In Chapter 1 of this buyer’s guide series, we challenged you (and us) to identify an “addressable piece of one of the most problematic parts of your business.”
Did anything immediately pop into your head? Or was it more amorphous, requiring effort to tease out the source of what makes that aspect of your business so difficult?
If you had no hesitation identifying what needed to be fixed, you are probably in what my colleague likes to call a “hair on fire” situation. If not obvious from the name, this problem significantly impacts your business today and demands immediate attention.
If this describes you, you probably don’t have the luxury of going through a full buying cycle. You need to talk to a trustworthy technology partner who has the experience, agility, and speed to address your urgent needs. We hope you’ll give us a chance to show you how we could help.
For most of us though, it’s not so simple to pin down what makes a business process or relationship painful or inefficient. Maybe market or business norms slowly evolved until how you are working just doesn’t “work” anymore. Maybe over the years, well-meaning people slowly added new reporting steps or stakeholders to a process, and the build up of “corporate cholesterol” has left you at risk for an aneurysm.
However your department or organization got to this point, it’s time to reclaim your life by identifying business problems that have the potential to free up significant time for more strategic activities. Think of what you could accomplish with any extra day every workweek! In most organizations, this level of increased efficiency is well within your reach with the right technology.
In this chapter, we’ll walk through three best practice steps for describing clear, compelling business problems that will form the foundation for your business case. By focusing on business problems, as opposed to detailed requirements gathering, you’ll maintain the agility and speed needed to achieve quick wins and gain leadership buy-in for bigger follow-on initiatives. Let’s dive in!
Step 1: Form a (Small) Working Group
As tempting as it may be to just go at it alone gathering information and then building your business case, we highly recommend enrolling select stakeholders in this effort from the beginning to ensure you are incorporating multiple perspectives. We’ve found this to be the ideal mix:
Business Process Owner
Why? This person (possibly you) is intimately familiar with the business area in question and is often an operational team manager. They understand how the business area in question fits within the broader organization.
Business User Representative
Why? This is someone who has direct experience within the business area being explored. They are well networked within the user community and can represent and articulate their needs and be an influential user to accelerate adoption later.
IT Business Partner
Why? Even though cloud solutions require less resources than other types of software, IT is often still driving or heavily involved in technology purchase decisions. Their expertise will be valuable in accurately understanding your company’s existing technology, integration needs, and requirements.
Note: Depending on company policies and existing technology, consider inviting an IT integration / data architect to the team at this or a later stage.
Business Buyer Representative
Why? The person who controls the budget for your business area is likely in senior leadership, and wouldn’t prioritize being a part of a working group. Is there someone on their direct team who would be appropriate to include? You’ll want someone who can help anticipate the priorities, questions, and motivations of who will ultimately decide whether to pursue your business case.
This group is charged with identifying and quantifying the most pressing business problems within your chosen scope, and then exploring opportunities to address them. Define each member’s role, and use this opportunity to set expectations and working norms. Here’s a template for a charter and your first meeting agenda to get you started.
Step 2: Interviews to Identify Use Cases
Depending on your organization, it’s possible you already have a mandate from leadership to explore a specific business area for digitization or improvement opportunities. If so, this is the time to dig into that mandate. If not, use your working group to identify a process or system problem that appears:
- Impactful to the business
- Potential to generate early “quick wins” and positive ROI
With your initial problem area identified, your team needs data to better understand what’s going on today in this area. We recommend short interviews with colleagues and partners directly involved in this area, as well as key members of your IT organization. The purpose of these interviews is to collect use cases or stories that will roll up into clear, solvable business problems.
We recommend formatting each use case as, “[Role] has [to take action] with [frequency], requiring [time/resources]” to ensure you have consistent, relevant information for later comparison.
|Example: The quality manager receives 20 new complaints weekly. This process involves 3-4 other employees, and approximately 6 steps in 4 different systems including sifting through paper batch records. Total employee time: 3-5 hours per complaint.
|Example: The regulatory affairs coordinator manages 50 product dossiers per month. This process involves 5-6 other employees, and approximately 12 steps in 5 different systems. Total employee time: 40-60 hours
Click here to download a list of starter questions you can customize to your circumstances.
Step 3: Turn Use Cases into Clear Business Problems
After the interviews, reconnect with your team to theme or “bucket” the use cases you collected to roll them up into business problems.
Business Problem: Quality processes are conducted using inefficient, siloed, and outdated technology tools. Our research shows this costs the business 2,550+ work hours translating to approximately $150,000 per year across departments.
Supporting Use Cases:
- The quality manager has to conduct 3 CAPAs weekly. This process involves 5-6 other employees, and approximately 10 steps in 4 different systems. Total employee time: 3-4 hours.
- Customer relations routes an average of 15 customer complaints to the quality team to investigate every week. This process involves 7 employees across 3 departments, and approximately 12 steps in 6 different systems. Total employee time: 10 hours.
Once you’ve developed your business problems, we recommend an additional step: socialize your work with a few of the colleagues you interviewed to validate that you’re accurately representing their experience and the business problem’s impact.
Looking Ahead: Building a Compelling Business Case
We’ve gone from ideas for loosely defined business problems, to a diverse team producing data-driven use cases for urgent, impactful, and ultimately promising business areas. In the next chapter, this work will form the foundation for your business case. We hope you’ll join us for the next phase in the buying journey.
Tips and Key Takeaways
- Form a team: select, diverse perspectives will lead to a stronger business case and increase the initiative’s likelihood of ultimate success.
- Don’t rely just on people’s opinions: support your business problem(s) with clear, quantifiable use cases that bring the problem to life.
- Be on the lookout for quick wins: rather than focusing on solving a big organizational challenge, identify where you could solve a small piece of the problem and establish if your proposed solution works. Smaller pilot projects are typically easier and faster to fund and get underway.