What not to forget in your business case for new tech
The rationale for investing in new technology can appear obvious to those swimming in the everyday reality of not having that tech available - or the lacklustre business results that flow from that.
Still, tech projects often fail to get started, stall, or don’t measure up to expectations because of a lack of stakeholder buy-in, genuine misconceptions or a lack of alignment with business strategy.
What they often lack is a bullet proof business case for their new technology investment.
The case for a business case
While the size and value of a new technology investment will influence how robust a business case needs to be, the fundamental reasoning for one is sound across all sorts of technology decisions.
A popular definition defines a business case as a structured proposal for business improvement through technology that functions as a ‘decision package’ for organisational decision-makers.
While providing all the information to make a decision, it also critically serves to set the goals for the tech project and creates buy-in among stakeholders to ensure holistic commitment and success.
Without a thorough business case, businesses can end up with a lack of clarity on exactly what should be achieved as well as the value of the individual technology that has been selected.
Four things to include in your next tech business case
1. A defined business situation or problem
Be clear about the business problem your new technology project is attempting to solve. As part of an executive summary or detailed outline of the situation being faced, your business case needs to focus less on the bells and whistles of a solution and more on the improvement it is delivering.
When recommending a new Learning Management System, for example, an education provider could note the market shift towards online and blended learning, the risk of disruption due to COVID-19, the need to augment pedagogies or better understand students through analytics.
2. An emphasis on the business benefits
Define the expected benefits of the technology investment. Ensuring you closely align these benefits with the problem or situation, these should demonstrate the underlying value the technology will add to the business, rather than providing esoteric techy descriptions that may not resonate.
Good benefit descriptions often include clear examples as well as higher level statistics. For example, a Student Management System may save an administrator two days a week processing new student admissions, in comparison with headline stats that show a department will gain 30% efficiency.
3. Transparent costs and return on investment
Include a detailed assessment of the costs associated with the investment, as well as an honest – not overhyped – estimate of the return on investment (ROI) that decision makers can expect. The key aim should be to achieve transparency and realistic expectations of value for the organisation.
Your cost estimates should include both initial costs like licenses and training as well as future items like subscription fees or additional module adoption. Ideally, these would be mapped into the future with a ‘total cost of ownership’ figure that spans the expected lifetime of the new technology.
4. A plan for implementation and governance
A business case should clearly outline how the technology will be implemented. Key inclusions here are a timeframe for the roll-out of the technology across the organisation, as well as who will need to be engaged in the project to ensure that it is appropriately resourced for success.
Be sure to include key milestone dates as part of the timeframe including your project kick-off, any agreed phases of release, ‘go-live’ dates and training to bring your team up to speed. A good rule of thumb is to put names as well as position titles into your plan to clarify project governance.
Going beyond the business case
A business case is not the only thing that will get a technology decision over the line. In the end, there will be a lot of informal and formal work that will go into preparation with internal and external stakeholders, that will (hopefully) mean a decision is made before being presented.
However, a well-constructed business case is the document on which all those conversations, negotiation and commitment will rest. In clearly outlining the value of the solution being proposed, it will ensure everyone is on the same page both at the point of decision - and into the future.