Building a Business Case for HCM Technology
Talent leaders that are attempting to select, purchase, and implement HCM technology are often challenged by a lack of experience with the process of selling the idea internally before seeking a solution. When we think about making an investment into a technology offering of thousands or millions of dollars, that seems like it would be the biggest hurdle to overcome–yet being able to even secure the budget and begin talking with vendors is a critical step in the process that talent, HR, and learning leaders could probably do better. Let’s look at some of the key elements of building a business case for technology investment and how to leverage that to achieve your organization’s goals.
Laying the Foundation
Before you jump in feet first, you need to first understand the history of your organization and its approach to the particular problem you are looking to solve. This is especially critical if you are new or don’t have a lot of time with the organization yet, because you might not be aware that others have attempted the process with varying levels of success over time.
Talk with others on your team, those in similar roles, and your peers in other departments (accounting, marketing, etc.) to find out the history, if there is any. He who has the most information in a negotiation wins, so gather as much as you can.
One area I find a lot of HR leaders missing is around identifying the key stakeholders and the language they use to evaluate business projects. For instance, your finance team might be looking at the return on investment, while your executive team is more interested in engagement levels or improved revenues and performance.
Take the time to figure out who your key people are and what they want to hear. Throughout the process, you can help to put the benefits in terms that appeal to each stakeholder group and keep your business case moving forward.
Defining the Problem
“It all started when I went into the store to pick up some office supplies…”
Like with any good story, start at the beginning. Talk about the problem in terms that others can understand and relate to, but also in ways that show the greater impact to the business. In my early days I remember going through this process, and I failed miserably at this step, because my only rationale for implementing a new performance management technology was to reduce the workload for HR. That isn’t compelling. That won’t turn the heads of your executive team.
Instead, I should have talked about having a more global view of performance so that we could fill any skills gaps and maintain our performance at an all-time high, ultimately driving revenue and profits. Any links to key results areas are valuable for helping to set the stage and sell the idea.
Analyzing the Solution
Break the problem down into manageable parts, and then talk about how the technology solution can help to resolve the issues. Be sure to explain the impacts of the problem and the potential turnaround once the solution is in place. If you can find any case studies that relate to how others have faced and overcome your same issues, then leverage them here to talk about measurable, tangible results.
Be sure to elaborate on the benefits, costs, timelines, and risks of the approach you are proposing. Use data where possible to make this more compelling and credible. If your new recruiting technology will enable you to measure the candidate experience and improve it, be sure to point that out.
Making a Recommendation
This one is pretty simple. Make a recommendation to pursue technology that solves your problem. If you have done any basic prep work, talk in general about some of the companies on the market and who similar firms are using in your industry. One of the most common sources for HR technology referrals are friends and colleagues within your profession, so don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call a few people to find out what they rely on to get the job done.
It is helpful at this point to include some details around your basic implementation plan. This can include change management strategy, a project plan, timelines, and other key elements of the initiative. I would encourage you to point out your KPIs that will enable you to measure your level of success with the new technology, whether that is greater compliance, higher ongoing usage, improved adoption, etc. As mentioned previously, this should also attempt to connect with deeper organizational KPIs that are used to evaluate overall performance, from sales and revenue figures to turnover and engagement scores.
This is a quick primer on crafting a business case for HR technology investment, but it should help you to get an idea of what is needed and how to get started.
Have you ever created a business case before? What did you do right? How did you miss the mark?
Ben Eubanks is the Chief Research Officer at Lighthouse Research & Advisory. He is an author, speaker, and researcher with a passion for telling stories and making complex topics easy to understand.