How to write the right business case to move your intranet to Office 365

You've been asked to write the business case to justify an upgrade of your intranet to Office 365. Clearly, the natural question (with your inside voice) is: where do I start?

Well, based on the work we've been doing with our enterprise clients, perhaps not where you'd traditionally think.

Old business case models aren't compelling — and won't get approved 

If you Google "intranet business case", you'll get lots of results. But they aren't the ones that are going to help you.

If it was five or even two years ago, your business case would potentially succeed if you tied it to a detailed financial model, laboriously constructed around potential productivity or operational savings from moving to the cloud, such as reducing the cost of product licenses or procuring and maintaining less infrastructure. Or maybe you'd focus on factors like recovering employee productivity by reducing time on repetitive tasks like search.

These low-level, and frankly uncompelling scenarios often don't show the nuanced and very real imperative of a moving to a modern, intranet solution that supports business and employee digital experience needs.

Traditional intranet business cases were historically daunting for decision makers to approve. The typical cost/benefit analysis of the magnitude of effort and change required to upgrade or redevelop an intranet from scratch often can't compete against other initiatives in your organization's portfolio. Intranets — which focus on internal employees — rarely stand up to apples to apples comparisons to customer facing initiatives, which often draw more obvious connections to bottom line contributions. As a result, your intranet initiative gets demoted (again) for the next fiscal year.

A modern business case for a modern digital workplace

New technology is rapidly changing the nature of how we work, discover, collaborate, and create. The introduction of cloud computing, and specifically the Microsoft O365 vision for the digital workplace, opens up new opportunities for the future experience of your employees. To capture this, your business case needs to be different by nature.

In our experience, the value in today's business case lies in painting a picture of the future employee’s digital experience, and coaching and aligning your stakeholders to the value of your vision. Writing your business case from this perspective requires letting go of "how things have always been" and generating faith for your organization, team, and executive to move differently into your upgrade, and your future.

Our advice when shaping your business case is to rely on these future oriented concepts when pitching your upgrade:

  • Bring human stories to your business case

    Don’t waste time creating time-on-task calculations for how long it takes to find a document. Extrapolating productivity and time savings isn't getting to the heart of your employee experience or business outcomes that matter. We recommend preceding your business case with a quick burst of initial, human-centred, empathetic research (immersive discovery phase – 5 days max) to uncover the simmering issues that your intranet can address: Engagement. Expertise. Connection. Collaboration. Embed human stories that you discover as quotes and artifacts throughout your business case or presentation to make the connection between people and your job in helping them do meaningful work that matters... with the right tools at their side.

  • Focus on harmonizing experiences

    Emphasize the connection between the employee experience and the customer experience, and how developing consistent business processes across regions can positively impact not just employee and customer experiences, but also provide a foundation for scalability and business agility. For example, a consistent digital experience and access to the right expertise, resources and tailored, job-specific knowledge can allow organizations to reallocate resources to meet peak demands, and still offer consistent service across touchpoints and locations.

  • Re-orient to small, experimental, iterative stages

    Your business case shouldn't ask for a huge, big bang solution — it's an easy way for decision makers to say "no!". Instead, build the case for starting with the first, right, small-ish thing, with the knowledge that it's only the first step in a multi-year strategy. At the same time, set the expectation with your executive that it's ok to not know every detail about what your solution will be right from the beginning. It will be uncomfortable, change usually is, but worth it when you have a better outcome. Rest assured, starting this way doesn't mean that connecting systems and experiences isn't a priority, but the path to get there has changed. Immersive discovery processes, like the one we share in our WestJet case study, started with developing a quick vision and roadmap. These enagements leave room for learning and shifting priorities as you experiment and adapt based what you learn about people's needs and their behaviour.

  • Embrance the diversity of the new digital workplace toolkit

    It's now a bit old-fashioned to think that there is one magic tool ("the intranet") that helps all employees accomplish all their tasks. The reality of today's digital workplace means accepting that employees have multitude of options, whereby they can choose the right tool for the right job. And this landscape of tools changes continuously, almost organically. In a true digital workplace, employees have different needs that need to be supported in different ways. It's not uncommon to have Teams running alongside Yammer, SharePoint, OneDrive, Dropbox, and Slack. Your successful business case acknowledges and leverages the strength in this diverse toolkit and is open to its fluid nature and benefits, rather than resisting it.

  • Your intranet is no longer just a technology initiative

    As we've shared in our modern workplace webinars, we feel that a new consortium is emerging out of the digital workplace. Upgrades are no longer solely a software driven initiative. In our experience, the most successful business cases leverage strong executive sponsorship as well as day to day stewardship of IT, together with Communications and HR. We are even seeing facilities planners engaged as we develop and evolve our understanding of not just how organizations and people work, but where they work. We see success where this consortium shares and advocates for the belief that we are working together to create a better digital experience, and ultimately, a better employee experience. Your business case needs to account for this new ownership model.

  • Build capacity through coaching and support

    Our clients often tell us, "we don't have internal capacity" or "we don't have experience on this new platform". These issues can hold them back from proceeding with their initiative and sadly, these concerns can become self-fulfilling prophecies. One way to break the cycle is to work with a partner like us. While we have many Office 365 projects under our belts, it’s fair to say that with the pace of change, we're all figuring this out together as the changes to the technology happen constantly. Our role as partners is to work with you and your team, and experiment safely with the technology, all while providing coaching and guidance to your team. Over time, as we work together and respond to business needs, this leaves room for developing new capabilities and potential self-sufficiency.

With these guidelines in mind, your business case stands a better chance of being considered as a thoughtful, future oriented articulation of the benefits of an upgrade. By weaving these concepts into your business case, you can build alignment and manage expectations of your sponsors and team, and shape a new way of working together to create the first steps in your future digital workplace.

How we can help

If you'd like to work together on building the right story for your organization, we'd love to talk with you. Our team can coach and collaborate with yours to find the right way to support your upgrade conversations.

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