Great business cases contain objective, compelling and effective information that allows senior managers to choose the projects with the best financial returns for their organizations.
Say you want to implement an enterprise content management (ECM) system. Your business case for purchasing the system could be that it would improve customer satisfaction, reduce onsite and offsite storage costs and require less time to complete routine tasks.
But depending on your organization, the steps to build that business case could be highly structured or relatively brief. Here are a few key points to consider as you build your business case.
Build your team
Building a cross-functional team allows you to examine solutions from multiple angles. Otherwise, you run the risk of developing a solution from one particular point of view—most likely your department’s—and overlooking a better solution or important costs and benefits.
Keep your group small—no more than six people if possible—so you can efficiently work out the best solution. Include the following types of team members:
- A financial representative. Someone from Finance can help establish current costs and benefits, and make accurate projections.
- Beneficiaries. Beneficiaries feel the pain you’re trying to solve, so addressing their concerns is important. Just remember that they might not always be objective!
- Someone who works with customers. If customers feel the pain the most, or if the proposed solution will affect them, include someone who knows what they care about.
- Experts from your network. If you can’t get all the information you need from the people you work with, reach out to your network of connections, vendors and partners.
Identify the best solution
Sometimes you’re identifying a solution to a problem that your boss has handed to you. Sometimes you’ve realized there’s a way you can dramatically improve processes at your organization. Or maybe you’ve gotten a request from a business unit to help out. (You can find some tips for prioritizing projects here.)
Regardless of how you got the project, you’re in charge of developing a solution. If you and your team are stuck for ideas, consider these techniques:
- Begin with the end in mind. Investigate what other organizations have done to accomplish what you’re trying to do. Would this approach work for your company?
- Anything you can do, I can do better! What would the project look like if IT took the lead? What about HR? Marketing? Accounting? A change in perspective can definitely change your project.
- If only things were different . . . What if you had twice the time to complete the project? Or half the time? What if you had an unlimited budget? What if you outsourced or insourced the work?
Remember, a business case addresses the question, “What happens if we take this course of action?” but you also need to consider the consequences of doing nothing. This will help you articulate the business need when you state your case.
For example: “If we stick with our current method of processing invoices, we will average a 21-day turnaround time. This project will drop that to two days, allowing us to avoid rehiring three positions.”
Get stakeholder buy-in
To build a strong case, you’ll need to sketch in broad strokes how your organization would implement the solution you’re proposing. This helps you see whose support you’ll need. If you start to think through the “how” and suddenly realize that HR and Accounting will have to contribute resources, you’ll need to get information from them and get their buy-in before you present the case.
Anne Hartman, IT Director of Oneida County, NY, attributes her success in getting stakeholder buy-in to a few key tips and tricks:
- Establish trust at the beginning of the project.
- Be transparent with what the goals are, and make sure you’re personally responsible for communicating the follow-through.
- If a goal can’t be met, call the stakeholders up, tell them the issue and manage their expectations.
Develop an ROI analysis
By building a business case based on ROI analysis, you’re better able to combat the concerns of limited resources and growing demand—so stakeholders can make a sound decision. Jakub Jedrezejczak, Enterprise Imaging Team Manager at Loudoun County, VA, says that when presenting to decision makers, hard numbers in terms of cost savings for office space, supplies and working hours can help your case.
While an ROI analysis may seem a bit daunting, taking the time to build a complete analysis will enable you to quantify and articulate the benefits your project will bring to your organization, ultimately helping you win the support of stakeholders.
This blog post offers insight into the four elements that shape an ROI analysis, including guides, checklists and a capabilities matrix to help you evaluate your needs.
Get the complete guide to building a business case with the Document Management Software Justification Toolkit.