Network engineers and other IT professionals are problem solvers and optimizers. If you work in this line of work, you may be thinking about upgrading your stack to improve efficiency and help your network perform better.
For many, these ideas may include emerging technologies, such as network automation, that require time, effort and money to implement. This means you need the support of business executives to realize your ideas.
As company leaders are typically focused on keeping the business running smoothly and increasing profits, network upgrades may not be a high priority. When making a case for change, you need to find a way to align your thinking with business goals. This can be a challenging process, but with perseverance and strong communication skills, you can be a strong advocate for the stack improvements you think you need.
[ Also read Digital transformation: 4 tips to keep it human-centered. ]
Let’s take a look at the best ways to engage with company leadership so you can create a compelling case for a new technology and generate interest around the transformative potential of your idea.
1. Combining storytelling with engineering knowledge
Being a good storyteller is essential to getting your ideas across with urgency. For business leaders who are busy running their companies, a functional network may not be the most important thing. Like a building’s plumbing, it’s hard to see the need to change something that’s already working. But you know the improvements will have real value.
The key to storytelling in a business setting is to help your audience understand why change matters by emphasizing benefits rather than features. A network engineer might immediately understand why a certain feature is important, but many on the business side don’t understand how a particular feature translates into benefits.
For example, you might understand why a 5% increase in process speed is a big deal, but you shouldn’t expect your audience to understand it in the same way. You must identify and emphasize benefits such as significant cost reductions, increased reliability, or improved morale.
If you’re not sure which benefits to focus on, start by highlighting and explaining the potential for increased efficiency. Gains on corporate profits are usually relatively easy to calculate and construct.
Start by highlighting and explaining the potential for increased efficiency. Calculate and determine the earnings of the company’s profits.
For example, if your networking team can become more efficient through a time-consuming but not intellectually challenging process, you can direct the team to move to more demanding or more failure-prone tasks. As a result, those challenging tasks are more likely to be completed, which makes the network more reliable. In some cases, more work capacity can also allow network engineers to work on more innovative projects, which can even translate into income-generating opportunities.
2. Get to know the leaders you talk to and build cross-departmental support
When defending new technology, keep your audience in mind. Tailoring your arguments to their roles and goals will allow you to better capture their attention and spark their enthusiasm.
Sometimes, this will require you to abandon strict business goals. For example, if you need to speak to a Chief Revenue Officer and are trying to justify paying an extra $100,000 for your tech stack, you will want to focus on the bottom line and the financial benefits your proposal can provide. On the other hand, an engineering lead may not be interested in finances, but rather discuss how engineers can better avoid burnout or otherwise become more manageable.
Working with a partner can go a long way when advocating for stack improvements. It’s great to have help from your boss or teammates, but it’s even better to find leaders from different teams or even other departments. If multiple departments have team members supporting a particular improvement, it is a strong indication that there is a general need for stack enhancements across the company.
3. Don’t give up on your vision
The most important thing for visionary engineers is not to give up. Even if you accept a fair amount of “no,” your persistence will likely pay off over time. The enhancements you help introduce will benefit your stack, the rest of your team, and your career. A willingness to advocate for new ideas sets you apart, while skills acquired through new technologies can help you reach senior roles faster.
If you find advocating for improvement challenging, know that it will get easier over time. Many of the most common technologies that engineers are now driving, such as automation, are becoming increasingly normalized in everyday executive conversations. In turn, this makes it easier for engineers to introduce them. And if you can score “yes” for small improvements, your small wins can serve as proofs of concept for bigger wins.
There is no guarantee that your stack improvement goals will become a reality, but with proper preparation, you can increase your chances of success. Becoming a stronger storyteller and building improvements based on benefits rather than features can make all the difference. If you can find champions for your cause in another sector, you can deliver a compelling story from multiple angles.
The effort required will be worth the progress you make towards more efficient network operations.
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