A strange thing about corporate life is that after you get your annual spending budget approved for your department, you often still have to get approval to spend it. I have plenty of experience with this inefficient exercise in my career, and I thought I might have some things to share with all of you to get those necessary approvals.
In our recent podcast, Context is King!, we discussed framing and perspective’s importance. This exercise is an excellent example of these concepts. Convincing other people in your organization to let you spend money on Customer Experience improvements is essential to leading this effort at your organization.
Essentially, you are convincing people to commit resources to change, which is not easy for many organizations. Therefore, we will look at how to create a case for change
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It starts with a clear objective.
You must know what you are trying to achieve and to what goal. These essential, foundational concepts will underpin the language you use to sway others in your organization.
These outcomes should appeal to the people whose approval you need. Therefore, reframe your information in language that appeals to those decision-makers.
I suspect that most people who create business cases know what they want to achieve and their goal. However, what is evident to the person making the case and what is clear to the decision-makers are often different. So, to expedite the process, the person who needs approval gets quickly into the meat of what they want, but the decision-makers are unclear on why they should care.
I have made this mistake. I assumed that the people I presented to understand why what I wanted was so critical to the organization. I thought they already knew what I was talking about, looking through the same lens as I was. That we would increase revenue through creating outstanding experiences was a foregone conclusion. Right?
Right. Not so much.
I learned over time that you have to explain the business change’s goal to ensure everyone understands the “why” of your proposal. Moreover, that why of the proposal should align with the goals of the people whose approval you seek.
It is essential not to neglect the overwhelming persuasive power of numbers.
So, when presenting a case for change, logic, stories, and goals are essential. However, nothing is more persuasive than numbers. People who read spreadsheets that explain costs, where they align with the budget, and the expected return really like numbers. Therefore, when building your business case, include your budget allocation, data, and research to support those logical arguments and desired goals.
Of course, the issue then becomes getting the data to prove it. Customer research is critical here. However, many organizations in the current environment have cut costs, which might include customer research.
Since cutting costs is so important these days, maximize your cost-cutting data. For example, if you are making a case for automation, you will probably include the cost savings from a reduction of FTE (full-time equivalents). However, you could also include the cost savings you might enjoy from no longer having to recruit those FTEs. (Also, get finance to sign off on those costs before you present, so they can’t argue.)
Always include the return on investment (ROI).
This area is a hot topic for me. But unfortunately, too many people leave this crucial component out of their case for change.
However, we can see that customer satisfaction is down in the research. For example, the American Customer Satisfaction Institute says Customer Satisfaction is at a 17-year low. Plus, over the past decade, from 2010 to 2019, only one-third of organizations improved their customer satisfaction.
I partly blame these declines on the fact that too many organizations do not consider the return on investment they could enjoy if they invested in these areas. If you leave out the ROI, the finance people will not see the importance of the change—and you will not be spending any resources on it.
Take the perspective of the people you are trying to convince.
You can build a great business case in isolation. However, unless the person hearing it understands how it meets their needs within the organization, they won’t care.
So, it’s not enough to come up with a great idea. You need to explain that idea to align with what the organization and the key stakeholders want. Perhaps most importantly, it should align with what the people approving this want.
It’s a marketing exercise. Instead of using your perspective, make your case using the view of the people you need to convince.
Now, if you don’t know what that is, find out. In my case, I looked at their objectives for making bonuses. Then, I framed my program in terms of making that a reality. You can believe me when I tell you they were on board with my ideas after that!
However, it doesn’t have to be the decision-makers’ compensation. That doesn’t drive the behavior of all people anyway. There might be issues that keep these people awake at night that your proposed change addresses. It might be their favorite social cause that your program supports. Maybe it’s a way to get into an area of the business you know the company wants to tackle.
Understand the politics and the biases involved.
So, I’ve worked in some very political organizations. The classic phrase “keep your friends close and your enemies closer” dramatically helps in these situations.
As you get up the ranks, the politics get worse. In one presentation, a famous organization we were working with rejected a Senior Vice President of Marketing’s proposal that we were delivering because of politics.
One must expect this reality. Furthermore, if you run an extensive program that requires significant change and impacts the decision-makers, you should count on it. Sure, it isn’t pleasant; but it’s a part of making your business case.
So, consider who might be on board with your plan. Recruit them to be a part of the “selling” of your program. Also, look for who you need to be on board. Then, consider how you can persuade them to be a part of your plan, too.
Whatever you do here, don’t ignore politics. They will kill your program whether you consider them or not. Managing political currents starts with understanding and crafting a strategy to deal with them before you invest time and money in developing your business case.
Be realistic about the timescale for your project.
It is also essential to choose the right time to propose a change. It might not be the right time, which will kill it, no matter how great your idea is and how much everyone thinks it should be a priority.
Be realistic about the plan, too.
Sometimes business cases fail because they are too much upside. It isn’t realistic if it has in it nothing but rainbows, sunshine, and assurances that everything will be great.
Change comes with risk. Confronting those risks is a good idea. Then, make the case that the potential benefits make it worth the risk.
The risks might be industry-wide, global, even. So, for example, if a recession hits while we change this, our competitor beats us to market or something else you can’t even imagine (like a global pandemic).
Being upfront about risk can increase your persuasiveness. It makes it easier to accept the information. So, when developing your business case, include risk assessments; show what could go wrong. Then, tell them what you would do about it.
Mind your credibility.
Along with realism, you need to have the proper data. Without it, you might leave without approval and your reputation in tatters.
Also, if you don’t know, don’t answer. You will get questions. You might know the answer, which is excellent. However, if you don’t, say so and assure them you will get back to them with a reply.
In addition, be careful with forecasts. The problem is projections have many assumptions built into them, usually crafted with the previous data. Now, using that data is great because it is reality. However, the past numbers don’t account for the circumstances that can change. So, instead, I support making a best-case/worst-case comparison or presenting a break-even point.
Don’t neglect your presentation.
A fantastic idea cannot overcome haphazard communication. Your presentation should be professional and not look slapped together in five minutes. It goes back to credibility to a certain extent. An unprofessional presentation could make people think you haven’t thought enough about it.
A presentation with excellent attention to detail (read: looks pretty) can improve the perception of your professionalism and inspire confidence. People need to be confident that you are professional before they give you money.
Confidence during a presentation is another critical skill. So, practice. A lot. It’s not enough to know what you are talking about. It would help if you also seemed to know what you are talking about.
There you have it—my tips and tricks for impressing your boss and getting a business case for change accepted. Of course, these are only mine. Some of you might have a few of your own. Feel free to note them in the comments. It’s like I always say, none of us is as clever as all of us.
If you have a business problem that you would like some help with, contact me on LinkedIn or submit your pickle here. We would be glad to hear from you and help you with your challenges.