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Digital Workplace: how to convince the C-suite

7 tried-and-tested tactics to get buy-in for your project

One of the crucial steps in any major IT project is to secure C-level executive buy-in. Digital Workplace projects are no exception. Without firm commitment from the C-suite, your project is doomed to fail before it has even started.

We know from customers that getting that buy-in is not always easy. Much of the convincing game revolves around cost: a real pain, as it is not simple to calculate TCO or even to compare offers from different vendors.

In this blog, we’ll give 7 insider tips that can help you get the buy-in you need. Some are about cost. Other tactics revolve around non-financial issues such as the need for a communication strategy.

1: Try to utterly demystify TCO

Calculating the TCO of a Digital Workplace project is hard. The total sum of hardware, software and services is usually very complex, especially given the fact that some aspects can be taken on by either customer or supplier, for any given period of time - licencing is a good example. You can ask your vendor to construct a timeline, detailing who will bear which cost during which timeframe.

When it comes to comparing offers between vendors (something which we cover in detail further on), ask for a TCO breakdown in as much detail as you can, as this will help you compare apples with apples, instead of bananas. Again: this is something a vendor should be able to help you with.

2: Put a value on intangible gains

Many of the gains of a digital workplace project are ‘intangible’: higher productivity, improved business processes, increased happiness at work, better employer reputation etc. Try to allocate each of these advantages to a specific department or departments, and work with them to put a monetary value on it.
Take ‘reputation’: hr will greatly benefit from a brand lift as a great place to work. What could this mean in terms of decreased costs for, say, recruitment, employer branding or employee attrition? The same goes for productivity. If every employee frees up one hour a day as a result of the new workplace, what does that mean in terms of getting more core tasks done?

3: Talk about internal cost upfront

The most overlooked ‘cost’ in any project – be it a digital workplace project or any other – is the time and energy it requires from people on your side. A good vendor will work with you, in that they will try to make clear which workload from which type of resources you will need to factor in at which phase of the project. A timeline is a great visual to make this clear.

This will also allow you to plan ahead, and work out ways in which these dedicated resources’ workloads can be taken on by others - be it internal staff or external help – if it threatens to overwhelm them. You do not want people to burn out over the project! Some companies create a pool of ‘butterflies’, i.e. people from other departments who can be called upon to pitch in.

4: Share the budget load

We know that digital workplace projects benefit the entire business. Yet strangely enough, IT is often asked to shoulder the (entire) budget burden. As a result, when cuts need to be made, these occur in places IT departments do not consider to be crucial, such as change management. A bad move, as a lack of user adoption is the number 1 fail factor for IT projects worldwide.

Instead of looking for ways to make cuts, it makes sense to look for ways to share the budget burden. We already talked about allocating specific gains to specific departments (hr, communication, marketing, sales, …). The same goes for the budget. If you make clear who benefits to which degree from the digital workplace project, it is not so unusual to ask them to co-fund it.

5: Unearth hidden advantages

Make sure that you mention hidden and/or future advantages. For instance: when you migrate an environment that consists of Exchange, SharePoint and Outlook to Office 365, you get much more than an updated version of the features in those tools. To expand on this example: with Office 365 users get access to a whole range of extra (often: free) applications that help them communicate and collaborate more efficiently and effectively 24/7, anyplace, anytime and on any device.

By giving users access to a uniform set of extra tools within their new workplace, you actively help combat and decrease Shadow IT (a genuine headache for many a C-level executive) and reduce the risk of security breaches (a factor which is gaining in importance in digital workplace projects).

6: Connect the dots

A Digital Workplace project is not an island. When convincing the Board to invest in this, it makes absolute sense to show the connection to the company’s strategy, mission, vision and ambition whenever you can. Prove that the digital workplace is a tactic for the strategy, an enabler for the goals. Weave your story into the corporate story.

Another way of connecting dots is to translate IT capabilities into business value, for instance with a business value model. The people holding the purse strings are not interested in functions and features so much as they are in the (monetary) value the project will bring to the table.

7: Tell a convincing story

Digital Workplace projects are all about change. They urge, and sometimes force, people to adapt to (radical) new ways of communicating, collaborating and going about their daily tasks. This is exactly why people can be slow in accepting their new work environment, or even point blank refuse to embrace it. User adoption is a - if not ‘the’ – critical success factor in a digital workplace project.

That is why it is crucial to be able to tell a compelling story, and to explain not only what will change and when, but why and how and – most importantly – what’s in it for everyone involved. You basically have one shot at this, so the story better be easy to digest and even easier to pass on. Tip: give the project a (catchy) name, preferably one that symbolizes what you want to achieve with it.

So … are you thinking about starting a digital workplace project? Or in the midst of making a ‘Board-ready’ slidedeck? Show C-level you know upfront what’s important to them: anticipate their questions about cost and show you can tell a ‘sticky’ story in which all the dots are neatly connected.

More tips? Download our free guide for decision makers.

Getting the digital workplace right