Your 5-Step Plan for Creating a Great IT Business Case
From the board members to the interns, every member of every modern company knows they need new software. They just can’t agree on exactly which applications they need. As the CIO, you’re in a unique position: you not only know that your company needs a better application portfolio, you also know the exact solutions that will work best. All you need is a business case that convinces everyone else you have the right answers.
In today’s blog, you’ll learn the five critical steps you need to take to create a compelling business case that convinces your entire company to replace the outdated legacy apps you currently struggle with, so you can finally get the streamlined, secure, high-performance solutions you need.
But First, An Important Note…
This article will help you plan your business case so you can make the most persuasive argument possible, but you need to pay attention to how you express each point that you make.
Since you’re the only person in your company with the expertise to accurately identify both the technological problems and their solutions, it follows that you’re also the only person who can understand the in-depth tech terms you naturally use to explain yourself.
If you keep in mind that your business case’s objective is to secure buy-in from across the company, it’ll be easier for you to simplify your message so that anyone in your company can understand why your business case makes sense. Not sure how to write clearly? Check out these tips on jargon-free writing.
And now it’s time to start putting together your business case.
Step 1: Define the Current Problem
In these days of commodity hardware, virtualized environments, SDNs and MSPs, it’s easier than ever before to obtain IT solutions. However, today’s companies all need more IT capabilities so they can stay competitive.
Because of IT’s decades-long history of high costs paired with lightning-fast obsolescence, many top-level business stakeholders have become counterproductively cost-conscious – which explains why your environment features so many legacy applications with awkward integrations.
Your job in the beginning of your business case for new applications is to demonstrate how many resources your company is currently wasting due to inefficiencies. This will help your stakeholders understand the problems you see from the inside.
Do this: Create a baseline business IT assessment including your system’s current capabilities, processes, metrics and visibility, maintenance costs and risk factors (including regulatory and cyber security). This will help orient your audience to the current, wasteful expenditures you see every day.
Step 2: Clarify the Future Benefits
Once your stakeholders understand the true extent of the IT problem they face, it’s time to tell them about the optimal situation they could achieve. Don’t limit your suggestions to a single solution at this point; simply show them their possibilities for increased agility and flexibility, lowered costs and enhanced scalability.
Remember: communication is the key here. Don’t get bogged down in technical terms during this part of your business case. In order to keep your explanations reasonable, make sure you stay focused on the big-picture, high-level benefits that will materialize companywide. Don’t get too granular.
If you’ll be presenting your business case to a few different departments, consider tailoring some of the benefits to better align with the interests of each audience. As an example, you could talk about time savings with the HR department and you could talk about closing more deals when you present to the sales team.
Do this: Clarify both the long-term and immediate benefits, and make sure you tie everything back to your business’s objectives. Consider talking about how a new application would impact agility, competitiveness, revenues and productivity.
Step 3: Trace Where the Money Will Come From
In order to get your application’s business case approved, you’ll need to overcome the most common objection to new technology investments: the cost. Sure, tech investments can be pricy (it can cost up to $1.5 million to build an enterprise app and more to buy and customize one), but once you have the numbers, it can be surprisingly easy to justify your spending.
With all those legacy applications and outdated integrations, your company is likely to also be overspending on both shadow IT and IT time-wasters that require your skilled team to spend their days putting out fires and endlessly solving compatibility issues. With a new system, they’ll stop needless expenditures while they enjoy increased technological functionality.
Do this: Create a chart that shows how your new application will pay for itself with better compliance capabilities, customer service improvements, productivity boosts and increased agility. Make sure to show how the new application will compare to your current ineffective spending.
Step 4: Break Down the Costs
The name of the game in today’s business landscape is agility, and, as a rule, agility requires continuous improvement. Here on the Silent IT blog, we talk a lot about the OODA Loop Methodology—the constant revision process of “observe, orient, decide, act” that helps your company adjust operations and processes for ever-greater efficiency—but improvement requires flexible, agile technology as well.
In a system of continuous improvement and change, it’s reasonable to expect that your application needs and costs will fluctuate, which is both good news and bad news for your business case. The good news is that you don’t have to present a large, lump CapEx sum for application spending. The bad news… well, it’s that your application costs will continue to burn through OpEx forever. That can be a hard sell.
Do this: Support the idea of ongoing operating expenses by creating a timeline for your business case that outlines expected ROI at each stage of the project. As you phase in more new enterprise applications, you should also see increased payoffs in terms of productivity and revenues. Presenting those gains should help convince your stakeholders to say yes to your plan.
Step 5: Plan for the Future
As you wrap up your business case, make sure to mention how an updated application portfolio will help your organization achieve objectives now and in the future.
Agility requires your company to maintain its freedom to pivot quickly and easily without sacrificing efficiency, customer service or regulatory compliance. Show how your new solution can help the company avoid time-wasting workarounds and improve the quality of your service, product or office culture. Intangibles like these lay a strong foundation for your company’s future growth.
Do this: Create a framework to measure your ongoing progress and forward momentum toward business objectives. This will assist stakeholders in visualizing how the updated application will build the company down the road, and will also show that you’re taking initiative to ensure that the new solution is a success.
Moving Forward Is Key
As CIO of your company, you know that true business growth can only be achieved with the right applications, processes and systems in place. However, unless you already have what you need, it can be hard to find the time to create an in-depth business case that persuades stakeholders to pull the trigger and approve a big change.
If you’d like some assistance as you get started building your IT business cases, feel free to contact Silent IT for a helping hand.