Business case for a management system: how to convince internal stakeholders?

We often see quality managers at a loss for words: important project proposals are not being listened to. At the same time, we hear from management: we don't see good proposals that actually make sense. The real problem is a mismatch in communication and empathy with the other person. 

To get management and senior executives on board with a new proposition, it is important to have a developed and compelling plan that highlights all sides of a proposition. To this end, a business case is often used as a tool to support investment decisions.  

In this, a business case takes many forms. Depending on the company or the scale of the project, it can be formal and detailed or informal and concise.  

In this blog, we give you tools to successfully make a business case for a (quality) management system. 

The business case is still too often underestimated

What should not go unnoticed is that a business case is often seen as a "bonus". A tool to make the story a little more visual. The opposite is true. In fact, the business case is crucial for success. 

What's in it for quality managers

Quality managers are constantly working to get processes in order. This is a never-ending task due to constant change within an organisation, such as new colleagues, new objectives and adapted working methods. As a quality manager, you will benefit from investing in quality management software to help you with day-to-day operations and quality assurance.  

When you knock on the management door, they will ask "what does it deliver?". What is meant by that is actually "how much profit does it yield?". An answer like "efficiency" by itself is then not enough. A business case can help quality managers in clarifying the interests and expectations of management. 

Why a business case does work 

With a business case, you translate the often technical interests into objectives that suit the organisation. Management is interested in efficiency, but if your project proposal shows no prospect of, say, improved reputation or extra profit, the fire is immediately extinguished. A business case allows you to calculate the technical interests and write out what it will deliver organisation-wide.  

With a business case, speak the same language as management. The technical details, which you may consider very important, matter less to them. They are looking for a story with a solid financial section. What is the ROI (Return of Investment)? How big is the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership)?  

With this information, you create understanding and ultimately support for your project proposal. 

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Project proposals in practice 

So far, the story still sounds logical. So why is it still chosen not to make a business case? We often see three reasons for this in practice. 

#1 Lack of self-confidence  

Knocking on the board's door with a project proposal requires entrepreneurship. Many see too much personal risk: "suppose my proposal turns out badly...".  

This is understandable and exactly for this reason, building a good business case is extra important. This will ensure that you knock on the board's door with a well-founded proposal. 

#2 The core of the quality profession 

A second reason why business cases are not more often made has to do with the core of the profession. Within quality management, the emphasis is on substantive, technical expertise and less on commercial aspects such as costs and benefits. 

This creates a barrier to making a good business case. It is not that quality managers cannot do it, but it requires a specific mindset and different skills from what you are used to as a quality manager. 

#3 The route to success is lengthy 

You don't always make a proposal by literally knocking on the board's door. You will probably first have to pass by your manager with your idea, who has to get it on the agenda of a decision-maker higher up. The pitfall in this is that someone along that route, perhaps even out of self-interest, may not think the proposal is good enough. 

There are several obstacles that can make it difficult to get a proposal through. A business case arguably works well to overcome these.  

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Steps for making an excellent business case 

Now that you understand what makes a business case so important, you can get started yourself. By presenting a well-ordered and visual report, recipients already make the emotional decision before the reasoning behind it. Step by step, it looks like this: 

1. The situation

Write a very brief introductory story and, above all, give a pictorial situation sketch. Where does it take place? What is the challenge? How much does it hurt (time / energy / mistakes)? Who are involved and how are they affected by the current situation? Be careful not to mention money, amounts or numbers yet.

2. The point of decision

Formulate as a clear question the point of decision to which we are going to say YES or NO. "Given the considerations below, do we want to address this situation if it solves the following problems and provides the following opportunities?" 

3. The considerations

In a structured list, write down the keywords and images (where possible, words and images that express emotion): 
If we don't decide (i.e. postpone) or decide NOT TO DO it and stay still?

  • the disadvantages - of not doing it (about 5 disadvantages)
  • the advantages - of not doing it (about 3 advantages)

If we decide to do it, what happens?

  • the disadvantages - of doing it (about 3 disadvantages)
  • the advantages - of doing it (about 5 advantages)

4. The alternatives

Be honest, think it through and ask colleagues too: show it if there might still be alternatives. You don't necessarily have to work them all out, but show that you don't have a 'one track mind', but a broad view. Also read our blog on Drawing vs Modelling.

5. The financial rationale

Give a concise, but concrete, summary of the following points:

  • The situation now - the cost of poor performance;
  • The financial consequences if we do nothing - regression, breaking points; The financial consequences if we do, broken down into:
    • MIN = the investment or depreciation of the investment + additional costs
    • PLUS = decrease cost wastage, decrease risk x impact, increase cash flow, increase revenue growth, increase selling price
  • Success rate and variation: rather a rough indication of success rate than no idea at all. 

6. The next step - deciding

Request a deadline to decide, within which taking action makes sense. Explain why a decision is important and delaying a decision is harmful. 

The following formula is illuminating in this regard:  Effectiviteitsformule-FEATURED

We have previously written a comprehensive blog explaining this process effectiveness formula step-by-step. The gist of it is simple: the longer the implementation of a (new) process takes, the less effective the result will be. 

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Guidelines for the business case for the Comm'ant management system 

Now you understand the essence of a business case and how to get started. If you are a quality manager and you want to make a case for implementing a Comm'ant management system, we are of course happy to help you. We give you tools and inspiration for setting up your business case step by step. 

A. The situation: Example

What are problems you are experiencing now? Not only with you, but also with colleagues. For example, redundancy in operations or misunderstanding by colleagues within the business process. Outline a situation within the company where improvement is clearly needed and the Comm'ant management system contributes to the solution.

General situations where Comm'ant contributes positively are: 

  • Quality management
  • Certification (ISO, NEN, CO2 Performance Ladder, etc.)
  • Implementing strategy (revision)
  • Reorganisation
  • Scaling up
  • Replacing ICT systems  
  • Standardise
  • Out-sourcing
  • Business integration and merger 

B. The point of decision: Example

"Given the considerations below, do we want to implement the Comm'ant management system if it solves the following problems and provides the following opportunities?" You want to get a YES on management system implementation.  

C. The considerations: Example

Using management software (e.g. from Comm'ant) has many advantages in itself. You can use the advantages to identify the disadvantages of not using management software. For inspiration, we organise the direct and indirect benefits: 

The benefits 

Examples of direct benefits:

  • Comm'ant makes it easier to identify, design, connect your process and make this information accessible.
  • Comm'ant provides a common language to talk 'about' processes and handover moments.  
  • Comm'ant structures information, reduces redundancy, ensures consistency and logical connections.
  • Comm'ant helps investigate process disruptions and identify improvement opportunities.
  • Comm'ant integrates key management aspects into one system, enabling effective and efficient setup of QHSSE, HR, IT, AO/IC, RA.

Comm'ant improves quality and saves time/cost for implementing QHSSE / PDCA / MOC.

Indirectly, Comm'ant ensures systematic and faster identification and picking up of process errors, risks, improvement opportunities with unprecedented result improvements. You improve quality and save time and costs, such as failure costs, for the execution of your processes. 

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The substantiation: an example 

For each benefit, think "how can we translate this to our business?". You then look at organisational goals, stakeholder interests and budget, for example. What is the improvement potential in the organisation and what may it cost to realise it? Also consider which processes have an interest in improvement, such as marketing & sales, purchasing or production. Think beyond the initial benefit. For inspiration: 

By deploying a management system, and thus introducing a "common language" within your organisation, you more easily involve managers and specialists in learning to think in terms of processes and general cooperation.

  • This creates more clarity about work agreements and the required output and makes compliance and (self-)control of quality easier. In the end, work is better thought out and executed each time - this produces more quality and saves time and money.
  • This in turn creates a better working atmosphere with more harmony. There is better coordination and less ambiguity, hassle and also less stress and absenteeism.
  • As a result, quality, speed, customer and employee appreciation increase even further, wastage and costs go down, more capacity becomes available for growth and business results improve structurally. 

The risks 

It is important to be transparent about the risks of doing introduce a (new) management system.  

If the management agrees to the proposal but does not follow through, the costs can add up. Not only in money, but also trust, time and business morale. Advocate that the board pays attention to preventing this, by setting a clear mission, providing support and investing in periodic reviews.

D. Alternatives: Example

When considering an investment, objectively comparing different solutions is a necessity: 1 is not a choice. Clearly state the alternatives and, where possible, the associated consequences and trade-offs.

Other alternatives are:

  • Collect and share documents (Word, Excel, Visio) in Sharepoint
  • Develop (or have developed) your own software
  • Continue with the current situation ("do nothing")
  • Depending on your organisation, there may be further specific alternatives. 

E. The financial rationale: Example

You ultimately want to work towards a proposal with a financial section so that decision-makers get excited.  

With Comm'ant, you validate and improve processes in a more efficient way. You will need at least 50% less time with the Comm'ant management system than with a system based on separate drawings and documents. Both for the administrator who has to ensure that all information is complete and up-to-date, and the user who has the need to find the right information quickly.  

Then you can do the calculations: how much cost will you save? And what do you do with that time/cost gained? You can use that to train people, but also spend it on other things.

F. The next step - deciding: Example

Setting up a management system requires time, attention and commitment from all involved. Be aware of this too when proposing a decision period. An average implementation has a lead time of 3 to 6 months, depending on your own effort and the scope of the project. 

Keep the following points in mind: 

From whom do we need time and knowledge? Consider acceptance from managers, implementation teams but also possible input from external professionals and trainers. 

What do we need to get started? A clear plan of action is necessary: who does what and when. Comm'ant gives concrete form to this with the Comm'ant Easy step-by-step plan. Also consider a very practical way of working with teams to map out the business process in its first rough form: using the Process Model Canvas. 

In conclusion 

A business case is crucial to support an investment decision. If, as a quality manager, you want to implement a Comm'ant management system in your business operations, we recommend following the above step-by-step plan. Of course, we at Comm'ant are ready to help you further with setting up this business case. For further questions, you are welcome to contact one of our colleagues.

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