Making the Case for a New Digital Workplace

Making the business case for a new Intranet can be a challenge; for example, how do you determine the ROI of something as intangible as employee productivity or engagement, especially across an entire organization?


In this post Ie'll outline some pointers to building a business case, as well as some areas to focus on as key levers. The fancy PowerPoint presentation is your responsibility! In later posts I’ll detail the value of a new Digital Workplace.


Also later I’ll try to dive into how to motivate the emotional side of the audience. Change requires you to tap into different aspects of your audience (the rational and the emotional). This post focuses on the rational: dollars, cents, and measurements. I highly recommend a read of Switch by Dan and Chip Heath to learn more about enacting change.



Define Stakeholders


First, identify the key stakeholders. Obviously, all the employees in your company is a key one. These are the end-users and the biggest group. It will be important to define the benefits to them.


But also, the business owner of the Intranet is a key stakeholder. This could be Internal Communications or HR. This is the group responsible for keeping engagement up and content fresh.


Finally, include any other groups that have a stake in the project. For example, IT in must be involved from a support standpoint, as they will most likely be managing the technical and KSR (keep systems running) aspects of the solution.



Set Goals


Then, identify investment goals; what do you want to get out of it?


Don’t just set idealistic or qualitative goals (“increase engagement in the company” or “improve productivity”), make sure you have quantitative ones too. This will allow you to measure against your baseline. How did you do? Start simple and focus on a few key metrics that are of interest to you depending on your role (or the role of the person you need to sell this to). For example:


  • Increase engagement within the company -> One option: increase the number of people reading News Stories by 30%

  • Improve productivity -> One option: amount of time people spent looking for documents by 20%

If you don’t have the analytics capabilities to get this baseline data, you can always conduct some interviews or surveys and extrapolate from there. New digital workplace solutions usually come with an analytics component to help measure engagement and adoption, which will help in future decision-making.



Categorize the Intended Benefits


Define a set of intended benefits in the context of your goals and stakeholder requirements.

Here is a non-exhaustive and purely-for-example list:


  • Reduced travel costs

  • Better productivity – access from mobile devices “on the go”

  • Less time checking e-mails

  • Faster and leaner communication – social technology and broadcast messages

  • Reduced print costs

  • Improved employee attachment to company – up to date with latest news

  • More openness to innovation – future capabilities

  • Better staff motivation – more modern and flexible workplace

  • Improved time to find corporate documents and resources

  • And on and on and on…


Then, you categorize by the benefit’s ability to realize hard cost savings (or drive revenue). By this we mean actual money. For example:


  • Level 1 – These benefits realize direct monetary cost savings.

  • Level 2 – These benefits include productivity improvements around time saved which could be realized into actual cost savings with some management.

  • Level 3 – These benefits are less tangible and thus harder to quantify as productivity gains or cash such as improved worker engagement, organizational capabilities, or collaboration.

Thus, the above example list of benefits could be grouped as follows:


Level 1

Reduced travel costs – less travel necessary
Reduced print costs – fewer documents printed


Level 2

Improved time to find corporate documents and resources
Better productivity – access from mobile devices “on the go”
Less time checking e-mails


Level 3

Faster and leaner communication – social technology and broadcast messages
Improved employee attachment to company – up to date with latest news
More openness to innovation – future capabilities
Better staff motivation – more modern and flexible workplace

You can also assign benefits to specific groups of stakeholders to bring some clarity to which benefits benefit which stakeholders.



Expose Risks


Don’t forget to highlight the risks involved. Risks may be high for a project of this scope, but risks are not inherently bad. Just be transparent about risks and manage them (I know, easier said than done).


Some examples questions to ask to identify risks:


  • Are the right resources in place to maintain the new intranet going forward?

  • Will the organizational processes effectively change?

  • Will the change management efforts be effective enough to drive engagement to the new platform?

  • Are all stakeholders aware of their responsibilities to deliver the project successfully?

  • And so on…


Try to identify risks that potentially offset the benefits that were previously identified, as this will be useful for the next phase.


Check Against the Reality


Finally, review whether the benefits you outlined would generate an acceptable level of benefit and if they align with the overall goals and key outcomes of the project.

This can be grouped by stakeholder and managed by a matrix, where each benefit category can be summarized and rated as:

  • Sustainable (Yes)

  • Unsure due to lack of data or clarity (Maybe)

  • Compromised due to lack of opportunities or excessive risk (No)




Now you’re ready to start formulating a business case. Just remember, guiding the rational mind is just one half of the equation. Don’t forget to motivate the emotional side too! I’ll touch on this and our thoughts on the value of a good Intranet in future posts.

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