Building an IT Business Case That Actually Sells

To build a business case that sells, you will, of course, need all of the information from the typical business case above. But, what is different is:

  • how you present that information, and

  • how you anchor it in reality.

In short, we're talking about what I referred to as the "two key ingredients" at the start of this article:

1. An outcomes-based vision: How you present the business case really matters. Don't make the executive suite wait for the meat. Start off strong. At the outset of your presentation, declare the outcome that your project will deliver. Describe that outcome in crisp operational terms using clear business metrics. For example: For a new A/P system, the metrics might be increased use of early pay discount, or reduced cycle time for invoice processing. For a campaign management system it might be reduced cost per contact. Whatever metrics you choose, make sure to show them in terms of before and after. Before = Where they stand today. After = Where they will be as a result of the project. Then, you continue your business case by quantifying the value of moving these hard-core operational metrics from where they are today to where they will be in the future as a result of your project. It's compelling because you have everyone on the same page with you from the start. But (and this is a big but), for the numbers supporting your metrics to hold up to executive scrutiny you need the second ingredient.

2. The promise of real-life change: For example, rather than presenting a business case supported by a mushy statement of "enabling marketing to do multi-channel campaign management in house," phrase it like this: As a result of the project, marketing will actually be DOING multi-channel campaign management in house. And then spell out the specific programs that will be done. Focus on actual, real, tangible changes in the real world. There is a huge difference between investing money to "enable" something and investing money to actually "do" something. Yes, I know, that's a tough assignment. It means getting a crisp commitment from business users about what they will be doing differently in the real world as the result of the project. We're talking about real-world change commitment, not just requests for capabilities. It's huge. But that's also why it has power to sell. Because it truly makes the project a business project.

The Result

When you add these two ingredients into your business case mix, you have a highly compelling story. You start by presenting a target vision in terms that are highly meaningful to the executive suite. Then you back it up with specific actions that will be taken to ensure that the targets are achieved. What could be stronger than a vision with known and defined business outcome targets accompanied by a set of easily tracked business metrics.

Now that's a business case that sells.

Next week...the ultimate secret weapon for selling your projects.

About the Author

Marc J. Schiller, author of "The 11 Secrets of Highly InfluentialIT Leaders," is a speaker, strategic facilitator, and an advisor on the implementation of influential analytics. He splits his time between the front lines of client work and evangelizing to IT leaders andprofessionals about what it takes to achieve influence, respect andcareer success. Download a free excerpt of his book at http://11secretsforITleaders.com

This article was originally published on 09-21-2011
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