Building A Business Case For Technology Investment

27 February 2024

Before your next technology project begins, there’s a whole period dedicated to research, scoping and evaluation that is undertaken. The steps to success start before the final idea is presented to those who will ultimately decide on whether the budget is approved, and key to this is building a robust business case.

But that business case shouldn’t exist only to tick boxes, it is designed to prove the value of the initiative and summarise the extensive work that has gone into establishing that the chosen solution, over all other options, is where budget should be spent.

Creating a business case can be daunting, after all, if it’s new technology you’re unlikely to have first-hand experience with it. We’re here to ensure no stone is left unturned and make building that business case easy, and that all starts with…

Understanding the business vision

The greatest of businesses have a clearly stated vision that all functions contribute towards achieving. Without it, efforts within your team won’t pull in the same direction and the ‘right’ projects become missed opportunities.

Align your vision for change with the business vision for the future, considering how the technology you’re exploring supports the achievement of this ambition. Your proposal is more likely to be well-received and gain stakeholder buy-in if the results drive the business towards its objectives. Be honest and if you find your idea is more of a passion project, take a moment to evaluate its merit for the business at this time.

Aligning key stakeholders

There will always be an internal web of other interests and stakeholders to navigate but where does the responsibility for technology investment sit in your business? In our experience, there is typically a combination of retail operations, IT and finance stakeholders involved but the influence of these individuals will vary by business.

Aligning stakeholders that have different goals is challenging and so knowing your internal audience is key. Each need to see value in the technology you’re proposing – both in terms of the need and the ROI. IT will ask searching technical questions and want to know how it will be implemented and supported, finance will challenge the numbers, and retail operations will ask how it will affect colleagues and customer journeys. If you can align these stakeholders and provide justification across all areas, you will give your technology project the best chance of getting the green light.

Know the budgeting process

Budget will always be a constraint that retailers face and we often see budgetary conflict between this group of stakeholders. Retail operations want ‘more’ but don’t necessarily have the immediate resources or the evidence to back up the “why”. IT is concerned with much more than the front-of-store applications that retail ops use, they’re interested in security, stability, continuity and the need to upgrade wider infrastructures, they’re also looking at central systems, communications and even laptops for office staff. Finance has then got to prioritise spend and the return on investment and balance it all within the budget.

Do you have a clear window to get budget signed off? Knowing when budgets for the year ahead are approved gives you a timeframe to work within. How is that budget then managed? For example, will you be empowered to operate within certain spend thresholds and if so, could this project be phased to make budget management simpler?

Understanding how your business prefers to invest – whether it would be Capex or Opex – is useful too. Sometimes businesses like to balance the two to their advantage and this is something we can support. There are pros and cons of each, but financing over the life of the solution might mean that you can invest sooner and therefore benefit from the technology faster, with a quicker ROI.

What else to consider when building your business case

With clarity on the goal, a comprehensive understanding of the stakeholders involved as well as an appreciation of their unique perspectives, and a grasp of how to approach the request for budget, you’re ready to start bringing this together to form your technology proposal. Here are some tips on what else to consider:

What are your competitors investing in?

Senior management will keep one eye on what the competition is doing, and you should too. What positive changes are you seeing in other businesses? What experiences have wowed you or fallen short? There’s a lot to be learnt from what others are doing and seeing what investment is working for other retailers provides social proof to support your initiatives.

Where is budget being wasted?

Legacy solutions can be a drain on internal support resource and increase costs substantially for service contracts and repairs. That cost is likely being absorbed within another budget and may not be readily evident to Finance meaning that they are unaware of the costs stacking up. If you were to spend a £100,000 lump sum on new technology, however, that would be instantly noticed and so there’s an element of highlighting existing costs and how these will be offset or reduced by the new technology.

Another example of this that we regularly see is lost devices. It’s estimated that between 5 – 15% of devices go missing each year leading to a drop in efficiency. Simply replacing these devices doesn’t solve the problem, in fact, it will happen again and again wasting significant money. Instead, exploring how to introduce greater accountability and considering how to store and secure devices will protect your business’ investment and save budget wastage.

Is the technology a ‘need’ or a ‘want’?

Is this proposed technology investment led by necessity, for example, unsupported handheld terminals and a dwindling estate with faulty and lost devices make for inefficient working? Or is this an innovation project, your current systems and processes aren’t broken, but you could do better and reap greater rewards?

  • The need is driven by risk. The mentality is “What happens if we don’t do this?” – the risk could be slow operations, frustrated staff, unable to support new software releases, or even security breaches.
  • A want, however, is driven by reward. “What will we gain if we do this?” – the reward is in what is made possible and creating opportunities for growth.

Understanding this difference changes the way you can frame your project and therefore how you seek stakeholder buy-in and budget approval.

How will you prove ROI?

Be crystal clear on what impact you expect the new technology to deliver. Efficiency is often a key focus within retail and investment is made to reduce future spending. Technology management tools and the availability of analytics support retailers in making the right decisions for the future. With this visibility, your retail operations team have evidence to back up their needs.

Businesses are empowered to use and discuss the data, using facts to determine the true impact. If you can demonstrate to stakeholders that all mobile devices are in use 95% of the time and what applications are being used, you can also prove what is not able to be done due to lack of device availability. If you don’t currently have comprehensive management and analytics tools in place, look to trusted industry sources or record first-hand data to prove the need and impact.

Proving the concept

If we can instantly see the relevance to us, we better recognise the value. This is why something we regularly do when introducing new technology is bring to life the impact it would have. From product demonstrations to the creation of on-screen content and the use of imagery, consider how it can be used to help your idea land better.

Even better, agree with your stakeholder team to run a real in-store proof of concept. Requiring a much lower level of investment, a proof of concept is the best way to test how the solution will work for your business and something that can be up and running within just weeks. Providing vital learnings, this is the chance to test, change and analyse so that further investment is made with greater confidence after seeing tangible benefits.

Lean on us to help build your business case

The experts in our field, we make creating a business case easy for you. From sharing insight on what other retailers are doing, to helping bring your idea to life, we’re a technology partner who’s as invested in making a difference to your retail business as you are.

We work together with our customers exploring the technology options that are right for them, coming up with cost-effective solutions to benefit their business now and into the future. Every recommendation we make is backed by extensive time spent scouring the market on your behalf and our long history of successful transformational change we have done. Working with us, you can be sure you’ll receive the depth of information needed to build a strong and accurate business case.

We’re on your side and we’re here to support you. Get in touch with our team of retail experts to get started on your next technology project.

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