Last issue I wrote about what the qualities are that make for a good IT project board and the qualities that make for a good board member. This issue I would like to turn that around and focus on how, (if you are a sponsor or business owner), to get a Board to approve what you are taking to them.

First, be clear and succinct in your presentation (both written and oral.) Your paper and presentation are just one of many that a governance board may address in a single board meeting and there may often not be a lot of time for them spend on every item on the agenda. The message for you then if you are presenting an item to the board is don't waste their time! Poorly written papers full of hyperbole and motherhood statements that waffle on and from which it is hard to extract what is being proposed and why, don't stand much of a chance of getting approved.

Third, know your audience. Given that you are in a sales exercise you need to know who the board members are and what will resonate with them. If for example the board members are very risk averse and you try to sell a grand vision without focusing on how you will manage the risks you may get an undesirable result. Conversely if the board is looking for a significant breakthrough and you present a "me too" approach you might not get them engaged to support you.

It never hurts to prime the pump by covering your paper off with key board members before you get to the meeting to get them on your side. The meeting can then become a formality.

In short, know whom you are selling to and make sure you give them what they are looking for.

Fifth, be prepared to be challenged. That's a Board's job. Don't take it personally. Put yourself in their shoes and try to envision the likely questions that an unfamiliar party might ask of your presentation. Prepare answers to those questions in advance. If you don't have answers, say so, but also explain how you will go about determining them or mitigating the risks implied be the questions. A good response that shows how you will manage what you don't yet know can sometimes be enough to get you conditional or limited approval with full approval to follow subject to conditions being met.

Finally, sometimes no matter how good a job you do, your proposal might not get approved for reasons that you are not completely aware of. Those reasons might be commercial, political, or something else that the board has a wider view of than you do. If you are turned down, ask for feedback, not only on your proposal but on the wider contextual issues which might lead to you having another chance to come back at a later time. © Aaron Kumove 2015

Aaron Kumove ([email protected]) is the managing director of Horizon Consulting. He is a former CIO at New Zealand Post and at the Ministry of Education.

Read more:The State of the CIO 2015: The digital mindshift