Pitching the Boss on Automation

Engineers attending this year’s Exchange were afforded a wide range of Short Courses and Workshop opportunities to enhance and polish their technical skills.

Pete Sharpe
Pete Sharpe
But increasingly, engineers need to know more about the business side of their organizations. That topic came up for plenty of attention as well, with at least five Workshop sessions devoted to issues such as how to justify automation investments in ways that will make sense to management.

In one such Workshop presented on Wednesday afternoon and again on Thursday morning, Pete Sharpe, a Principal Consultant with Emerson Process Management, provided a comprehensive overview of how to build the case for automation. Once you’ve done all your homework, and you’re ready to head to the corner office, Sharpe said, you need to think about the best way to lay out your case. In the session, titled “Methodologies for Project Justification—Selling to Your Boss,” Sharpe projected a slide titled, “Developing the Pitch.”

As you prepared for your meeting, Sharpe recommends asking yourself these questions:

How does this project...
  • Support the company’s strategy and goals?
  • Address an acknowledged “pain?”
  • Return the funds invested?
  • Affect health, safety or environment?
  • Manage risks?
  • Achieve the goals of the department?
  • Impact the boss’s bonus?

Be Conservative

Further, don’t oversell the project, Sharpe recommended. “It’s guaranteed that you’re going to get challenged when you take it up to the boss,” he noted. While you can typically pin down the cost of an automation project pretty well, the future benefits are often less solid. So don’t promise something you are unsure that you can achieve, Sharpe said. “You should try to be as conservative as possible, so at the end of the day, when you do your post-audit, you can come back and say, ‘Hey, we did a lot better than we expected to in our evaluation.’ ”
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