5 Keys to Successful Budget Requests
1. Don’t Rely on Engineering Budget Alone
Rhiannon: When people first come to us, they’re often trying to fund the whole 3D Data transition within Engineering because they don’t realize how cross-functional it is. They don’t know they should be asking for money from other groups or at a higher level.
Michelle: Yes, to really be successful with our Strategic Program, it needs to be a cross-functional team, ideally right from the start.
Jennifer: And it needs to be cross-functional funding as well because then everybody has skin in the game and they’re all spending their special initiative budget upfront. If everybody had an equivalent percentage of the budget across say, engineering, operations, supply chain, and IT, they are all invested in the success of the 3D data transition.
Rhiannon: I think the engineers who come to us initially can lose sight of the magnitude of the change, in part because engineering, in many ways, is the group whose daily work changes the least of all of the groups that get affected by this data. Their work is disrupted the least, so they come to us thinking this is this tiny little disruption, not realizing that it’s an earthquake farther down the line.
Michelle: That’s why we prioritize what we do in the early phases. Together we figure out how to tell this as a cross-functional story so that you can get a cross-functional budget.
Jennifer: Cross-functional team, cross-functional budget, cross-functional goals… Enterprise-level win.
2. Minimize Momentum Loss
Michelle: We lose momentum when the budget is piecemeal for our strategic program. So, we might work on a step like Readiness Assessment together, but then there’s usually a lag where we’re waiting for procurement and contracting to contract us for the next step. During that period, both teams lost the momentum that was generated during the first step.
Jennifer: And that slows everything down. In the beginning, everybody says, “Oh, Jennifer, how long does READY SET GO take?” And I say:
- It always depends on you
- If everything were perfect, it takes 18 months at a minimum.
Generally, that’s more like two or three years in our experience. If we want to hit the minimum 18-month mark, we can’t have 6-9 months of procurement processes between each step. 80% of the time, the procurement paperwork takes six to nine months.
Michelle: And all the excitement that we have in the beginning gets lost in that timeframe when we’re waiting for six to nine months to get started with the next phase of the project.
3. Work with our Strategic Program Phases
Rhiannon: We would advocate for buying an entire phase at a time. If you’re going to do READY, do all of READY, if you’re going to do SET, do all of SET. There’s always flexibility in that, there are always things that we can shift and pare down. Oh, you already have a team? Then that cuts a couple of workshop activities. But we still need to align that team around a set of common vocabulary and understanding, even if the team already exists. It is more expensive to do each step than to do the whole phase at once. Part of the reason that we created phases is that we understand that budgets are hard, we know you can’t fund from READY all the way to GROW all in one year’s worth of budget.
Jennifer: Partly because it will take more than one year to get it all done.
Rhiannon: But READY and SET can be done reasonably in a year.
Jennifer: We also see customers lose a lot of momentum when we’re switching from the end of one fiscal year to the start of another. If we could keep that momentum going over multiple years, that decreases the total amount of time that we’re spending together. A lot of the later phase work is ongoing coaching that is cheaper if it’s more efficient.
Rhiannon: It would also be hard to anticipate the budget needed for the GO phase until we all know what we’re going to pilot and how many capabilities we are going to pilot with. There is information we derive in the READY and SET phases that feeds into both the timeframe and the budget for the GO and GROW phases.
Michelle: It certainly does, but I do think a range of costs that we could expect for those later phases is a conversation worth having so we can see the big picture even if we’re not getting all of the budget approval upfront.
4. Accept that Making Complicated Things Simple is HARD
Jennifer: This is all about data that is easier to understand. Since the outcome looks simple and straightforward and intuitive, whether they’re 3D models or AR or VR, people think the implementation is easy, when it’s actually quite the opposite. Making something super simple for the entire enterprise to adjust to and take on is extremely difficult. Anybody who’s done any implementation knows this, but they’re not always appreciating the complexity of the level of implementation. They want to spend $20,000 and have it all done. That’s just not enough money to sink your teeth into all the detailed problems. It’s enough money to potentially make everybody angry and resistant when you come back and try it again.
Rhiannon: There are so many different things and people we need to take into account. This is a jazz composition, not a jingle. There’s that Charles Mingus quote:
Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.
Rhiannon: This is a really complicated and disruptive thing, so for people to digest it and buy into it and be willing to be trained on it, we need to be creative about simplification as Mingus defines it. We need to figure out how to tell the simple story, and that takes a while.
Jennifer: It takes time, because we’re dealing with human brains, and it takes them time and space to think in new ways.
5. Tie It to Executive Level Initiatives
Michelle: It’s so important to have an executive-level sponsor or some enterprise initiative where this is bought into by senior folks at the company.
Jennifer: Otherwise, it’s way too threatening. When you start bringing up new ideas, people go, “Well, I can’t do that, because that’s not part of my job.” Well, no, it’s a new thing. With executive momentum, people have more license to consider the new thing everyone is buzzing about.
Jennifer: The ‘new thing’ buzz is one tack to take. The buzz I’m hearing lately at the top brass level is “Oh, I want AR and VR.” Of course you do. But if you want that, you need to do this first. You must do this first, because all that technology is worthless without good data. And to build good data, you must have teams that are set up to create good data.
Rhiannon: Or tie it to other things that executives care about. Another budget tack to take is: “You did your Lean stuff, and it’s been great, but there is no more efficiency to be gained. So take all of that money that you have sitting out there for continuing to Lean your organization and put it towards this and get some big leaps in process improvement.
Michelle: Process improvement is another way to think of the budget: where is your value stream improvement and your process improvement? How can you tie the 3D data transformation in with that budget, rather than thinking of this as a technical budget?
Jennifer: That’s a good point. It’s kind of an aha moment that happens when we get through with the READY phase, and people say “Oh, you mean this is process improvement we’re doing?”
Rhiannon: It’s so much more than just a technological change or a tool upgrade. But I think a lot of people come to us thinking it’s primarily that.
Jennifer: You need all those things. You need a technology change, you need a tool upgrade, and you need an entire enterprise to look at the way you do business today.
The READY phase is about understanding the concerns and aspirations of your organization, helping you strategize how to talk about this transition, how your data will need to change, and how to create the team to tell that story. Come talk to us about getting started.