What’s the number one cause for an intranet project derailing? A business case that doesn’t satisfy the many requirements of the stakeholders and workforce. We explore how to create a case that keeps your project on track.
After time and resources have gone into building an intranet business case, it only takes one unanswered concern from the senior-level to derail any investment plans. For most people trying to push a new investment, a lack of stakeholder buy-in is the number one stumbling block.
You’ve done your research. You’ve looked at like-for-like software and alternative models. And you’ve chosen the ideal platform for your organization. You know that your project will transform the way your workforce communicates, shares information and connects. You’ve calculated the cost savings and return on investments. You’ve worked out how much time and effort are needed. Getting the nod from the powers-that-be should be a cinch, right?
As anyone who has asked senior-level leaders for substantial investment into a new system will know, the chances of getting a negative reaction feel far greater than getting the green light. This is why it’s critical that you create a solid case for your intranet project – and consider every area within your business.
If produced and delivered effectively, a successful business case can secure senior-level buy-in, budget, and commitment, as well as ensure you gather the support necessary to deliver on the project. But how can you persuade the decision-makers to think along the same lines?
An intranet can transform business operations and outcomes, making your business case a compelling and crucial document. However, compiling all the information needed to satisfy senior management requirements can be daunting. You need to pique their interest, rebuff any cynicism, and get your leaders to understand why investment is the key to long-term business success.
But for many, this is the exact point where an intranet project derails.
What’s your business case?
A fundamental stage on any intranet project, the business case will be your justification for a proposed project based on its expected commercial benefit.
In this case, you will typically describe the benefits, cost, and impact of a proposed project. But your core purpose in presenting this case is to persuade: to convince, argue, sell, and secure buy-in.
Ultimately a compelling, robust business case is designed to prove your intranet project is a strong business investment that offers concrete benefits – you’re creating a ‘must-have’ rather than a ‘nice to have’. Approach correctly, and it can mean the difference between securing your project… or being shown the door.
But the presentation isn’t the only issue – even building a business case can be challenging. You may grapple with management priorities or struggle to gather support. If multiple departments are going after a single pot of money available for investment, you’re competing to get your voice heard. Even when your proposal feels rock-solid, bringing it in front of your audience can feel like a task in itself.
Addressing pain points from across the organization
But let’s rewind to the starting blocks. Your business case should always start by assessing the requirements of your workforce: after all, your intranet is a democratic tool that can be of enormous benefit to every employee in your company. Therefore, an essential part of your business case is to identify the challenges and pain points across your entire organization. Gathering support for your intranet project requires you to go company-wide and listen to the many different requirements, challenges, and priorities that exist across the workforce. With your business’s organizational chart, map out the potential individuals and departments you need to talk to.
When you’re collating the thoughts and opinions of your workforce, they will ultimately want to know what’s in it for them. So it’s essential that you allow them the chance to share their point of view. You can do this by holding a number of events or meetings, which should include:
- Online surveys
- Focus groups
- Stakeholder interviews
- Workplace observation
- Usability testing
- Usage statistics
Get people to expand on their challenges by asking them some pertinent questions, such as:
- How do you use internal communications?
- What challenges are you currently facing in your department or role?
- What do you need to perform your role to the best of your ability?
- What are the major objectives for you/your department currently?
- What processes do you utilize on a regular basis?
- How many applications do you use to perform your role, and what are they?
- Do you have any specific requirements within your department?
Going through use cases can help you identify the challenges different employees face on a day-to-day basis: challenges that an intranet could potentially solve. This may span anything from “accessing important sales documents while out on the road attending meetings” through to “submitting daily meter readings to the property management services department at head office.” The spectrum of opportunity is broad and individual to every business: the more people you can talk to, the more insight you will collate.
Once you have defined the opportunity within your business, you will be able to begin crafting your opportunity statement.
This is the opening of your business case, which acts in a similar way to an executive summary: collating, in a clear and concise manner, the content of your business case. It will highlight, to the top level, the problems your intranet project will solve and the expected returns. It may also set out resources required or any significant considerations for your intranet project.
Identify your stakeholders
Who are you presenting to? It is essential to determine the audience for your business case and the decision-makers who ultimately hold responsibility for sign-off, approval, or roll-out of your project.
Once you have determined who these key figures are, you can dig a little deeper into each group’s priorities. What are they most concerned about? What is important to their department or individual role? What are their business priorities or objectives? These people will form the basis of your case and be the audience you need to manage and satisfy as part of your business case process.
It’s always important to remember that when you are presenting the business case for your intranet, you speak your stakeholders’ language and cater to their interests throughout.
Some of the people you may be addressing could include:
Interests include: Cost and return
- How much will this cost?
- What is the return on investment?
- How will this be reported financially?
Interests include: Growth, business outcomes
- How will this deliver on strategic direction?
- How many resources will this need?
- How will this deliver on company performance?
Interests include: Employee engagement, talent management, culture
- How can this system improve on recruitment and staff retention?
- How can it build employee engagement?
- How can this establish and communicate business culture?
- How can this reinforce the employer brand?
Interests include: Security, cost/return, strategy and policy
- How can this develop internal systems and processes?
- What is the data protection and usage policy?
- How much IT support will a new system require?
Each stakeholder will bring their own set of requirements. A successful business case will have already weighed up all these concerns, and will answer the questions before they’ve even been raised.
Common stakeholder pushbacks
As the key figure in pushing this project, you’ll already know the host of benefits it will offer. You will know the value and gains, and how a new system could transform the way some departments operate. However, the person in charge of making the final decision may not have the same level of appreciation.
One of the main stumbling blocks of an intranet project is the stakeholder pushback. Invariably, you may hear back from your senior-level with a negative response:
- It’s not the right time
- We can’t sign-off the necessary budget right now
- We can make do with our current system
Your business case should pre-empt these responses, with comprehensive but in-depth explanations countering any possible objections.
“It’s not the right time”
The world is unsettled at the moment. Your business leaders may feel uneasy about firming up plans for something that requires spend and resource. However, you can adjust this, by laying out how transformational an intranet can be to a business experiencing change.
When the global pandemic hit in March 2020, organizations had to undertake the largest-scale overhaul of their working models in recent history. With millions in lockdown making a move to remote working, managers faced new challenges in reaching, engaging, and motivating their teams.
Despite a slowdown in the global economy and many organizations looking to make vital cash savings in time of uncertainty, intranet projects continued. Many were even brought forward, or business cases signed off for rapid deployment, with an understanding of their role and value in the circumstances. Intranets played a central role in helping organizations to connect, communicate, and engage with their newly remote teams, and proved to be an invaluable business tool when demand was at its peak.
The pandemic response shows that even when it feels like ‘it’s not the right time’ to make a new investment, an intranet is a long-term, scalable, and vastly beneficial platform that more than delivers a return. With many analysts now talking of the ‘death of the office’ and organizations showing increased openness to remote working, it’s more important than ever to have the right tools in place.
“We don’t have the budget in place”
Initially, senior-level leaders will not necessarily see the financial benefits of an investment, such as an intranet. They may push this kind of project back for more immediate fixes: talent acquisition, more spend on existing services, long and time-consuming employee engagement surveys.
There will always be a critical need in any business case to address the monetary costs. While CFOs, usually the most cost-oriented stakeholder, might not demonstrate great levels of interest in your project, they will have a huge influence over whether it gets the green light or not. Transparency about investment cost and return is key to winning over this stakeholder!
Another important aspect to bear in mind is your business case’s timing. When you present your case should take into account when the annual budgets are decided. There will be seasonal differences in your business when a request for investment is more likely to be considered. Sometimes, even postponing by just a few weeks can make all the difference.
“We already have existing software to do the job”
Many business cases confront the “we’ll make do” argument. But for most organizations, it’s the existing software that is causing the issue. A business case does not get built if there aren’t any issues with the current systems.
For this type of objection, it’s your responsibility to pick the holes. One effective way of doing this is by comparing company objectives with the current capabilities. One business mission may be “Reduce email traffic”. You can compare the shortcomings of existing software with the promises of the new investment, for example: “Reduce internal email traffic by 40% through the introduction of intranet social tools, reducing burden and cost overhead of internal servers.”
Gather collateral from each stakeholder group and look at the terminology or priorities they use. If you obtain an ‘HR twelve-month strategy’ document, which states, “our greatest priority for the coming twelve months is to reduce annual staff turnover by X%”, for example, then addressing this in your business case shows you have understood and catered for your key decision-makers.
Building and presenting a business case is not straightforward. However, those projects with a solid business case at their foundation deliver a greater return to the business, are more aligned with overall business objectives, and are more likely to meet scope, stay within budget, and be completed to the timescales set out. A considered business case process will also help you identify the right solution to meet your needs and, if required, ensure you partner with the right provider to deliver on your vision.
Change is a challenge in any business, particularly when it can potentially impact multiple departments, processes, and stakeholder objectives. Ensuring you arm yourself with all the necessary research, information, and figures to present a compelling yet clear argument is the most powerful way to win over any skeptics. Invest the time, and reap the rewards.