Roger Pence's Letter on Windows, Workgroups, and the Web August 16, 1999
With fall just around the corner, IT budget and planning meetings are on the agenda for many AS/400 shops. If your AS/400 shop is like most, your IT planning and budget meeting grinds on for a least a day and its biggest payoff is offering brief respite to sleep-deprived attendees. Use these 11 tips for better IT planning and budgeting meetings with your IT staff and top-level decision makers.
Have an action-oriented agenda. Prepare a one-page agenda that conveys each action item (there should be no more seven action items). Distribute this agenda well before the meeting and then provide each attendee a second copy when the meeting starts.
Agenda items should not only list the subject of the item to discuss, but also provide a one-line general goal of the discussion for that item. It's not enough to plan what to talk about, you must also plan why to talk about it.
Allocate a specific amount of time to each agenda item. Without time allotted, conversations generate enough hot air to float the Goodyear Blimp. Allocate time for each subject and be merciless about imposing that schedule. Note: a good way to use time wisely is to not break for lunch, but rather meet in a hotel room where you can get a catered-in cold lunch plate.
Stick to the agenda! Keep the meeting focused on the tasks at hand; the goal is to resolve each agenda item. If necessary, build in slack time at the end of each meeting for non-agenda items. Note: your meeting leader must be brutal and not tolerate digression from primary action item digression or your time schedule!
Make it professional. Give the meeting with your internal teams the same level of respect and preparation that you would with a customer presentation. Use PowerPoint, provide handouts, stand up when you talk-do all that basic meeting 101 stuff!
Keep it short. Top-level business decision makers generally have little patience for excruciating detail in IS planning meetings. Keep your meeting short and well focused. Tell your decision makers what they need to know, but tell them only what they need to know.
Help meeting contributors prepare. It's OK, and often even necessary, to delegate parts of the meeting to other staffers. However, before you do so, be sure you've spent the appropriate amount of time with them coaching and preparing them for their role in your important meeting.
Keep good minutes. The meeting is only as good as what people remember saying and hearing in the meeting. Appoint a good note taker and get the meeting minutes, with a detailed action item to-do list, distributed within 24 hours of the meeting.
Speak plain English. Top-level decision makers aren't nerds! Spare them the pain of buzzwords, acronyms and insider talk. Be careful here, you don't want to talk down to them or make them feel stupid. Top-level managers must understand the issues, but they must be made to do so without a patronizing or condescending tone.
Offer solutions. For each MIS action item, your top-level managers will need to make important decisions. In many cases, those managers need lots of help understanding potential solutions and their trade-offs. The goal of your MIS meetings with top-level management is to make the decision makers feel enlightened, not entrapped.
Follow up! This is the kiss of death for most IT planning meetings. The action items generated in the meeting must be monitored, reviewed and adjusted on a ongoing basis. If you're meeting annually to do this type of planning, it probably isn't enough!
This was first published in September 1999