In my experience, the biggest hurdle to overcome when introducing a new data initiative is found right near the beginning – getting executive buy-in.

While data is the driving force behind the development of businesses in many industries, especially within the financial services sector, setting an initiative in motion that’s designed to capture, store and govern this information can be a real challenge.

That’s because any effective data initiative needs to present business-wide benefits, not just be contained to a single department. Without a holistic approach, you risk the rest of your organisation ignoring this new source of data, rendering it ineffective in the grand scheme of things.

So, how do you secure the all-important buy-in of project sponsors and boardroom executives? With a watertight business case.

What is a business case?

A business case sells a proposed data initiative to those you need to invest in it. These sponsors need to understand the problem that you have identified and how this initiative will remedy this; improving efficiency, reducing risk and overall delivering tangible benefits for your company, clients, partners and more.

This is achieved by presenting accurate, quantifiable evidence of the bottom-line return the company can expect from the initiative. It should incorporate performance indicators, financial metrics, risk assessments, opportunity costs and more, all to emphasise the issue, evangelise a solution, and provide reassurance that their investment will provide a secure ROI.

With decades of combined experience crafting and delivering these for our clients, our team at Fundipedia know first-hand how powerful a well-constructed business case can be in securing buy-in for a product master solution – which in turn will help the company harness and utilise data to support their development.

Here, I’d like to share some of that experience with what I believe to be the 7 fundamental stages of creating a business case that will fill your investors with confidence over your data initiative.

The 7 steps behind a good business case

  1. Assemble your team

First and foremost, bring together the people that support your initiative to form your product master leadership team. Ideally this should be led by a Chief Data Officer, data evangelist or reporting specialist, as they will be able to lend their insight and expertise in collating the information required about the initiative’s impact.

If you have shared your concept with other departments and they are on board, get them involved at this stage as well. Their insight will be useful in demonstrating the universal, company-wide benefits of your proposed solution, and for filling any gaps when it’s time to review your business case (more on that in Step 7).

  1. Determine suitable technologies

Once your data evangelists have come together, the next agenda is deciding which technology is appropriate for the problem at hand. You don’t need to be settled on a vendor at this point (although this could be beneficial), but you need to clarify key details your wider team will want to know, such as:

  • Does the initiative require AI or machine learning technology?
  • Is it workflow-orientated?
  • Does it require dashboards?
  • Does it utilise big data?

Honing on these factors is essential to explaining how you will take the initiative forward, as well as determining the costs involved. 

Selecting appropriate technology should also be benefit-driven based on the problem you wish to resolve. While the specifics will vary from organisation to organisation, I would surmise that in most cases the solution you propose should:

  • Offer self-service capabilities for end-users
  • Be capable of being fully integrated with other up and downstream solutions
  • Be straightforward to use
  • Allow users to ingest, prepare, analyse and act on operational data
  1. Define your methodology

Alongside choosing the right technology, you also have to decide on the methodology of your initiative. This approach should be entirely repeatable and include drivers that benefit both the business as a whole and your IT teams specifically.

It would be beneficial at this point to identify any tried-and-tested examples that other organisations have implemented using the technology you have selected. We practise this when creating business cases for our clients – through our history of supplying solutions for a range of circumstances, we can provide case studies that will reinforce the ROI that a data initiative can provide. 

  1. Outline the expected outcomes

One of the most critical stages of building your business case will be establishing what the outcomes of the initiative will be. In a nutshell, this breaks down the far-reaching benefits that the project sponsors or board executives can expect from your solution. 

Again, this will differ based on the organisation and the nature of the problem you are looking to resolve. But, common themes for a data governance initiative include:

  • Ensuring data terms are clearly defined company-wide
  • Improving confidence in how business users handle data
  • Clarifying roles and responsibilities for data owners, data stewards and data users
  • Enhancing data quality and mechanisms to distribute it efficiently and accurately
  • Understanding data lineage through full data audit trails
  • Improving decision-making capabilities through access to data
  • Simplifying the process of proving compliance to third parties

These are more conceptual, ongoing benefits that the data initiative offers your business, but will still require quantifiable, justifiable evidence before you transition onto the financial side of your business case.

  1. Quantify the costs involved

Those funding your data initiative will want a clear, granular understanding of what they will need to invest to get this off the ground. And this isn’t strictly limited to the cost of acquiring the technology in question, as you’ll also need to present:

  • The annual maintenance costs of the initiative
  • Internal/external resources required to implement the technology
  • Involvement of consultants
  • Any other recurring expenses

These raw numbers will play a key role in your investors’ decision-making process when weighed against the monetary benefits (discussed in Step 6). 

Also, this is a good opportunity to outline the cost differential of building an in-house solution against an external purchase, which, as I’ve explored in a previous article, is almost always weighted towards the latter option.

  1. Identify the monetary benefits

After the costs have been established, you will need to highlight how this investment will be paid back over time. While the proposed initiative might carry a range of operational, ongoing benefits, a demonstrative financial benefit will be critical to securing the buy-in of your investors or leadership team.

Within this segment of your business case, you’ll want to note:

  • All immediate money savings this initiative offers
  • Annual cost savings when weighed against maintenance costs
  • An estimate of the total financial value of the program

Be sure that these figures are validated by your finance team or an independent advisor before proceeding onto the presentation of your business case.

  1. Present your case to your decision makers and colleagues

Finally, with all data collated, financials estimated and benefits listed, it is time to present this information back to those you’re trying to convince.

However, before this I would encourage you to get a peer review from all departments you have already secured support from. By running the business case past them, they will ask all of the awkward questions about the initiative that you’ll need to have answers for. 

Getting this grilling out of the way early will leave you suitably prepared to publish your business case and put it in front of your sponsors or executive leadership team to secure funding and establish timeframes for the implementation of this initiative.

Support with your business case

I hope this breakdown of the process behind a business case will help you in your attempts to introduce initiatives and products that will enhance your company’s ability to harness its data. 

By taking this 7-step approach, a product master solution can be introduced and business value can be delivered within 18 months, delivering benefits to your whole team and a firm grasp on data governance.

Of course, the key drivers behind a business case will vary depending on the organisation. But, I believe this process can be universally applied in your attempts to present a compelling case to your investors and make a real difference to your company.

If you would like to learn more about building a business case and what should be incorporated in your attempts to secure that all-important buy-in, our team at Fundipedia have years of experience at our disposal to support you.

Get in touch to discuss this further.