Hippos are one of the most dangerous animals on the planet. When it comes to getting IT projects off the ground, "HiPPOs" can be just as lethal. Here's how to tame the high-level execs in your company who get in the way of your work.
Hippo picture from Shutterstock
HiPPO stands for "Highest Paid Person’s opinion" or "Highest Paid Person in the office". It refers to when a leader in an organisation calls all the shots and are often one of the major roadblocks for getting IT projects across the line.
Larger enterprises may have the luxury of having a CIO and CTO that understands the benefits of rolling out a new piece of technology to their organisations. For organisations that don’t, decisions may rest on a business leader who has a shallow understanding of IT and tramples a project based on gut instinct, perceived resource constraints or the "if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it" mentality.
So how do you tame a HiPPO? Often people fear defying their superiors but managing your manager is part of the solution. In today’s organisations, the role of a leader is not to be a king who lords over his subjects issuing decrees.
As we have noted in the past, being a leader doesn't mean deciding everything for the staff working under you – sometimes it's better to just get out of the way of people who know what they're doing.
If you want to sell your IT project to a stubborn HiPPO, the best thing you can do is be prepared. Think of all the questions or objections they may have and answer them based on existing data — it's harder to argue against cold hard facts.
Another thing to remember is to relate the facts to business outcomes. This is one of the biggest challenges for IT departments. If you have trouble communicating business benefits from rolling out new technology to your HiPPO, IT vendors often produce case studies to demonstrate how the business benefits from their products, so use them to your advantage. Don’t be afraid to stand up to the HiPPO, especially if you have the facts on your side.
Have you ever had to sweet-talk a HiPPO into adopting a common-sense business investment? What tactics did you employ to get the project over the line? Share you stories in the comments section below.