Executive Buy-In for Modernisation Projects


05 March 2024


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Modernisation projects are essential for organisations to stay competitive and relevant in today's fast-paced business environment. However, the success of these projects often hinges on one crucial factor: executive buy-in. In this article, we'll explore the importance of executive buy-in for modernisation projects and provide a roadmap for creating alignment and delivering executive buy-in across an organisation.

Why Buy-In Matters?

Executive buy-in is the approval and support from senior leaders within an organisation for modernisation projects. It's critical for the success of modernisation projects for several reasons.

  1. Having the support of the executive leadership ensures alignment with the organisation's strategic goals. This alignment helps to ensure that the modernisation project is in line with the organisation's overall direction and priorities.
  2. Buy-in provides commitment, in turn this gives access to the resources and support necessary to successfully execute a modernisation project. This includes financial resources, personnel, and other forms of support that are essential for the project's success.
  3. It helps to foster a culture of innovation and change within the organisation. When the executive leadership is supportive of modernisation efforts, it sends a clear message to the rest of the organisation that change, and innovation are valued and encouraged.

Case Studies

There are numerous examples of successful modernisation projects that had strong executive buy-in. For instance, TAFE QLD's modernisation project was a success due in large part to the support of the executive leadership. On the other hand, there are also examples of failed modernisation projects that lacked executive buy-in, such as NSW $500 million TAFE upgrade.

We’ve learned that from Proof of Concept's (POC) with Police NSW and TMR, making changes within an organisation is just as challenging as developing the solutions. We’ve also observed how effective executive buy-in can be. For instance, Aptus, modernised their spreadsheet into a digitised design and ordering tool, originally developed by the CEO who mandated the modernisation. This initiative garnered company-wide support and is now a core component enabling the organisation to scale.

Creating Alignment

One way to create buy-in is to involve stakeholders early in the process by building and managing a product roadmap. This helps to increase momentum and ownership, as people are more likely to support something they had a hand in shaping.

It's also important to ensure that the roadmap is based on a sound strategy, is realistic, and is fully supported. This can be achieved by channelling the passion and energy of the executive leadership into the process, to avoid changes at the 11th hour, flawed assumptions, and a lack of alignment.

Mitigating Lack of Buy-In

If there is a lack of buy-in from the executive leadership, there are several steps that can be taken to mitigate this. First, spend time with all stakeholders at the beginning of the process to understand their concerns and ideas. Ask for the executive leadership's ideas and the most critical development projects, and explain the importance of including other stakeholders.

It's also important to run the process quickly and ask the executive leadership to choose who to involve in modernisation. This helps to ensure that the process is efficient and that the right people are involved. Finally, be sure to keep stakeholders updated throughout the process to maintain their buy-in and support.

Gathering Customer Knowledge

Before commencing the roadmap process, it's essential to arm yourself with direct qualitative research from the customer. This can be achieved by initiating a research group, asking customers yourself, participating in sales or customer service meetings, reaching out to customers directly, or observing them using the product.

Ask customers why they started using the product, what other market options they reviewed, why they continue to use the product, and what they wish was different. This information will be invaluable in creating a roadmap that is aligned with the needs and desires of the customer.

The Roadmap Process

Once you have gathered customer knowledge and mitigated any lack of buy-in, it's time to start the roadmap process.

  1. Begin by understanding the product strategy, by answering questions about the business goals, how success will be measured, the benefits provided to customers, competitors, differentiation, and target customers.
  2. Identify the milestones by understanding the barriers, customers' decisions, product strategy, market research, and product evolution. Estimate the effort required to achieve these milestones by seeking feedback from the product or engineering team.
  3. Build the strawman by sequencing and scheduling the milestones on a timeline according to priority and development capacity. Check alignment by reviewing the strawman with all business leaders and modifying the roadmap directly in the meeting.
  4. Once the roadmap is complete, it's time to evangelise it by ensuring alignment flows down the organisation and presenting the roadmap to those impacted by it.
  5. Finally, maintain the roadmap by updating it when new information is learned, such as changes in customer needs, competitor information, or development time and cost.

Project Management Approach

At a large scale, there are many different approaches to project management. While they all follow the same general themes for starting a project as outlined above, it’s important to embrace your organisation's project management approach. A widely adopted method in government is PRINCE2. To follow this roadmap process, you’ll need to consider getting a mandate from the executive and ensuring there’s a project board to manage the business case. Check out this guide to starting up a project from the PRINCE2 Wiki.


In conclusion, executive buy-in is essential for the success of modernisation projects. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can create a roadmap that has buy-in at the top level of the organisation and is supported by all stakeholders. This will help ensure the success of your modernisation project and position your organisation for continued growth and success.

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David Burkett

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