By John Miller, Real CIO Consulting

The Information Technology Department provides many cutting-edge solutions and products to make users and processes efficient and drive profitable business success for the Enterprise.

I would frequently receive more requests than my team could handle. Given our finite resources, I learned early in my CIO career that I would never be able to immediately fulfill every request, but I still want to help everyone be successful. So, how does the technology community keep up with the demand for interesting, albeit unnecessary requests? You need to learn how to say “No”. . . correctly.

Resources are finite. Budget dollars are finite. Both are well below the amounts needed to make everyone happy. If you cannot prioritize valid business needs above the “I want it” requests, you will overspend your budget. In reality, providing a technologically superior infrastructure and business environment make the C-Suite team much happier than doling out the latest gadgets. Here are some saying “No” strategies.

• Start with a Solid, Approved Policy:

One of the first recommendations I make when I consult is to draft solid IT Policies for processes and acceptable use. These policies must be detailed, specific, unambiguous and have sufficient support from the top. Specifying what equipment is standard for each employee shifts the blame, and there will be blame, from the CIO to the Policy. When a VP requests a second laptop for travel because the first laptop “is really my desktop and it’s kind of heavy for travel,” you can point to the Endpoint Policy and quote the approved practice that “every authorized user will receive either one desktop or one laptop based on the business needs of the position.” Or my favorite request: “I want a new iPhone X because he/she/they/you have one and it looks pretty cool.” Again, you can point to the Mobile Device Policy and quote the approved practice that “Mobile devices are provided for VP positions and higher and will be replaced every two years as necessary.”The IT Policy Manual can be your best friend.

• Require an ROI:

I’ve spent most of my career reporting to the CEO or the CFO of my organization. These two positions are the most interested in the finances of the business. Requiring an ROI for Technology requests plays perfectly into this scenario. See the first bullet point. A required ROI should be in the Technology Procurement Policy. I received countless help desk requests for hardware, software, new applications and application changes. All cost money, either direct labor, contract labor or capital. My IT budget identifies an ROI for every line item for which I need funding to make advances or avoid obsolescence. Users should as well. Users see the ROI requirement as a hoop through which they have to jump. I see it as a way I can help them justify their request to my financial resource controlling boss. And here is the best part, I will help you craft the ROI. I really want to help you and if your request will provide an acceptable return, I want it as badly as you do. With no ROI calculation or no return on this investment, I will say “No” to your request.

• Maintain a List of Approved Technology Devices:

I hate to keep referring back to Policies, but they really are your best friend. Your policy manual should include a list of approved hardware and software. This list should cover all Endpoint device offerings as well as what you support on the Enterprise platforms. If your standard end user suite is MS O365, no one gets to use Lotus Notes or Google Docs, even though “it worked great at my last job.” If your standard is iOS mobile devices, then I have to reject your request for the latest Android phone. I may love the Android platform, but I have limited resources to support mobile devices and supporting more than one is a hardship for the IT Team.

Don’t get me wrong. You cannot always hide behind your policies and requirements. Sometimes the CIO needs to be the bad guy and say “No” because the request is just not valid. But if you can provide an objective reason based on policy or value, the rejection is more easily accepted.

Here is the upshot, I love technology. I love deploying new gadgets and software. I love seeing technology drive business success. I also have limited resources to support the Enterprise. My job is to prioritize how we allocate time and money to provide and support technology. The measuring stick I will always use is the value to the company of the device or solution requested. It’s never personal. It’s never to be mean or uncooperative. I read a quote that says, “Technology is the drug of choice for most business leaders.” For those with whom I’ve worked in the past, it’s been a pleasure being your dealer!

Real CIO Consulting is a Professional Services organization founded to provide Technology Assessments or Interim CIO Consulting Services to companies requiring Strategic IT leadership. It provides mentoring services to those looking to advance in their technology careers. Most importantly, it is founded to “Pay IT Forward” for a career that has been so rewarding.