How To Build A Business Case For IT Investment

IT is constantly evolving, but a company that invests in every minor improvement could end up wasting money. To convince your company that now is the right time to invest in IT you need to put together a persuasive business case.

Identify a need. Before you can delve into the details of your proposal, you need to convince everyone that a need exists. Identify existing problems and explain how IT investments can solve them. If you convince people that your solution is reasonable from the beginning it will make the rest of your job easier.

Relate the investment to stated company goals. In addition to solving problems that already exist, show that the IT investment you are proposing furthers existing company goals. This provides an additional rationale for stakeholders who are unaffected by the problems you are trying to solve.

Quantify benefits. Business decisions come down to weighing costs and benefits, so you should tell your audience what scale to use. Compile a list of expected benefits that the new IT resources will bring, being sure to point out how all stakeholders are affected by at least some of the benefits. Explain how to measure the financial impact of these benefits and justify your proposition quantitatively.

Examine the costs. Be clear about how the funding will be spent, including testing, implementation and maintenance of the new IT system. Compare this to the ongoing costs of the old system and show how the investment will lead to long-term savings. Be prepared to justify your projections and explain how you would keep the project from going over budget. ‘Sweating’ outdated PCs beyond their normal service life can look like an attractive cost-saving measure but you’d be surprised at the real cost of doing so. Employees are much more productive with today’s PCs using advanced features and the latest Intel technology and easy-to-use Microsoft Windows 7.

Identify and mitigate the risks. There is always some risk associated with switching to a new system, especially if you are proposing large, structural changes. Instead of skirting the issue, present a clear plan to minimize these risks through testing, training on the new system and, if appropriate, running both systems in parallel until the new system has proven itself.

Explore alternatives. Even if there is a consensus that the problems you have identified need to be solved, your solution is not the only option. You can strengthen your case by honestly exploring all alternatives to be certain that yours is the most effective. Don’t be afraid to adapt your case during this process.

Collaborate. Ask other team members for feedback. Their added insight and constructive criticism will improve your case before pitching it, and building consensus around your proposal ahead of time will give it more weight.

Matthew Stibbe is writer-in-chief at Articulate Marketing. He is also an avid blogger, closet geek and HP fanatic.