One of the most oft-asked questions we get from supply chain professionals is about executive buy-in for new initiatives, software, or other demand planning solutions. Those directly involved with the day-to-day operations along the supply chain may recognize the issues and experience the broken processes and pain points, but they aren’t usually able to unilaterally decide upon a new course of action. To truly enact change and implement a solution that will propel a company forward, it’s important to get the support of those at the executive level.

Recognize that it's not just about you

A difficult, but critical first step is to take some time to examine the supply chain from outside the confines of your particular department and experience. The supply chain impacts several different areas of a company’s operations. Yet each department will have its own focus, goals, and internal processes. Get to know how they interact with the supply chain. Understand not only their frustrations and pain points, but also the aspects they appreciate about the current way of doing things. In order to find — and then convince others you’ve found — a solution that will increase productivity, enable more accurate forecasting, and ultimately streamline the entire supply chain, you must be able to articulate how your proposal will improve the entire organization.

Do your research

You need to build a strong business case that addresses two things: first, why it makes sense to change the status quo, and second, that your software solution is the best solution. Investigate what other companies in your industry have done and get a sense for their level of success with the solutions they’ve implemented. See what’s out there and compare and contrast your idea with other supply chain management software on the market. You should be well-versed in the strengths and weaknesses of each tool, including each one’s costs vis-á-vis its benefits (e.g., the ROI), so that you can convince others that your chosen software is right for your company’s forecasting, demand planning, and overall supply chain needs.

Get key players involved early 

Efforts to involve the executive team should start early on in the process — perhaps even before you’ve settled on a SCM solution, but certainly as soon as you’ve identified the software you’d like to implement and start talking to the sales team. Floating issues and ideas by them sooner rather than later will give executives the time to quietly examine the company’s inner workings through the prism of your thoughts. It will also encourage within them a deep sense of ownership over and engagement with the outcome, thus ensuring resources will be properly allocated to implement a solution.

Know your audience 

Step into the shoes of those on the executive team and consider what’s important to them. The executive’s role is strategic and focused on long-term growth on a company-wide level. A pitch that dwells on the details, such as functionality, user experience, and deployment, is likely to cause eyes to glaze over. While details are important to those who will use the tool day in and day out, executives just want to understand the impact your solution will have on the bottom line. To get buy-in for your ideas, your pitch must emphasize the same. When making your business case, describe how the software you’ve identified will directly support key business initiatives and improve profitability. Back up your assertions by providing examples of how this solution has benefited other companies and calculating the expected ROI.

Speak their language 

However well thought out your arguments are, they will fall on deaf ears if you fail to speak the right language. What data does your executive team like to see and how do they like information presented? Does your CEO prefer to see year-over-year data or a quarterly breakdown? Does the CIO abhor PowerPoint presentations or love them? For the best possible chance of getting executive buy-in for your ideas, it’s important to package your research and arguments the right way.

Lastly, remember green light is only the beginning for any Supply Chain solution

Getting executive buy-in for your initiatives doesn’t stop after approval is given. Just as implementing and maintaining any supply chain solution is an iterative process, engaging c-suite members is an ongoing effort. Devise a plan and look for software solutions that facilitate communication throughout the process. Establish clearly defined KPIs and milestones so that progress against those can be consistently monitored. Lastly, provide real-time visibility to key stakeholders so that everyone involved understands their role, what has been accomplished, and what still needs improvement.

Change is often initiated at the bottom, brought about by those who are knee-deep in the day-to-day operations of a company. But lasting change requires the backing and leadership of the top executives. The key is to build a strong business case that demonstrates how your proposal will add value to the organization as a whole. Our experts can guide you through the supply chain management software selection process, helping you make that case for change and ensuring that the solution you present to your executive team meets your company’s specific needs.