So, you’ve got your senior management behind the idea of a new intranet, you’ve gone ahead and written an intranet strategy and now it’s time to make the business case.
Getting a business case for a new intranet is not always straightforward. Many of the benefits of intranets are intangible and senior management may regard it as a tactical rather than a strategic-level solution. Budget for intranets also tends to be trumped by investment in external-facing digital channels.
If you have already worked on a strategy which has senior stakeholders support it should be easier to get your business case approved, as your proposal will offer no surprises.
Even then, you should consider carefully how you construct your business case. It is likely you will go through more scrutiny, be considered against other budgetary requests and it may be reviewed by a wider group of stakeholders.
What should you include in an intranet business case?
Every organisation handles business cases slightly differently. There may be a standard document or form, and a related process. You may also need to make a presentation. The format may well dictate the contents of your business case and the supporting evidence you choose.
- Most business cases are likely to include all or some of the following:
- How the current intranet, if you have one, is failing
- Why you need a new solution rather than using the old one
- Why you need a specific solution, if you’ve selected one
- The benefits the new intranet delivers and how these align to wider strategic goals
- The risks of not introducing the new intranet
- In some cases, you may also be reiterating the general need for an intranet in the first place
- Quantified and non-quantified evidence to illustrate all the above
What evidence should be included?
There is a range of evidence you can include in a business case, but remember that business cases love numbers and you will definitely need to include some memorable figures.
Here’s some common types of evidence, both numerical and non-numerical:
Specific reduced costs
Specific reduced costs are often driven by replacing legacy systems or the old intranet, with most savings made through the associated licensing costs. These can be significant if you are consolidating several intranets into one and can also include training and support contracts. You may also be replacing hard copy communications such as a staff newspaper.
Other cost avoidance
The new intranet may also be making potential cost savings by doing things much more efficiently than the old platform. This might include making design changes or introducing a new feature. How many costs are you potentially avoiding by using the proposed modern, efficient new intranet rather than the existing, clunky old one?
Quantified softer benefits
Quantifying the softer benefits for an intranet is at the core of a business case. This can include time saved, productivity gains, reduction in emails, increases in employee self-service, improvements to specific processes such as employee onboarding, better customer responses, better data accuracy and so on. If you express these as cost savings then be careful they are credible and that you can explain the maths behind the calculations.
Wider, indirect softer benefits
Indirect softer benefits are often the rationale for a new intranet. These include driving employee engagement, cultural change, organisational change, supporting increased digital skills and reducing risk. Note that these can be more convincing if they are pegged to a specific initiative or organisational event such as a significant merger.
Development of new capabilities
Many of the wider benefits mentioned above may also be driven by capabilities included in the new intranet and not available in the current one. Capabilities might include collaboration spaces, social tools, better internal communications through personalisation, better search and the flexibility of moving to the cloud.
Relevant intranet metrics
You’ll need to illustrate why your current intranet is failing. Any relevant metrics from your organisation which reflect this will help, including low adoption, low engagement, minimal satisfaction and poor performance.
The wider context
Wider demographic and survey data that show employee needs, reflect common problems or widespread tech habits can be very useful. This can be anything from levels of employee trust to mobile use in the consumer world to office design trends.
General information about the intranet market
It’s important to show the capabilities of modern intranets to demonstrate their potential, for example the power of an intranet-out-of-a-box solution. You can then show the capabilities of your chosen product in this context.
Success stories from other companies
Referencing specific success stories from other organisations which illustrate an intranet’s potential or emphasise that your organisation is behind in the game can be very powerful. If you can find examples from your competitors, even better.
Alignment of strategy, roadmaps and capabilities
Sometimes there’s a key initiative such as a global branding programme which means an intranet makes perfect sense. Sometimes an opportunity is driven by a digital roadmap. If getting the new intranet will help leverage investment in other systems (perhaps Office 365 or a new HR system) then it is worth mentioning.
A new intranet may also be driven by necessity such as the withdrawal of support for a product or an internal upgrade of hardware or software.
Tips for presenting your business case
From time to time, as intranet consultants, we help our clients present an intranet business case. Here’s a few tips to we’ve picked up over the years.
Keep it convincing and credible
Remember that your senior stakeholders scrutinise may business cases. Always make sure the evidence you present is convincing and credible, otherwise it may discredit your whole business case. Be particularly wary of presenting cost savings which are based on tenuous calculations.
Keep it targeted to different needs
Remember that different stakeholders have varying agendas and diverse views. Include evidence which illustrates the advantages of the new intranet for each of them. Show different stakeholders “what’s in it for them”.
Keep it focused
There can be a temptation to throw all the evidence you can at a business case. If you are including everything but the kitchen sink, make sure you’re not diluting the argument by adding too much detail. Senior stakeholders are very time-pressured people. If necessary, move additional evidence to appendices so those interested can drill down into the detail.
Keep it strategic
A business case needs to resonate at the organisational level. It must be aligned to wider company objectives. It’s possible your organisation’s template for your business case already ensures this happens, but always be specific on how the new intranet furthers company strategy.
Keep it positive
We find it’s always best to focus more on the opportunities presented by a new intranet rather than the risks of non-deployment, although the latter can be covered. Stakeholders need to be able to visualise the potential of an exciting new intranet to really get behind it.
Getting it over the line
Everyone does businesses cases slightly differently and we’ve covered some of the generics here to give you some ideas. Usually it’s not just the formal business case that gets the over the line – it takes a lot of stakeholder management in the background and getting the right backing.
Also remember that intranets are ever more powerful and, even if your business case fails this time around, you may have done more to advance your case than you think.