See how you build a strong intranet business case and secure buy-in.
Building or purchasing a company intranet is a big decision that is decisive to your business. One of the most important activities you will undertake in the process is securing senior management buy-in when considering which new team collaboration tools to implement. Your greatest chance is a strong business case.
Have you ever tried building enthusiasm for a project, only to meet a lukewarm response from your senior management and organisation?
To prove that an intranet investment is justified, you need to demonstrate the benefits an intranet will bring to your business, with more than a simple ‘nice-to-have.’ In this article, we outline the steps to help you build a strong intranet business case that will secure a buy-in from senior management.
What is a business case?
A business case is usually a written project description, that is intended to convince decision makers to approve a project. The document itself is typically referred to as a business case.
As a rule, a business case should articulate a clear path to a return on investment (ROI), an evaluation of current issues and recommended solutions. A business case document should study benefits and risks involved with both taking the action and, conversely, not taking the action. The conclusion should lead to a sound recommendation for implementation.
Why do I need to write an intranet business case?
Business cases are one of the most powerful tools at your disposal in the bid to redesign, invest, or build your new intranet. Written and delivered effectively, your business case will:
- Secure senior level buy-in, budget, and commitment
- Ensure the necessary support in the organisation
- Set business objectives
- Outline scope, including resource requirements, timeline, and cost
- Evaluate options and make recommendations
Before you start writing your business case, you should have carried out a fair amount of research into the problem and possible solutions. There are five valuable things you need to settle, which can help you choose the right solution.
- Where is the business potential in a new intranet solution?
- Understand the cost of an ineffective intranet
- Evaluate the current situation of your intranet
- Identify the expectations from the management and your colleagues
- Explore the market and identify the kind of supplier that you wish to work with
Once you have taken these areas into consideration, you will be much better suited to write a business case, and assess different offers from potential suppliers.
Understanding the cost of an ineffective intranet
Many intranets fail to meet their potential for several reasons; for instance, wrong technology, no ownership or ownership by only a few employees, poor roll-out, lack of staff interest, and lack of senior support.
McKinsey published a report on The Social Economy: Unlocking Value and Productivity through Social Technologies.They estimate that a 20-25% improvement in effectivity is possible through social collaboration and communication technologies.
Besides specific job tasks, the biggest factors impacting productivity are:
- Reading and answering e-mails
- Searching and gathering information
- Communicating and collaborating internally
That means that a good intranet may increase your productivity up to 25 percent, and it impacts the quality of your work. An increase in effectivity would lead to a decrease in costs or a more effective organization, thus, making the organisation a lot more profitable. A bad intranet affects the overall effectivity and, thereby, the productivity of the organisation.
Evaluate the current situation of your intranet
Look at your current intranet and identify areas for improvement, considering user needs. Identify benefits and deficits of your current intranet software to identify what demands you have for an intranet renewal or a new intranet software.
Look company-wide and identify who are your key stakeholders. What are their biggest current challenges? What objectives are those different departments or individuals currently working towards, which an intranet could help address?
Outline specific challenges of your current intranet, and identify processes that need to be improved. Remember to list the features and functionalities that work well for your employees. Include these features and functionalities in your business case.
Defining the problems with your current intranet gives you a framework to work with, so you can start looking for possible intranet solutions.
There are four types of intranet problems that we see most frequently:
1. Technical problems
- Low performance
- Errors when updating content
- Bad search engine
- Problematic login system
2. Usability and information structure
- System is difficult to use and navigate through
- Cannot find information and documents
- Employees use out-of-date or inaccurate information
- Different departments using different methods to store information
- Few authors, creating a bottleneck of requests
3. Productivity problems
- Cannot demonstrate ROI
- Complaints that the intranet is causing inefficiencies
4. Social capital issues
- Low employee engagement
- Lack of collaborative culture
- Poor information sharing
- Employees have lost faith in the intranet
- Usage is declining
The idea of evaluating your current intranet is to gain an understanding of what challenges employees face on a day-to-day basis. You can identify your users' needs with these techniques:
- User interviews (group interviews with key stakeholders)
- Employee surveys
- Observing users in context, i.e. record employees using the intranet
- Statistical analysis of how the current intranet is used
- Usability and usage testing
- Statistical analysis of the terms that users type into the intranet search engine
The objective is to identify your users’ needs in a format that you can translate into features and functionalities. Pinpointing precise pains and gains will help you identify your intranet requirements. This will give you a clear summary of what your intranet project will solve, and the expected returns.
A successful intranet directs the needs of the whole business. Take the time to identify pain points of departmental managers, knowledge workers, and those operating in the field.
Identifying the expectations from the organisation
The expectations for a new intranet system vary from "anything would be an improvement" to "the new intranet should be the core of the company." It depends a lot on who in the organisation you ask.
Although expectations are usually divided into four groups:
- The technical aspect: A new intranet system should have better features and perform better
- Usability and information structure: A new intranet system should be easy to use
- Productivity: Employees should save time by using the intranet.
- More communication and cooperation: A new intranet system should encourage employees to communicate and cooperate across departments
If you identify the expectations and needs, it will be easier to create your business case, establish selection criteria, and later, succeed in implementing the new intranet system.
The time you spend on coordinating goals and expectations is time saved when it comes to stakeholder management later in the project. The process will ultimately increase the probability for a successful intranet system.
Translate your needs into features and functionalities
It can be difficult to present how improved communication has a positive effect on the bottom line. But if you phrase specific tasks, you will be able to establish goals and expected ROI. Look at the examples below and translate your own goals into features or functionalities.
- Goal: Improved workflows. Feature: Workflows can become a task under digitalization, like digitalizing how you report vacation days or different expenses.
- Goal: Improving the internal communication. Feature: Dealing with fewer internal emails and using the intranet for information sharing.
- Goal: Getting more employees to use the intranet. Feature: Making the intranet accessible on all devices
A functioning intranet can also:
- Quickly identify the people with the right skills for a task
- Provide an easier collaboration across the organisation
- Involve more employees in information sharing with an easy-to-use platform to share ideas
By phrasing your overall goals and intentions as tasks, it will be much easier to specify what organisational problems a new intranet solution will solve.
Set SMART goals
When you have analysed the needs and expectations of your organisation, identify goals for your intranet that can act as touch points throughout the project. These goal statements should support the deployment of a new intranet. They should be SMART.
To make sure your goals are high-level, simple and achievable, each goal should be:
- Specific (simple, sensible, significant)
- Measurable (meaningful, motivating)
- Achievable (agreed upon, attainable)
- Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based)
- Time bound (time-based, time limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive)
Goals vary for every business. They are determined by your organisation’s situation and should reflect its purpose, values, and aspirations. To make sure that you make the strongest case possible, try to come up with goals that are distinct and do not cross over too much.
High-level goals that your intranet could help achieve might include:
- Become a more customer-centric organisation
- Maintain a profitable and sustainable business
- Retain talented staff
- Unite geographically disparate staff
- Become a truly global business
Potential intranet software suppliers and alternatives
Spend some time searching the market. What kind of intranet software is out there, and what are the trends right now? Grab hold of your professional network and ask around for experiences with some of the different systems and suppliers.
You can also participate in intranet communities and get objective insider knowledge on which intranet solutions meet other organisations' demands.
Use your analysis of intranet suppliers when describing the different solutions in the business case, and when it is time to justify your final decision.
Consider the alternatives
You have identified the challenges with your current intranet, and you have a list of suppliers and options. And you have looked at options that an intranet project may help solve.
Also, consider the option:
What are the consequences if your organisation chooses to do nothing?
Make a recommendation
Next, you need to set out the available options.
You need to analyse each of your selected options, in line with your objectives. Often, when you write your business case, you have a preferred solution in mind. However, this section should demonstrate to your decision-makers that you have taken a thorough approach to researching all possible solutions.
Using your analysis of your current intranet, you can use this section to provide your recommendation for the solution you feel meets your business needs.
Include a section in your business case that points out the risks and pitfalls associated with implementing a new intranet software.
Use this section to show that you have assessed the potential risk factors and thought about solutions to minimise risk, to make sure that your intranet implementation project can survive in case things go wrong.
Prioritise risks by how likely they are to occur and how severe the impact would be. Then, you can outline what measures you will set out to prepare or mitigate each risk.