How to Write a Persuasive Business Case for PPM Software
If you are tasked with procuring project portfolio management (PPM) software, you will need to prepare a comprehensive business case to support your choice and kick-start the deployment project.
A project business case answers key questions such as the expected return on investment (ROI), budget, and timelines for a project. The document should also include details such as scope, risks, and project approach.
Securing approval for your project relies on more than the document itself. Before submitting the business case, you need to engage stakeholders and gather compelling data to support your proposal.
In this article, I outline practical tips on winning support for your project, preparing your business case, and how to structure the document for maximum impact.
Why do I need a Project Business Case?
A business case provides information about the ‘who, what, how, and why’ of a project to secure approval and investment.
The document is used before, during, and after project completion, and plays a role in project request management.
1. Before the Project Begins
Focusing on ‘why’, the business case details the goals of the project. The document explains the problem or opportunity facing the organization and presents an attractive solution.
In this case, you will outline:
- Who wishes to procure PPM software and why.
- What software vendor has been short-listed, along with information about the evaluation criteria and selection process.
- How the chosen software will be deployed within the organization.
Once the project is approved, the business case acts as input for the project charter, assisting with planning, budgets, and resource management.
2. During Project Execution
In addition to establishing the need for the project, the business case outlines the scope of required work. The project team and stakeholder can use such information as a baseline to monitor project execution.
3. Post-Project Evaluation
Once the work is completed, the project manager and stakeholders can refer to the document to evaluate the business value delivered by the project.
4. Project Request Management
Finally, the business case plays an essential role in project request management. Using information such as expected value, goals, and required resources, the document helps organizations to rank, prioritize, and approve the right projects at the right time.
Now that you understand the importance of the business case, let’s look at how to garner support and gather information for your PPM software project before writing the document.
3 Ways to Build Support for PPM Software
1. Gather Proof Points
The primary purpose of the business case is to explain the value of PPM software. Introducing new software represents a significant investment for any business, so you must present clear, fact-based rationale for doing so.
Remember – new software is not just about saving costs. It’s an opportunity to improve information sharing, collaboration, visibility, and reporting, all of which reduce time to market, streamline business processes, and increase customer satisfaction. Your data and examples should reflect these elements.
There are several questions you will need to answer including:
- Current challenges facing project teams within the organization, for example, poor visibility.
- The number of failed or struggling projects within the organization, and the associated financial losses.
- Missed business opportunities due to poor project management.
- The impact of resourcing the project on other projects and business units, i.e., the project pipeline.
- A shortlist of software vendors and associated costs, including licensing and training.
- The ROI of the new software in terms of costs, time savings, visibility, resourcing, and reporting.
- A cost analysis of building and maintaining a customized system internally v procuring an external solution.
Here are some ways to gather your data:
- Run a brainstorm meeting or use a survey to gather requirements from the project and IT teams.
- Use these requirements to research and shortlist potential vendors.
- Complete a free trial and a customized demonstration with potential vendors. software. This will help you understand the product, and provide access to relevant screenshots or videos for your business case. You will also need to cover pricing for licenses, training, and upgrades.
- Talk to the IT team about building and maintaining your own internal system. Ask for projections around budget, resources, and timelines.
- Find external case studies and industry reports outlining the benefits of project portfolio management software. Reputable sources include the Project Management Institute, Gartner, and CIO.
2. Engage Stakeholders Early
Organizations often fail to implement new software due to poor stakeholder engagement.
Think about it. The stakeholders responsible for approving and supporting projects are unlikely to be familiar with the underlying issue and are short on time.
This means you should reach out to stakeholders early on and raise awareness about the problem or opportunity before submitting the document.
This will help you to:
- Increase stakeholder commitment to the project.
- Understand the specific problems or challenges stakeholders experience when managing projects and portfolios such as poor visibility.
- Explain the benefits of PPM software to each stakeholder, for example, real-time reporting.
- Align the expected ROI of the software to other strategic goals, like launching a new product.
- Uncover any assumptions or doubts about deploying new software.
Including such information will make your business case compelling and personal.
3. Refine Your Case
During the above two steps, you will have the opportunity to share your idea and gather feedback from numerous individuals in different roles throughout the organization.
Discussing the project will help you to refine your argument until it is very crisp, clear, and concise. In short, this is your elevator pitch – a strong summary of the project.
Listen to every question, counter-argument, and point of concern, and prepare responses. You can draw upon these answers when preparing the business case itself, thereby reducing resistance to your proposal in a subtle but powerful way.
So far, we have explored the importance of a business case when introducing PPM software, and strategies to win internal buy-in for your proposal. In doing so, you will gather key information and examples to support your suggestion.
Next, it’s time to write the business case! Keep reading for a suggested template.
A Template for Your Project Business Case
A business case typically follows the below structure. Before you start your document, check if your organization has an existing template or if the relevant stakeholders have a preferred format.
- Executive Summary: Written last, the executive summary briefly explains the content of the business case and key takeaways.
- Financial Statement: In this section, outline how much the project will cost and the expected ROI. Use relevant information provided by software vendors, such as tiered pricing, training, and upgrades. You should also include the cost of building a system internally.
- Project Definition: This is the largest section of the document, and is aimed at stakeholders. In the following elements, sell your idea!
- Background: Explain the background to the project, referencing data and examples where relevant. Why does your organization need PPM software? What are the expected outcomes of the project? What will happen if you don’t introduce the software? Include details on vendor selection, and your own recommendation.
- Goals: In short, what are the metrics of success? It’s not enough to simply install new software and declare the project a success. You must demonstrate the business value of the deliverables. Key metrics include the number of projects completed on time or within budget, a reduction in the volume of late tasks or risks, or a reduction in project documentation.
- Deliverables: In this section, you will explain how the new PPM solution will be introduced, for example, within the IT team as a starting point. You may wish to explain the deployment and training process so stakeholders understand when certain capabilities will be available.
- Resources and Interdependencies: In addition to outlining key team members and resources required for the project, list all project interdependencies. Will you need to wait for IT to upgrade your network connections before deploying the new software?
- Operational Impacts: Any new software will necessitate changes to daily operations – hopefully for the better! Depending on the recommended software option, operational impacts range from time tracking to reporting and task management.
- Scope: Define what is needed, and only what is needed, to complete the project.
- Timeline: Provide a draft outline of the timelines with key milestones and checkpoints.
- Risks: Document risks, the consequences of risks occurring, and your risk management approach.
- Project Approach: In this section, outline how the project will be delivered, for example, by an internal cross-functional team or outsourced contractors. In both instances, a manager is required to oversee work and report to stakeholders. Document roles and responsibilities, and ways of working.
Here are some additional best practice tips for preparing your business case:
- Be clear, concise, and precise.
- Avoid jargon or complicated language.
- Check and double-check financial data and projections!
- Everyone learns in a different way. Use various media types to engage your audience, for example, links to videos, product screenshots, and a chart for the project timeline.
- Align your vision for the project with key strategic goals.