensure the idea is presented for easy digestion, each word makes sense and is straight to the point.
Remember, even a great idea that is ill-prepared, presented in a wrong way, or to a wrong person may end up a total bust.
Therefore, be it a technical, functional, visual, strategic, or whatever else improvement that you are willing to take forward, do your homework first. This will effectively filter out the non-viable or weak candidates while clearing a path for the strongest ones.
The above-presented format is not just about seeking permission for action, but a great way for spitballing an idea and getting an early understanding of whether or not it’s worth exploring. I use this format even to validate decisions that I have the power to make myself.
Furthermore, presenting your ideas in a concise, comprehensive, and thorough manner speaks highly of your professional maturity and positively impacts the image of the company and yours in the eyes of the client. If clients decide to postpone your idea, they will usually provide more feedback and justification than simply telling you “maybe later”, with respect to the job that you have already done. And the aftertaste will be different. For both parties.