Implementing a new online learning strategy is never an easy task, as it often includes a significant investment. Before moving forward, your business leaders will have to see real-world value in the investment. And your best bet to show the value of your new learning technology is through a business case.
You’re ready to invest in new software, you know the positive impact it could have, you want to get things moving, and are ready to start building your business case. But how to create a convincing case?
Don’t fret! We are here to help. In this article, we will guide you through the process of building a business case for learning technology systems.
What Is A Business Case?
The business world is more competitive and fast-paced than ever before. In fact, the percentage of companies falling out of the top three rankings in their industry has increased from 2% to 14% in just fifty years. Competition is at the highest levels.
As such, it has become increasingly important for senior management teams to focus on investments that deliver meaningful business value. Initiatives throughout the business are either accepted or rejected based on the business value they deliver.
In order to get your board to approve a project, you will need to demonstrate the benefits it will bring to your organisation. In this case, you will need to showcase the additional value your sparkly new learning management system will provide. And you’ll need to state this in real world terms that provide a compelling vision of a value-filled future. A business case is a formal document that helps you to do exactly that.
A business case outlines the business needs being addressed and identifies how the project can help to meet those needs. The document allows you to critically examine the opportunities, alternatives, project stages and financial investment required and make a recommendation for the best course of action.
While the benefits may seem perfectly obvious to you, stakeholders and other decision-makers may not be as familiar with specific departmental issues. A well-prepared business case can help your project to stand out amongst the competing priorities within the organisation.
Without getting too bogged down in detail, a business case needs to identify the key factors that will ensure success. You should, for example, demonstrate what you are doing, why you are doing it, how it’s going to get done, and who is involved.
When Is A Business Case Needed?
Without a clear business case, there may be no clearly defined and agreed-upon goals for the investment. This makes selecting a suitable LMS vendor significantly more complex and may result in the project stalling altogether.
As such, creating a business case is required when you need to:
- Demonstrate the value of a proposed solution for your organisation.
- Obtain board or senior management approval for the investment.
- Decide whether to outsource a particular function.
- Relocate business operations and manufacturing facilities.
- Prioritise projects within your organisation that are competing for funding and resources.
- Secure financial funding and resources to implement the project.
- Present the recommendation to stakeholders whose support you require for approval.
New technology can be a total game-changer when it comes to how organisations run or roll out projects. However, your proposed project may still receive significant pushback from your leadership team. They may prove resistant to change unless you can present proof that it will generate a meaningful return on investment.
Therefore, getting your business’s decision makers onboard is a crucial step. To achieve this, you should focus on building a business case that your stakeholders will find entirely irresistible. As such, you’ll need to showcase the value that good learning initiatives can provide and understand how this aligns with your organisational mission, values and goals.
Your proposed programme should respond to real needs and challenges of the organisation. To ensure it provides meaningful value, gather information by talking with employees and stakeholders and review engagement survey results.
You should also recognise that learning takes time. Your business stakeholders may see time spent learning as time that could have been spent on more important tasks. In fact, employees can currently only devote 1% of their workweek to professional development.
Online learning can increase this figure by providing accessible just-in-time training that fits the needs of modern learners. As such, you will need to prove that the time dedicated to learning is spent well and that the new proposed learning platform brings value to the organisation.
How To Build A Business Case For Learning Technology?
Learning technology is essential for growth, sustainability and remaining competitive. In fact, 72% of organisations think that online training methods give them a competitive advantage. This makes building a business case for learning technology all the more relevant.
Delivering a detailed business case means that you have faith and confidence in what you are proposing. If you are confident that your vision will help the organisation, you are more likely to reassure your audience.
When you are building a business case for your proposed learning platform, there are many factors to consider. We have described a comprehensive process that helps you to create a thorough and credible business case for your new learning technology.
Remember to keep your case concise, avoid using too much jargon and make it interesting for your audience. That way you can demonstrate how your new learning platform can bring value to your organisation without putting your leadership team to sleep.
Ready to get your stakeholders on board? Then start working through the following 9-step process now!
1. Identify Your Business Needs
A wide range of business issues can drive investment in a learning and development programme. In fact, learning and development is becoming more challenging as the workforce continues to evolve into a multi-generational and multi-national highly digital learning audience.
As a result, your current training strategies may not meet the needs of your employees. For instance, it may be outdated, too expensive or unfitting for your training needs. And you are not alone! 48% of surveyed organisations wish to find a new or different learning technology solution.
Before you can prescribe learning as a solution to a business challenge, you must examine your learning strategy today. Identifying the current business needs and challenges should form the basis of your business case. Create a checklist of specific pain points and process inefficiencies a learning solution could alleviate.
Mapping out your current training strategies has three significant benefits. It helps to:
- Expose areas of redundancy and leverage opportunities.
- Highlight the manual steps in each process.
- Reveal weaknesses in your training approach and highlight areas of risk.
Defining your business needs helps you to provide your decision-makers with a persuasive business case for your new learning technology. You can propose how a learning management system can help your organisation to solve these issues. For example, if you are struggling with low learner engagement levels, you might benefit from a gamified learning platform like The Academy LMS.
2. Create Objectives For Your Learning Technology Purchase
After identifying the needs of your organisation, you need to define objectives of your LMS purchase. Your objectives for this project should be focused on issues that your decision makers care about. After all, they are the ones accepting or rejecting the investment.
As such, identify what business outcomes are the most important to create objectives that your stakeholders see value in. For instance, do you want to:
- Ensure business continuity?
- Increase revenues or profitability?
- Improve efficiency?
- Reduce costs?
- Support expansion?
- Or something else?
Understanding your executives’ collective and individual goals will help you to deliver a compelling business case that meets their needs. As such, you should take all the time you need to ensure your objectives are aligned with the goals of your organisation and the needs of your stakeholders.
To keep your stakeholders engaged, focus on the main benefits of your suggested project and answer the basic questions. By focusing on how the project can help the organisation, you can identify objectives that give your audience the answers they are looking for.
3. Highlight Value
Okay, so now your stakeholders understand the challenges your organisation is facing and objectives for your proposed investment. Now it’s time to show them how your new learning management system can help the organisation solve these issues.
Whether it is reduced training costs or increased engagement, be clear about what the proposed solution can bring to the table. While the latest gamification features may sound good on paper, your stakeholders will want to know how these shiny features can help your organisation in practice.
After all, simply explaining what gamification features the solution has is a lot less powerful than showcasing how gamification can boost learner engagement up to 60%, right? As such, focus on selling value and not individual features.
4. Talk In Numbers
58% of companies are trimming their L&D budgets or refusing to make further investments. As such, the demand for return on investment (ROI) for learning is the focal point for many decision-makers. One of the biggest concerns most organisations face is finding the most cost-effective solution.
As such, once you’ve assessed the needs in your organisation, it’s time to talk numbers. Adding financial information helps your stakeholders identify the cost-effectiveness and economic benefits of the learning platform. For example, a learning management system is a great way to boost engagement, which can lead to a 12% increase in productivity.
By comparing your current training costs to the new learning platform costs, you can identify significant savings or revenue gains. For instance, IBM saved nearly $200 million after moving to online learning, as their employees learned 5x more material using online learning techniques.
These kinds of examples provide the information your decision-makers are looking for. All in all, a solid business case for new learning technology should demonstrate that training talent is profitable with your new system.
In order to calculate these benefits, you should evaluate the tangible results of training and the monetary value assigned to each. These could include:
- Reduced training costs.
- Decreased time-to-value.
- Reduced staff turnover.
- Reduced downtime.
- Increased productivity.
- Increased customer satisfaction and retention.
5. Use Real-Life Examples To Support Your Business Case
Your decision-makers are presented with stacks of documents and financial reports on a daily basis. While figures about productivity or the number of labour hours saved are necessary, supplementing this with actual real-life examples helps give your stakeholders a clear idea of the benefits.
By supporting your case with real-life examples, you can showcase that your plan does not only sound good in theory but works in practice. Adding relevant case studies will make for a strong addition to your business case. Take care to select use cases from organisations that are tackling similar problems, striving for the same goals or operating within your industry.
Here at Growth Engineering, we’re proud of the way we’re able to help different types of organisations to achieve a variety of different goals. We’ve got a treasure trove of success stories to share. That’s why we created our Case Study Archive that gives you all the details you need!
Using real-life examples helps your business case to stand out and make it more effective. After all, including the additional positive information will enhance the image of your business case proposal as a whole.
6. Consider The Business Landscape
It is essential to follow the business landscape and monitor how competing organisations operate. By exploring the business landscape, you can identify if your competitors are making similar investments in learning technology.
This is valuable information to include in your business case for your new LMS. After all, you won’t want to fall behind. Identifying what kind of learning opportunities your competitors provide will help you implement similar strategies or look for even better alternatives.
Adapting pioneering learning technology can also result in good internal and external public relations. 86% of employees demand new training opportunities from their employer. By providing new innovative solutions, you can prove you care about your intellectual capital.
By considering the business landscape, you can also identify if real-world circumstances accelerate the need for a digital transformation. For instance, the COVID-19 pandemic shook the business landscape for most industries and resulted in unfeasible face-to-face training.
7. Highlight Risks And Steps For Risk Management
From a stakeholder’s perspective, it is vital to understand the nature and size of the potential risks. You might be reticent to highlight the weaknesses of your proposed learning technology solution or project plan. But failing to do so will make your business leaders feel like you haven’t considered your project from every possible angle.
The fact is, every new investment comes with a risk and certain levels of uncertainty. As such, you decision-makers will expect to see them in your business case.
The answer is to focus on how you can mitigate the risks of switching to an online training platform. To do so, be prepared to provide results of extensive quantitative research. By calculating and giving forecasts, including worst and best-case scenarios, you can give your stakeholders a more reliable idea of the possible outcomes.
Focusing on the risks involved with your proposal is important. But you should also identify the risks involved in not implementing your new solution. For example, if you don’t invest in an online learning solution, social learning opportunities may be limited, which will result in intellectual capital leaking out of your organisation. Considering both sides helps you to justify the effort and investment the project requires.
Doing the pre-work before you present the business case removes apprehensions your decision makers might have. It also makes it easier for them to approve the project, as you have substantial data to back up your training needs.
8. Define The Implementation Process For Your New Learning Technology
All new technology investments require an implementation plan. Your stakeholders will want to know how you are going to put your plan into action. By laying out a clear implementation plan in your business case, you can remove the fear of the unknown and make the decision easier.
An implementation plan provides a strategic approach to the setup process by breaking it down into smaller steps. The plan defines the timeline, team and resources needed to complete the project.
Outlining the steps concisely is vital for building a business case that will be successful. As such, answer the following questions:
- When will the implementation process start?
- Who is responsible for overseeing the implementation?
- What are the objective metrics to assess success?
Implementation timelines vary widely for each company based on their size, needs and the complexity of the new software. As such, you should work with your proposed vendor to provide an estimated timeline. After all, they have done it multiple times and often have experience providing their services for organisations of all sizes!
9. Tie It All Together
By this stage, you’ve nailed down your organisational pain points, identified the key benefits of your new solution and highlighted the relevant financial details. Now it’s time to tie it all together and build your case!
Make sure the outlined business challenges, organisational needs, solutions and expected gains are persuasive and coherent. If each section clearly supports the other, your business case will sound confident and appealing. Where possible, rely on hard data rather than hearsay.
If you follow the prescribed methodology for building a business case for your new learning platform, the pitch should sell itself. Because despite the challenges inherent in providing ROI or benefits of learning, there is a strong business case to be made for an LMS and learning technology as a whole.
In fact, we have a whole article devoted to showcasing the power of online learning that will help you to convince your decision-makers!
Most people struggle with building a business case that will succeed in its mission: win over your audience. But purchasing a new online learning platform is an investment that needs widespread support throughout your organisation.
Luckily, our 9-step guide provides a clear outline that you can use to pull together a successful business case for your new learning technology. So, keep everything to the point, be clear about your organisational needs, identify the value the learning platform will bring and explain the implementation process with confidence. If you achieve this, you’ll have built a business case your decision-makers believe in!
Do you want to strengthen your business case and learn more about the business impact of online learning? Download our guidebook, ‘The Secret to Business Impact’, today!