Making a business case for any level of change will almost certainly be complex, not least because of the variety of hard and soft measures that may be used and, where needed, the difficulty of obtaining empirical benefits / outcomes data. In the everyday world of considering change and new options, managers need a ‘quick and dirty’ approach to organizing gut feelings and intuitive projections into a format that can be readily sense-checked and shared to gather feedback from colleagues and even from potential suppliers.
This method could be used as a concentrated group exercise, but it may be valuable to use it initially as a personal focus for building up and reflecting on a benefits list relating to proposed change. The key is to adopt a simple framework to categorize the benefits that may arise from a particular change – such as a new system (e.g. procuring a new LMS or joining a shared service) or a re-engineered process (e.g. Borrower, loan and fine categories):
Dimension 1 – Scale of Benefit – Large, medium, small or zero are recommended for a first cut
Dimension 2 – Type of Benefit – Tangible / Cashable or Intangible is the obvious basic distinction; however, that binary approach might further be subdivided for some propositions – for example, Economy (Cashable), Efficiency, Effectiveness (User Experience)
- Step 1 – Set up a blank chart, like the example here
- Step 2 – Agree the categories for scale and type of benefit to be used in the first pass; this is about capturing broad expectations at first, so beware of over-complicating
- Step 3 – List the processes and / or outcomes with which benefits might be related; this may involve simple breakdown of the proposed change in to processes and / or areas of impact – for example, in the case of a review of library borrowing controls, the list might include: Maintaining rules, Classifying materials, Dealing with borrower issues, Managing recalls, Collecting fines
- Step 4 – Place the above on the chart in the right section with the right colour coding; for example ‘Dealing with borrower issues’ might be classified as High and Tangible
- Step 5 – Evolve through sharing with colleagues / stakeholders
- Step 6 – Consider how a business case or a set of measurable outcomes might be derived from this mapping; this might involve iteration of Steps 3-5, looking for further benefits or it might involve picking a subset for tighter focus.
The objective of the method is therefore to support initial identification of where potential benefits may be derived from change (systems, processes and their outcomes). In its final form it may provide a useful visualization within business case documentation and presentation.
Here is an initial view of business benefits for shared library management functions developed with WHELF consortium members:
Examples of Use
This method is used or referenced in the following LMS Change Case Studies
Business management and IT literature and websites offer a mass of advice on and differing examples of benefits analysis methods and associated visualizations. However, many are heavily focused on purely financial equations (Cost Benefit Analysis, Return On Investment) relating more to products, processes and systems rather than to broader change scenarios where a wider range of mission-related benefits needs to be weighed.