Most company leaders accept the theory that investment in technology and innovation could greatly benefit their organisation. However, in the day-to-day grind and busyness, it can be quite a leap to get it signed off, implemented and up and running. We get it, it often feels like there’s too much to deal with and you’re spinning too many plates, especially when every day there’s been a new disruption – from pandemic to supply panic, Brexit, inflation and talent shortages!
According to the Material Handling Industry’s 2022 report, it was unanimous across all potentially beneficial technologies featured in the survey, that the biggest barrier to adoption is the ‘lack of a clear business case to justify the investment’.
We’re experienced in helping supply chain superheroes create a cross-functional business case for business leaders, finance stakeholders, technology teams, data departments and operations experts. We can’t say that our approach will necessarily work for robotics and automation, or driverless vehicles and drone technology, but we’ve found it certainly helps our clients sell the story for supply chain software!
Know Thy Audience
A great business case provides structure and support for the decision-making process for all stakeholders and as a first step, it’s imperative to understand who is involved and what their primary drivers are. This “needs mapping” is a shortcut to success – think of it as consumers who you’re trying to convince to buy your product. The better you understand their motivators, the more likely you are to succeed.
Frame with Context
Every element of the business plan should always track back explicitly to the overall company strategic vision that defines its overall objectives. Much of the difficulty with making a business case for change is that this link is lost in translation.
Some questions to help frame your case with context are:
- What are the company’s strategic growth initiatives over the next 2-3 years?
- What opportunities and challenges are top priorities?
- What needs to happen to make the vision a reality?
- And what information does the leadership team require to make smart decisions?
This framing is often a challenge in itself – but asking in a non-combative or confrontational way:
- So what?
- What’s in it for me/ them?
- What does this help achieve?
Relentlessly asking “why” like a toddler may be annoying but it’s actually a popular problem-solving technique and that’s exactly what you’re trying to do… solve the problem of business success.
The first step is to assess the options for change. This involves the identification of the need and defining how the business case should be approached. This also means putting together the components of the business case and structuring the case whilst considering the audience and context above.
Once the business case components are defined, then begins the hard work of getting a situation analysis together. We’ve found in the past that collecting data to support the business case is a circular problem when the problem itself is data collection!
Even with this in mind, the scoping process should detail the exact problems and the impact on the business. It’s also important to estimate the baseline costs of making this change.
What many people forget is that inaction is also costly. What’s the cost to the business if we DON’T do this? Will we be uncompetitive? Stifled in growth? Operationally inefficient? Unable to scale? Bleeding profit?
The Numbers Game
This is where the business case gains momentum for the business leaders and finance departments. From completing many RFPs for supply chain technology, there are often clear categories of cost benefits that need to be identified, then backed up with quantification and some clear costs outlined.
Set the Sat Nav
The next stage is where you develop the roadmap for how this will work and calculate the financial impact on the implementation of your investment. This analysis may mean going back to potential partners to understand if there is an opportunity for trials, shorter contract periods or restricted user bases (licenses in our case) so that you can minimise risk and get started more quickly. This could change the game from a CapEx to OpEx, reducing the red tape and making the whole process smoother and more agile.
Once you’ve got the case together, it’s time to socialise and collaborate on the business case and start the sell, sell, sell to the stakeholders with a polished TED-talk level PowerPoint! However you decide to communicate and articulate the plan, making it rooted in the first stages of need identification in the context of the overall business and your challenges is the goal here. Remember, these are people that respond to and are motivated by narratives and stories and not 100-slide decks with meandering bullets and in-depth financials!
The Final Step…
A final step that is missed by many business cases is the reflective question of “how do we know if this will work/has worked?”
It may be difficult to answer, but at least putting in some kind of control mechanism will satisfy even those most risk-averse and difficult-to-convince executives.
Our six-step process to creating a great business plan above should meet most of the needs of your organisation as you push forward with digital transformation. We’d love to help you create the business case for those old-school members of staff that need a nudge or two in the right direction.
If you’re going to be a pioneer, there will always be ruffled feathers but ensuring you know your audience and link everything back to the overall strategic goals of a business should stand you in good stead. We’re here to help you drive innovation internally – so reach out to one of our supply chain software experts and we’d love to show you the platform and formulate a business case for your organisation too.