By Kieran King
To understand what business case success look like, let’s first look at what failure looks like. Failure takes place when the business case:
- Is not in line with strategic business objectives;
- Lacks recognition of what is important to the CEO and CFO;
- Requests spend without financial benefit projections; and
- Uses HR and learning industry terminology that is a “different language.”
These failures all have one thing in common: they all relate to a learning and development-driven agenda and not a business-driven agenda. To develop a successful business case for elearning, you must consider how it is perceived and how it will impact the greater good of the organization.
Who can tell you how your business case is perceived and how it will impact the greater organizational good? No single stakeholder can. In fact, according to Corporate Executive Board (CEB), the average number of individuals involved in today’s buying decision is 5.4. The members of this buying team will often have differing agendas. That means that in order to get a cloud-based learning business case approved, you’ll need to identify each of the buying team stakeholders and secure their support by tailoring it to their specific priorities. Skipping or not fully addressing a stage will weaken a business case and reduce the approval probability for your online learning solution.
Stage 1: Define the Business Issue
- Identify the business opportunity or problem to be solved.
- Create a succinct description of what your proposal will deliver.
- The objectives should help your organization reach its overall goals and be aligned with the priorities of senior management.
- An example may be “reduce operating expenses” or “increase talent capability.”
- Develop an opportunity statement.
- This describes the benefits of solving the problem or seizing the opportunity.
- For example, “reduce HR budget and expand talent development to more employees.
Stage 2: Analyze the Alternatives and Select the Best Option
- Ask those closest to the issue for their ideas on possible alternatives.
- Research case studies of those inside and outside your field that have faced similar challenges and solved them.
- Collect information about each alternative.
- The goal is to weigh alternatives against one another in financial terms, intangible benefits and risk level.
- For the financial terms, a payback period and pro-forma ROI are often used to compare.
- Payback period illustrates how long it will take to recover the initial investment.
- ROI shows the monetary impact your investment is predicted to yield.
Stage 3: Prepare the Business Case
- After analyzing the alternatives you will prepare the written business case.
- The template you use to lay out your business case should have a simple and sound structure:
- Executive Summary
- Current Situation
- Analysis & Recommendation
Stage 4: Deliver the Business Case
- During this stage you “sell” your recommendations.
- Hone your persuasion and influencing skills.
- Rehearse with an informed, invested colleague.
- Plan the forum and format with care.
- Select the time, place and approach that suits the stakeholders best.
- Keep your presentation focused and concise.
- Avoid going into unnecessary detail and don’t meander off the point.
- Be prepared to deal with questions that may arise.
- Have you ever implemented a similar recommendation?
- What else might be needed that is not articulated in the business case?
- What assumptions have you made that your stakeholder may disagree with?
- Tip: Determining shared goals amongst the stakeholders will help them see the common goals for themselves to enable a stronger, more unified and supported stance.
Kieran King is Global VP, Loyalty Strategy at Skillsoft. Follow her on Twitter @kieranmking.