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Gaining management support

Tips for Building a Business Case

Pamela Kostur
The Rockley Group, Inc.

In most organizations, you first have to prove you need something before you get the go ahead to do it or buy it! Implementing a content management solution is no different. While sometimes it's okay to forge ahead, then ask for permission (or forgiveness) later, in most cases, you'll need to secure resources first. And, to secure resources, you usually need to explain why, which means you need a business case. So, what goes into a business case? What should you consider when gathering information? Here's is a checklist with some tips, some things to consider, and some advice, aimed at helping you through what many consider a daunting task

Define your project and identify its scope

One of the most important-and one of the first-things to do is to figure out what you're asking permission for. Accordingly, the first item in your checklist should be to define what it is that you want to do and to break it down into phases. You need to be very clear. Are you asking for permission to buy the technology, are you asking for permission to allocate resources to analyze your content and make recommendations? Are you asking for permission to form a team to work on a content management project? It's important to define exactly what you are building a business case for, but you should also keep in mind that the various phases of a content management project may need individual business cases. So, if your first phase is to analyze your current content and content life cycle, followed by a second phase of modeling content and creating Schemas, both phases may need businesses cases, depending on how your company operates. The point is to decide what you are asking for-very specifically-then ask for it.

Consider the timing

Figure out the timelines for the phases of your project, and consider how much time it will cost your internal resources to work on it. This is something management almost always wants to know! You can pretty much rest assured they will ask, "How much time will this take?" And, "how will you get your other work done in the meantime?" You should have approximate timelines worked out for the whole project, and for its various phases so you can approach it in manageable pieces. Also, consider what other projects are going on in your company that may affect your ability to complete your project. If your company is going through a merger, or announcing a new line of products, maybe now is not the best time to think about a content management project. Or , maybe it is if it can help you to meet deadlines and manage information coming from the other merged companies...but this would be further down the road, not immediately. It's important to know how much time you'll need, how much time other resources will need, and what else is going on in the company that is putting demands on peoples' time.

Consider your company's business strategy and goals

Connect your content management goals to your company's business strategy. You need to figure out what the issues your company is facing, what the five-year plan is, so you can quantify your content management project in relation to the business strategy. It's important to focus on business outcomes, such as improving customer satisfaction or improving content quality for front-line staff who support customers. (Rahel Bailie's and Nina Junco's article in this issue provides an excellent example of content management aligned with business strategy. See the feature article, Making the Case for Content Management.) For each of your project goals, identify targets and determine how meeting those targets will be measured.

Educate management about content management

Without sufficient knowledge about content management and its benefits, management will not be able to make informed decisions about your project, and in fact, much of your business case will not make sense to them. You need to dedicate some of your business case to explaining content management to them. Again, Bailie's and Junco's article provides excellent advice on how to do this!

Determine appropriate management sponsorship

When putting forth a business case for content management, you're probably proposing it to your own management team. However, there may be other management sponsorship available to support your project. The more management buy-in, the greater the chance that you will gain support for your project. Who is in the best position to benefit from sponsoring your project? How, specifically, will they benefit? Your management may be "relieved" to know that there are others in the organization who can share the work, and the costs!

Think about the risks and form a risk mitigation strategy

Consider possible project risks and ways to manage those risks. You may not be able to avoid them, but you can manage them by doing such things as constraining the project scope, avoiding very large enterprise content management projects that attempt to take on ALL content in an organization, and selecting a pilot project that will help you realize success and gain knowledge to move forward with additional projects.

Select and describe your pilot project

When selecting a pilot project, be clear about its goals. Be clear about what you are trying to accomplish during the pilot and be sure to set measurements for your goals. How will you know you've succeeded?

Select team members and describe their roles

This ties in with considering time requirements and with selecting your pilot project. You should figure our what internal resources you will require, what external resources, and what the associated costs are for each. Also, outline each person's role on the project. Figure out roles and their requirements for during the pilot and on an ongoing basis. You need to be specific about what you are asking each team member to do, about why that person is a good fit for your project, and you need to show that you are considering this person's other responsibilities.

Outline all the costs (and their associated benefits) of implementing a content management system

You need to figure out ALL the costs and you need to be able to justify those costs through benefits. Can you identify potential revenue from your content management solution? What about saving money? Can you quantify non-tangible benefits? Determining your ROI is critical; this issue also includes an article by Ann Rockley on determining ROI. See Creating a Winning ROI for more information. Bailie and Junco also discuss the importance of ROI in Making a Case for Content Management.


Above all, you need to communicate beyond the business case. You need to start "planting the seeds" well before you actually make your business case so management isn't overwhelmed with unfamiliar information and so they understand some of the "language" of content management. You need to communicate as part of the business case, both on paper and in person. Putting forth a business case requires more than documenting your requirements and turning it in for review. You should also make presentations to help breathe life into your project. And, you also need to communicate once your project is underway to let people know "how their money is being spent." You need to tell them what you're doing, what successes you've had, and you also need to be honest about any problems so they can help to resolve them. Determine key messages to communicate, to whom, when, and how.

Copyright 2005, The Rockley Group, Inc.