Lately I’ve written a lot about corporate content standards and how you can use the Information Mapping method to design a standard that meets your requirements. But once you’ve created that perfect standard, tailored to fit your users’ needs as well as the nature of the content itself and the capabilities and limitations of your technologies, you still aren’t finished. Ahead of you is the task of selling the new standard to your organization. And that isn’t always easy—in fact, sometimes it’s the hardest part of the process.
First, sell up
Begin by selling your great new standard to your organization’s leaders, because getting their buy-in will be critical. As always when selling to upper management, your pitch should be all about the bottom line.
- Tell them about all the ways in which the new standard is going to result in reduced costs and increased efficiencies.
- Metrics are music to management’s ears, so be prepared to explain the benefits using hard numbers. Talk in terms of dollars and hours saved, percentages of improvement gained, and reductions in operating costs.
- Be realistic and candid about the costs of implementing the new standard. Explain how the expected ROI will more than justify those costs.
When you’re selling to your leaders, I advise you to think like somebody who’s trying to present a solid, compelling business case—because that’s exactly what you’re doing.
Then, sell out
Selling out—that is, spreading enthusiastic acceptance of your standard outward across the organization—is your next big challenge. The prospect of selling your standard to upper management may be scary, but getting buy-in from rest of the organization often proves to be more difficult and time-consuming. It can call for all the diplomatic skills you can muster, as well as all your reserves of patience, to get everyone across the enterprise on board.
You’ll almost certainly have to deal with some tricky political situations—“We’ve had our own standard in this department for a long time, and it works just fine, thank you”—and other variations on the “not-invented-here” mindset. Resistance to change is part of human nature. So is the tendency to think that your situation is unique or impossible for an outsider to truly comprehend. To sell your new standard across the organization you’ll need to understand the viewpoints and priorities of employees in each area, so you can show them how and why implementing the new standard is going to make their lives easier.
Are you beginning to see why I said that this sell is often time-consuming and difficult? While getting widespread buy-in isn’t always easy, it’s every bit as important as gaining executive-level approval. Management can mandate use of your new standard, but it’s up to everybody else to actually make it work.
Have you ever brought a new way of doing things to your organization? Where did you encounter resistance to change, and how did you overcome it?