October 5 2015

Building a strong business case for any technology project can be a challenging activity.  It can be so obvious to you and your team that a compelling change must happen or new system is needed, but others must be convinced and brought on board.  Competing priorities, challenging financials and educating internal stakeholders are just some of the hurdles. 

At AVIO, we are experienced at working with clients to envision a solution that meets the needs of their business users, building a model to sell internally and assisting with the business case process.  In this blog, I am going to cover some advice from our years of solution development that you can use in building a strong justification for your program.
 
1.  Tell A Story and Build a Vision
As you build consensus for your solution, be sure to capture it in a vision that tells a story.  That story might be how much better your solution will make your sales process, how much more efficient a data integration will make your operations team or the impact in the market that a new mobile solution will have for your company.  If you can get excited about it, so will others around you.
 
A few areas to cover in your vision:
  • Ensure you can deliver the benefits in your elevator pitch quickly and crisply.
  • Use images and pictures to tell the story.
  • Use a "before and after" comparison to show your audience the future.
  • Tie it to something sexy or on the top of mind with IT or Business leadership:  Mobile, Internet of Things (IoT), user experience / digital experience— these are the drivers we are seeing in the marketplace, even though underneath there are still integration and process management concepts at the core.
  • Bring in some third party or analyst backing to help add an outside validation to your proposal.
 
2.  Ensure you have facts to back it up
Regardless of the vision, you will still need hard cost justifications in most cases to get the investment you need for the solution. Efficiency will always matter - redirecting investments to higher value projects by optimizing process or integrations is always a win.
 
One approach is to use general hard cost takeout categories (see figure) and brainstorm various areas you can commit to benefit.  This works best when IT and the business are partnered together.
 
Tip: If you get stuck, one approach I have used is to simply toss out examples or cost savings with blank dollar amounts.  This will drive a discussion and get people talking about what benefits they are willing to sign up for.  This can be very valuable when the stakeholder does not know where to start or is struggling.
 
In addition to the benefit side, ensure you put adequate time into the costs to implement and run the solution.  Oftentimes, business cases focus too much on the benefits and don't cover the true cost to the business. I realize this can be a tightrope, but you want to build confidence that you have thought through things and not lose credibility if someone picks apart the "I" in ROI!  Look to a quality partner like AVIO to help ensure you have your bases covered on the cost and the opportunity side of things.  Missing a key investment might make the numbers look better, but could put the entire success of the project at risk.
 
 
Another approach I have used is to walk the proposal around and ask for input from a few key benefactors and detractors.  Pulling in some folks closer will demonstrate you are open to feedback and might prevent a landmine farther on in the process.  For example, asking a detractor "Are there any benefits you would like to see that would convince you to support this proposal?" can go a long way to building consensus.
 
In the end, having two or three key financial benefits that make the entire case will allow you to add smaller hard and soft benefits that will be icing on the cake.
 
3.  Don’t bite it off all at once — unless you have to...
If your solution is a new process or integration project, use a phased approach and decision gates to ask for investments in two or three chunks vs. all at once.  This will allow you to prove value and increase leadership confidence in your delivery.  
 
 
There are several reasons not to use a phased approach:
  • The biggest benefits might only accrue at the end or after a major investment.
  • Some companies have very complex and detailed approval processes - going through the overhead may be something you only want to do once.
 
Building business cases can be a long and sometimes challenging process. I hope these tips were useful and give you some ideas to try.
 
If you are going to be at Oracle OpenWorld 2015, we'd love to have the opportunity to disuss the impacts of digital disruption. Please register for our Cocktails and Conversation event being held at OOW if you'd like to talk with us a bit more about taking advantage of cloud, mobile, social, and real-time analytics. You can also stop by our booth at Moscone South #726 any time during the OpenWorld conference as well. 

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