Do you ever look down at your phone and wonder how the day is already over? There’s always so much to do in so little time! How do you know if what you’re working on is more important than something else?
How do you make sure others agree with your assessment of importance? Have you ever identified a project that could help your company only to later discover the project has been deprioritized because it “doesn’t provide enough value?” As part of the Business Value Services team at Salesforce, I see this happen every day, which is why I help customers craft winning business cases to convey the financial importance of their projects.
If you don’t create a business case you put your project at risk. Most companies require a business case before moving forward with a significant investment; however, this step is often ignored since most people don't know how to create one. Don’t let this be you! When done correctly, creating a business case can be fun and inspire urgency for your company to get started on your project ASAP!
Here are five key steps to build a winning business case
1. Align with your organization’s top priorities and identify big obstacles
The best way to get someone to pay attention is to align with what they care about. For example, say your CEO’s top priority is to grow revenue by launching new products. You think to yourself, “Our current quoting and billing systems can’t add new SKUs that fast.” This makes you realize it’s time to fix this outdated process otherwise the company will not be able to achieve its goals.
That’s the crux of step one. You know the business objective and you’ve identified the obstacle that stands in the way of success.
2. Identify the impact of those obstacles and key stakeholders
Next, identify the impact of this obstacle, then break it down into specific challenges, and uncover who it impacts. This step makes it more personal and easier for stakeholders to understand.
Let’s go back to the scenario in step one. You identified that current systems can’t handle adding new SKUs. Why? We’ll break it down into three areas:
You must add new SKUs to your quoting, ordering, and billing systems — that takes finance and IT resources
New products depend on other products, so the risk of quoting errors increases even when sales knows about the new product
Discounts require approvals so you must train the management team
By breaking down this obstacle into smaller challenges, you’ve started to identify project stakeholders. In this case, you’ll need IT, sales, management, operations, and finance involved.
3. Find sounding boards
Now that you’ve identified people who will benefit from your project, find trusted partners to help with the rest of your journey.
For example, the Business Value Services team (my team!), specializes in working with our customers to help them craft their business case. Experts on my team are always happy to help assess if and how a project drives value for your organization. Leveraging trusted partners gives your business case credibility and sets your project up for success.
4. Quantify the solution
Now you’ll need to quantify the value. This can be tricky, but let’s break it into two stages: one that identifies key value drivers and another to determine improvement rates.
Identifying current value drivers can be a challenge, but that’s why you’ve identified your sounding boards! Think about how much the status quo costs your organization. Do you know a sales rep who spends 8 hours a week building a quote? What is the value of their time? If they spent less time building a quote, could they sell new products to customers? Enabling sales to sell new products will grow the company’s revenue, this aligns your project nicely with the CEO’s objectives.
You could look at organizations who have already solved this problem. What has been their impact? Find benchmark data to create logical and defensible calculations. For example, say you found benchmark data that proved that customers who implement similar projects reduce their sales team’s quoting time by 50%. If you know your sales team spends eight hours, you can use this information to quantify a four-hour improvement with your project.
If you are stuck on how to identify value drivers and improvement rates, industry tools are a google search away. In our example, research such as the Salesforce CPQ & Billing B2B Sales Report can help you understand benchmarks. Additionally, premade calculators, such as the Salesforce CPQ & Billing calculator are a great foundation for quantifying a business case.
Also, don’t forget to phone a friend or reach out to trusted partners to help you get started!
5. Share the value with peers and leadership
Now armed with your business case, you should share it with anybody impacted (e.g. peers, leadership, etcetera). Allow enough time for stakeholder feedback to ensure everyone agrees with your assumptions and calculated impact.
This information goes beyond the initial project too. It becomes a baseline to help measure your project’s success and will come in handy for post-launch progress updates.
That wasn’t too bad now, was it? It may be hard the first time but gets easier with practice. Find those smaller projects, make the business case, and build on them over time.