Convincing your manager and the rest of your company to invest in the software it really needs brings you face to face with two sobering facts.
Money and resources are finite and if you want a piece of them, you have to prove how important your project is. Your ability to plead your case will ultimately decide whether or not you get that prized software your team so desperately needs.
If anything, the economic ups and downs of the last six years have made companies' approval processes more stringent than ever. This means you need to come ready to clearly demonstrate how your work management software will equal a solid return on investment. Of course, to pull this off, you'll need to put yourself into the shoes of your manager, Finance, and IT and speak their language.
Your chances of success will be greatly increased if you address the solution's benefits in term of the following categories, which are listed in order of impact:
If your team does directly influence revenue, then consider this your number-one weapon in estimating your work management solution's potential ROI. After all, while cost savings and time savings can be passed off as overly optimistic estimates, it's hard to argue with teams that deal directly with revenue.
For example, program management teams at product manufacturing companies can say that their ability to manage their work better got products to market on time and, therefore, sold more products and drove higher sales revenue.
When it comes down to showing ROI, there is no more powerful language than that of money. You want to be able to show in dollars how the benefit from your new solution will far outweigh the cost. You get this. But what if your team isn't necessarily a revenue-generating team within your company?
You need to find the potential savings within your team's work. For example, project failure and delays aren't just discouraging—they're expensive. Therefore, being able to sum up the costs of those problems and show how your work management solution will put a stop to them is an instant win. Also, your new solution might cost less than your existing tools, and you can count that savings under ROI.
If you were shopping for a work management solution, odds are pretty strong that your team was struggling with time wasted on gathering data manually, updating spreadsheets, or sitting in way too many status meetings. To your manager and your friends in Finance, all of this represents poorly used company resources. Understanding this, you need only show how your work management solution—if it's worth its salt—will eradicate or dramatically reduce this wasted time. In other words, how much time will it give back to your team for real, value-generating work?
You might want to quantify this as a percentage of your team's time (Ex: "Our team members will get back 25 percent of their time"). Or you might be able to sum it up in actual dollars of team member salaries for all those lost hours.
Getting more out of your existing team members is always important for the decision-makers. This means that, whenever possible, you want to be able to show how your work management solution will boost your team's productivity.
Usually, this figure will look like this: "Solution X will increase our work capacity by 125 percent." Keep in mind: productivity is also closely tied to time savings. If your team is spending less time on administrative tasks, the time that they're gaining is assumed to go to increased productivity. So make sure that gets factored into your productivity estimates.
Reduced Implementation Costs/Resources
Is your new solution going to be cheaper to implement than other options, in terms of money or resources? You'd be surprised just how important this question can be when getting to approval. Often, new software proposals get turned down because they will require IT resources for an extended period of time to get up and running. Unwilling to spare their resources, IT managers kill the proposal, regardless of the other benefits.
However, you can use this to your advantage if your solution:
• Will take a relatively short time to implement.
• Will require little or no handholding from IT.
• Can be implemented by the vendor at a low cost.
If your solution falls into this category, mention this advantage as you make your case. It will eliminate those inevitable objections from IT, and get you that much closer to 'yes'.
This may seem like a minor consideration when trying to sell your decision-makers on your work management solution, but imagine this scenario. What if your company decided to move ahead with a piece of software, spent thousands on licenses, education, and implementation, only to have few or no team members adopt the software? That would be a lot of money and momentum down the drain, not to mention management's credibility. Managers will always be little wary of this.
In light of this, if your work management solution has a track record of high adoption rates with other customers, please include this in your business case.
Better Collaboration and Morale
Now we come to all the qualitative factors that are difficult, if not impossible, to quantify, but are still just as important to your team's success. You can say, for instance, that your work management solution will increase collaboration or reduce team member stress, but it might be hard to apply an actual number to those.
While these benefits might not be as powerful in communicating to managers, Finance, or IT as the benefits above, you still want to include them in your business case. Whenever possible, draw connections between these more intangible benefits and more tangible outcomes. Less overtime and higher morale, for example, equal lower turnover and higher productivity.
Do your homework
As you can probably tell, if you've done your homework in selecting a work management solution, that research should feed directly into your proposal. By clearly and convincingly laying out the ROI, and other intangible benefits, of your work management solution, your success will be greatly improved.
- Bryan Nielson is the work management evangelist at AtTask where he Bryan is focused on helping teams eliminate the unending chaos of work that kills productivity, drains motivation, and stifles creativity.