A recent discussion on the IA Institute mailing list revolved around selling the value of IA to executives. One reason why we address IA and other user experience concerns within the context of web strategy here at Extractable is because it helps communicate the value of the planning process in terms of aligning with business strategy and goals, something an executive can understand without having to keep up with the latest changes in Internet jargon (user interface design, content strategy, usability, information architecture, user experience, interaction design, customer experience, experience planning, and so on).
This led IAI board member Stacy Surla to point to an article by IAI board member Samantha Starmer on the topic Selling Information Architecture: Getting Executives to Say “Yes”. The whole article is worth reading, of course, but here are Samantha’s top five recommendations to sell IA:
- Show the problem (and how you can help fix it): This point seems obvious, but lots of people forget to do it. Instead they go on and on about why information architecture is a good thing….
- Benefit the bottom line: You won’t be able to define hard core ROI (return on investment) for every project, but it is important to employ the rigor to think about the benefits of IA or any user focused work from a financial perspective….
- Play the politics: Managing politics in an organization is often critical to getting any work accomplished successfully. You will want to figure out how the politics game is played in your organization and how you can enjoy playing it. In many ways, politics is simply thinking about the best ways to get along with different types of people. A few tips:
- Pay attention to organizational culture and how decisions are made.
- Pick the most important battles.
- Talk to the right people at the right time in the right order.
- Accept help.
- Listen, listen, listen – what you say will be a lot more valuable if you have made a sincere effort to understand other points of view.
- Don’t promise a silver bullet: It is best to promise only what is realistic and under your control….
- Pay attention to style: Tailor your style, language and presentation towards the audience you are trying to persuade…. Some people want numbers and data and facts, others prefer verbatim quotes from users, while others respond best to inspirational big-picture vision. Think about who you most need to sell in each pitch and adapt accordingly. This may mean extra preparation, but considering your audience and their needs will be well worth it.