Engineering a Business Case — Driving adoption of new tech solutions
Engineering, product management, and other technical staff are often in a unique position to identify new and innovative approaches to solving clients’ problems. It is only when technical innovation meets great execution that those problems can be solved in a scalable and compelling way, however. Deploying new solutions at scale requires an investment in time, energy, and money from the broader organization. This means that getting the organization to adopt those new approaches requires not just the identification of the idea but a business case detailing what it would take to implement and why it will be worth it in the long run. So, what are some of the key things to consider when trying to get an organization to adopt new innovations and technical approaches?
Identify the metrics that matter
Before investing the time to develop out a new approach or solution, it’s important to understand how we will know the new approach is better than alternatives. This means identifying the metrics that matter. Does the solution reduce costs? Drive revenue? Save time? The critical metrics should come from the intended adopter of the technology. Whether for an internal or external client, the metrics to be measured should reflect what they value most. Pre-defining those metrics before any proof-of-concept, analysis, or test will lend credibility to the effort itself.
Design a meaningful test
Once we know what has to be measured, we must of course find a way to measure it. The potential beneficiary of the new solution may not want to dedicate time, effort, or money to validate an unproven concept. Therefore, any test should be devised in a way that minimizes disruption to existing processes or workflow. At the same time, for the test to be meaningful, we need to replicate the conditions under which the solution would be deployed as closely as possible. All assumptions should be transparent to the client and there should be a mutual understanding of why those assumptions do not detract from the validity of the test before the effort begins.
Make your case
Armed with a meaningful test, defined test metrics, and transparent assumptions, we’re now in a position to execute and collect data. The collected data should allow us to compare how well the solution improves on the critical metrics compared to a baseline (such as the status quo alternative). If indeed the new solution shows significant improvement, we are in a great position to make the case for adoption given the client has already identified what is most important to them and that the test is an acceptable reflection of how it would perform at scale. In making the case for adoption, it is important to highlight not only the quantitative results comparing the new solution to the alternatives but also the qualitative results. It’s worth highlighting any ancillary benefits beyond just the critical metrics (e.g., ease of use, more efficient workflow, etc.). It is also worth calling out potential costs so the client can get a clear picture of the total return on investment.
When the time comes to make the case for adoption, it is helpful to anticipate how the client will respond. Pro-actively addressing holes in the study or where it falls short and explaining why that is ok or how it can be addressed in the future can give the client comfort knowing that you have considered a range of future possibilities. If you truly believe in the new solution you should be able to make their arguments for them and help them understand why you can still move forward.
Have an execution plan and know the risks
Great results on their own are not enough. There also needs to be a clear path forward that minimizes the risks associated with adoption. What are the next incremental steps that can move the solution forward while increasing confidence in the approach? What resources are required? What are the costs? What can go wrong? Having a clear vision of the next steps in the process will go a long way to getting that new solution adopted.
Bringing it all together
Getting people or organizations to change is hard, especially when that change requires an investment of time or money on their part. Whether we are asking our manager to invest in new software or looking for our clients to adopt our latest technology solution, it is important to put in the effort to make a strong business case to motivate the change. Agreement on key metrics, a proper test procedure, transparency around results, and a plan for moving forward will all help make that case. A strong business case and a compelling vision for how the client benefits in the future will put technologists in the best possible position to drive innovation.
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