If you’re an information manager, you’re likely aware that third party content is often a target during budget cuts. Creating relationships with financial decision makers and knowing how to communicate the value of content spend is important. Likewise, analyzing the content usage data to identify the right people to approach as advocates and stakeholders can be helpful in justifying content costs.
A simple, but often overlooked first task for information managers defending a budget is to make sure you talk to the right people and you target your message for their needs. The trust a positive and established relationship brings is an important step in effectively communicating the content value proposition.
Proving necessity versus nice-to-have is critical in the ubiquitous world of limited resources.
It takes work to identify who should be approached, anticipate what information they may need and learn which methods are effective in garnering their advocacy, but a good communication plan can pay dividends in defending the content investment.
Step One: Know your budget approval management chain and finance team
The financial and budget process within organizations can be time consuming and difficult. Information and finance managers are not necessarily focusing on the same day-to-day priorities, and with stakes high for department budgets, gaps in understanding are not unusual. This problem can be exacerbated if the information manager has good reason to ask for funds for content and services, but little data to back the request. Proving necessity versus nice-to-have is critical in the ubiquitous world of limited resources.
As in most circumstances where different points of view exist, communication (and lots of it) is the best solution.
Finance teams are more likely to consider proposals from information managers if there is an established relationship of trust and respect. This requires that the information professional reach out proactively on a regular basis. He or she needs to be aware of the measures and data the finance and budget approval managers prefer, and to make sure the information from the information management group helps and anticipates the budget questions that will be asked.
When communicating with your finance team, here are a few helpful reminders:
- As in all financial matters, uncertainty and surprises are not welcome. Being able to regularly provide updates on changes in the content investment is important, as is notifying the finance staff of potential future increases in costs or pricing.
- The focus of these communications should be delivering a message that is straightforward and concise while avoiding unnecessary jargon.
- Providing data in a visual manner using charts and graphs can also make it much easier for those unfamiliar with the details of content purchasing to quickly understand the message.
Step Two: Identify and communicate with influential stakeholders
Having influential stakeholders who are willing to talk about the value and importance of content is an extremely valuable way to justify spending. These people are vouching for the need as outsiders of the actual information function, and that can lend credibility and insight into the actual use of the content.
The best champions for any cause are people who have recognition and influence within the organization. This recognition could be their position level, the function or project they are associated with, or the network of influence they hold. If the information organization can identify, communicate and count on the help of these influencers, defending content spend becomes much easier.
Interestingly, the most influential individuals may not always be the direct users of the content. However, finding the most influential people does still start with tracking who uses the content and what content is used most heavily.
Here is how you can identify appropriate influencers:
- Identify heavy usage trends for content.
- The usage of certain content types also matters. Heavy usage of a tool or resource that aligns with the core strategy of the organization will be a better story than usage of a tool that is more peripheral to the central needs of the organization.
- Once a pattern of usage is identified on key resources, it is important to find out who the users are. This can be done easily if the resource uses any sort of sign-on mechanism, such as single sign on or password access. It can be more difficult if the access is via IP authentication, although location of IP addresses can sometimes be tracked, though with difficulty.
- If users can be identified, one of the most effective ways to identify influential stakeholders who can help with the content message is to walk up the value chain of the organization. For example, if a lot of usage is taking place in a specific department, identify the manager of that department.
- The information manager should proactively approach this person and show the activity that is taking place in a brief presentation. Try to tie the type of content being used to the department’s strategy or goals.
- Repeating this process at higher functional levels should be done if multiple departments under a single function are leveraging the content in a broad manner.
Step Three: Hone the message
Knowing who to communicate with is important, as is how that communication occurs.
Understanding there are multiple demands on influential decision makers and stakeholders, it is imperative the information professional have a clear, succinct and targeted message.
- Keep the message concise, and remove jargon from presentations and discussions.
- Emphasize what is important to the stakeholder, and target the message to his or her strategies.
- Show information visually and in a way it can be easily used and repurposed.
- Keep the communication positive and aimed at building solutions around information needs.
- Go into discussions with key individuals and groups knowing exactly what you need, and be willing to state it directly. For example, “You can see this content is being used heavily by your organization and the information center has negotiated the best price and distribution model available. I need your help in communicating to Finance and my management the necessity of this content for the organization.”
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