Who Moved My Tech? The Art of Convincing the Unconvinced - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
Data Management
Commentary
8/14/2017
07:00 AM
Robert Reeves, Cofounder and CTO, Datical
Robert Reeves, Cofounder and CTO, Datical
Commentary
50%
50%

Who Moved My Tech? The Art of Convincing the Unconvinced

Every technology initiative -- in fact many business changes -- will run into resistance from people. Here are three steps to overcoming that resistance.

As information technology leaders, our job is to make change happen. Whether we facilitate organizational change with our systems or enact wholesale shifts in the technology used by our companies, change is our business and business is good.

The ways we perform our jobs, like Agile, DevOps, and microservices, have brought huge improvements to our companies. We build software faster, we release it faster, we rearchitect faster. That has led to an increase in our companies’ performance because we can deliver the service our customers demand better and faster.

But, we sometimes hit roadblocks caused by our colleagues. All of us have heard, “We’ve always done it this way” to stop proposed change. Inherency is a powerful, albeit false, premise. To state that change is somehow wrong because we’ve simply haven’t done it in the past is ignorant and negligent. To combat this, IT leaders must rely on soft skills to convince people a course of action is the right thing to do.

Image: Shutterstock/CartoonResource
Image: Shutterstock/CartoonResource

Detailing data, enforcing the benefit to the company, and appealing to the personal goals of those unconvinced is the best way to turn naysayers to strong advocates.

Detailing data: The facts don’t lie 

My number one go-to line in presentations is, “Don’t believe me, believe the data.” When proposing change, I describe the problem and show data proving its intensity. I will then follow with anecdotal accounts that describe the problem in more personal terms. 

For example, at Datical, I often describe the business problems created when companies fail to automate database schema and logic updates. I follow with studies that show the problem is large and growing. Finally, I tell a story of a Datical customer and the challenges they faced.

Simply describing the problem and an anecdote is lazy. You are signaling to your audience that you are not willing to put in the work to see if the problem is systemic or an aberration. Why would the unconvinced believe one single story? The anecdote becomes the target of debate. “Is it representative of the whole? Was the individual making other poor choices?” This is not the debate you want.

By using data, sticking to the facts, and only coloring them with the anecdote, you create a strong case for your proposal. You shift your burden of proof from you to the data source.

Enforcing the benefit to the company: It’s the profit, stupid

One observation I’ve made after 20 years in software is that new technology often enters development simply due to curiosity. I’ve seen not-ready-for-prime-time technology adopted simply because a developer wants to “try it out”. Is your proposed change based on your personal curiosity? Of course not. But humans are skeptics by nature; and skepticism is found no more intensely than in technology. They’re smart people!

After detailing the problem with data, you must describe the end state’s benefit to the company. Notice that this is like the previous step in that it separates the proposed change from the advocate. “Robert wants us to adopt DevOps so he can sell us software!” is the last thing I want my audience to say. Instead, I want them to say, “Look at the benefit this change can provide the company.”

[Read more from Robert Reeves in Selling the Human Condition.]

Again – mirroring the previous step – use data. Show benefits that other companies (It's even better when it’s a competitor!) have experienced due to this change. Empirical data is a powerful ally to convince the unconvinced and make certain that your proposal is not simply a way to sate your personal curiosity.

Appealing to personal goals: Eat your vegetables; they’re good for you

The final step is to appeal to the human. “What’s in it for me?” is a rational, human response to any proposal. There are two very simple approaches to this; I recommend using them both.

“What’s good for your business is good for your job.”

Relying on the benefit to the business, you are implying that this change will make the individual’s job more stable since the company will be improving. Everyone likes being on a winning team and we all have responsibilities to ourselves and to our families. We certainly like to win, but we NEED to provide for ourselves and for our families. Detail the benefit to the company and tie that benefit to the unconvinced to meet these two needs.

“Change brings opportunity.”

My personal experience has taught me that those who argue inherency are afraid of the impact of change to their jobs. You must describe to the unconvinced how this change will allow them to grow their skillset, take on new and more interesting responsibilities, and become more valuable to the company. Describe a future where these things can happen for the unconvinced and you will find a strong advocate for your proposal.

Using data, describing organizational benefit, appealing to personal needs: These are the three steps to take to convince the unconvinced. After all, information technology is tool to help people. Start first by helping the people understand the benefits and you will have a new advocate.

Robert Reeves, Datical
Robert Reeves, Datical

As Chief Technology Officer, Robert Reeves advocates for Datical’s customers and provides technical architecture leadership. Prior to co-founding Datical, Robert was a Director at the Austin Technology Incubator. At ATI, he provided real world entrepreneurial expertise to ATI member companies to aid in market validation, product development and fundraising efforts. Robert cofounded Phurnace Software in 2005. He invented and created the flagship product, Phurnace Deliver, which provides middleware infrastructure management to multiple Fortune 500 companies.

The InformationWeek community brings together IT practitioners and industry experts with IT advice, education, and opinions. We strive to highlight technology executives and subject matter experts and use their knowledge and experiences to help our audience of IT ... View Full Bio
We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Slideshows
How to Land a Job in Cloud Computing
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek,  6/19/2019
Commentary
How to Convince Wary Customers to Share Personal Information
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author,  6/17/2019
Commentary
The Art and Science of Robot Wrangling in the AI Era
Guest Commentary, Guest Commentary,  6/11/2019
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
2019 State of DevOps
2019 State of DevOps
DevOps is needed in today's business environment, where improved application security is essential and users demand more applications, services, and features fast. We sought to see where DevOps adoption and deployment stand, this report summarizes our survey findings. Find out what the survey revealed today.
Video
Current Issue
A New World of IT Management in 2019
This IT Trend Report highlights how several years of developments in technology and business strategies have led to a subsequent wave of changes in the role of an IT organization, how CIOs and other IT leaders approach management, in addition to the jobs of many IT professionals up and down the org chart.
Slideshows
Flash Poll