The Elevator Pitch: The Kick-off for Writing Successful GIS Business Cases

By Greg Duffy

The elevator pitch or what some prefer to call the executive pitch is at all times the complete embodiment of the project: its trigger, its concept and its payback. In only 20 to 60 words the pitch is brief, attention getting, powerful, convincing and memorable. Even if you never get to bump into the CEO on the elevator for a few floors, never get to pitch her about your critically strategic project, the pitch is always the key. If you can’t master the pitch, you may never master the entire case.
The Executive Pitch takes only 15 to 35 seconds but it fully explains the what, why, when and how of the proposed GIS and IT investment project. It explains the problem, the effects and the solutions under study. Often the explanation is indirect, such as when the opportunity to own fewer trucks occurs. In this case you need not say anything about selling extra trucks or buying fewer trucks; all you need to say is that fewer trucks will be idle, which is good and which is the trigger that enables less trucks. CEOs get it. Usually.
The pitch is the critical start because if you can’t describe the issue quickly and powerfully then you likely will never fully “sell” your solution even as the problem persists.  The pitch is what all other parts of the business case “prove” or support and is the core of the executive summary when it gets written. If your audience doesn’t get the pitch, they, too, may never master the whole case.
Pitch = problem + solution – issues = benefits  
Perhaps your story is about a problem that needs fixing in order to survive, compete or grow; a problem that will require an upgrade or a replacement of current technology in order to be dealt with effectively.  
e.g. "Our website and call center agents need a responsive display of local construction projects, especially those impacting walking to buses, that will be current and location accurate.' (28 words)
e.g. "Our municipality must ensure wheelchair access at every sidewalk corner but we don’t know how many we have, how many are already compliant or how many will require reconstruction. We can’t accurately budget the work or even prove to the feds that we did it. Half the funding is federal." (50 words)
Perhaps your story is about an opportunity that appears available for exploitation as long as technology investments are made to arm your company with the right tools, skills and processes, preferably before your competitors. 
Some examples:
A good, complete but lengthy description: 
e.g. “a GIS-based project that uncovers the very high cost this year of managing our fleet of 275 trucks and how a GPS driven application of a Fleet Management System will minimize our fuel expenses and cut some overtime, will optimize our delivery completion rates while we maximize intervals for vehicle maintenance as this will extend vehicle lifetimes significantly by up to 25 percent” (64 words spoken in 24 to 32 seconds)
Or somewhat better:
e.g. “an application to install a GIS/GPS driven Fleet Management System to minimize today’s fuel expenses and cut overtime, to optimize delivery completions while maximizing vehicle maintenance intervals, thus extending the lifetimes of our 275 vehicles significantly, almost 25%” (38 words spoken in 16 to 21 seconds)
Or very much better:
e.g. “a GIS/GPS driven Fleet Management System that minimizes fuel, overtime, delivery failures and optimizes fleet maintenance that extends our 275 vehicle lifetime a significant 20-25 percent” (26 words spoken in 14 to 18 seconds) 
Short, but still about 189 characters. Can you trim this to 140 for Twitter?
Or the one-floor, one-stop, Twitter-ready elevator ride version:
e.g. “a GIS fleet system that lowers operating costs and extends truck life” (11 words spoken in no time at all, 65 Twitter-ready characters)
Can you see here how each shorter pitch loses adverbs and adjectives and the occasional topic but gets no less powerful even as it gets shorter? In fact, some could argue that they actually get more powerful because they get shorter while retaining their punch.
Scope Statement: One of the best attributes of keeping the pitch as your key message is that it is, in fact, your first and best scope statement. This first attempt to describe what you think should be done, why, for whom, to what benefit and to remove which issues is a very powerful and memorable statement of scope. Not only up front but throughout the marketing of your project case, the explanation of the story comes back to the scope of the pitch. Once you have a full business case and executive summary and your dreams (or nightmares) are about to launch ... your pitch reminds you so easily and so quickly about the uniqueness of the problem and the focus of the cure. CEOs remember these, and remember you. Usually.
Try one now for a project you worked on before or believe has merit for proposal now. It is not that hard to do, but it is also not as easy as it looks. Good pitching!

Published Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

Written by Greg Duffy