by Paige O'Neill

How to build the business case for a digital workplace

Dec 05, 2016
Collaboration SoftwareIT LeadershipSmall and Medium Business

Here are the basics of building a strategy so you can get budget and make your digital workplace a reality

digital business
Credit: Thinkstock

In my blog post last month, I wrote about why digital-workplace technology has become a mandate in today’s hyper-mobile world. This month, I explore basics of building a strategy and a business case so you can get budget and make your digital workplace a reality.

The other day, I heard a great story about how a colleague of mine got board approval to hire more than two dozen new staff members—and the whole negotiation took less than an hour. He used digital-workplace technology to pull a remote team member into a board meeting on the fly and run ROI scenarios in real time. Without being able to see the specific figures, the decision would have taken weeks and cost millions in potential revenue.

+ Also on Network World: Why you need a digital workplace +

The lesson here is that a sound business case—augmented by solid data—is the best way to persuade. How can you establish a convincing business case for a digital workplace so you can get the budget and go-ahead?

Step 1: Define the problem, quantify the impact

A digital workplace can solve a lot of problems. But unless you can demonstrate the financial impact—both in terms of lost revenue from the problem, as well as the ROI for the solution—it may be difficult to gain management’s ear. So, the first step is to make a list of the concrete benefits a digital workplace can provide.

The following are examples:

  • Productivity of remote workers/teams. Studies show that most companies suffer from an epidemic of employee disengagement, which directly translates into lost productivity. In fact, according to Gallup, U.S. employers lose a staggering $450 billion to $550 billion every year due to this phenomenon. The problem can be exaggerated in companies that have multiple offices, telecommuters and global teams, since remote workers must rely on technology to connect them to their in-office counterparts. A digital workplace, which enables more effective collaboration amongst disparate workers, can greatly boost both engagement and productivity, preventing this lost revenue.
  • Scalable onboarding. Large enterprises spend thousands of dollars a year onboarding new employees. Interactive, multimedia digital-workplace technology can simplify and scale the onboarding process by making it repeatable and enabling effective remote training.
  • Accelerating product development. Digital-workplace technology is one of the best ways to enable Agile development among disparate team members. Agile development allows companies to bring products to market more quickly and enables more effective collaboration.

Examples like those demonstrate a straight line to ROI, which makes for a very convincing business case.

Step 2: Enlist support

Gaining management approval for a large expenditure will always be easier if more than one department can benefit from the investment. What’s more, if you involve multiple departments in the selection of a digital-workplace product, they’re more likely to get excited about the new technology and help drive adoption.

The following departments are most likely to benefit from a digital workplace:

  • Sales. Global companies, as well as those that have multiple offices, are likely to employ salespeople in locations beyond central headquarters. A digital workplace is the perfect way to hold meetings and keep everyone in sync. What’s more, a digital workplace allows for collaborative meetings with prospects and customers.
  • Engineering/development. Developers and IT workers can use a digital workplace to collaborate on architecture, solve problems and hold daily or weekly scrum sessions.
  • Finance. This department often relies on numbers from multiple data sources, such as Salesforce and accounting software. Digital-workplace technology can allow finance teams to view data from all of these places simultaneously, making it easier to visualize the “big picture.”
  • Human resources. As in the onboarding example I outlined earlier, HR can be a great ally as you build out your business case.

Step 3: Create a rollout strategy

Driving the adoption of new technology is no mean feat. Being able to articulate your plan for piloting and rolling out digital-workplace technology might be the linchpin for garnering approval and budget.

As a first step here, you should think about researching and writing up a set of best practices, which you can share with employees. Next, might be the creation of a training plan. If you choose the right vendor for your digital-workplace technology, they will be able to help you with this. And if you’ve chosen the right platform, you should be able to leverage the solution itself when developing your training plan.

Lastly, remember that to encourage adoption of a collaboration platform, you’ll need to evolve your corporate culture, as well. Are people siloed in your organization? Does everyone sit in cubes with high walls, interacting only in weekly meetings? Are you involving your remote employees in decisions and brainstorms? These are good areas to address.

Moving forward

A digital workplace is a worthy investment, but management might not immediately recognize it as such. Having a sound strategy to qualify (and quantify) the purchase will help your executive team understand how it can help accelerate innovation, build teamwork and boost revenue.