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How to build a business case for a learning platform
Where do you start if you are looking to make your first purchase of a learning platform? The learning technology market is awash with vendors that – taken at face value – do similar things.That makes it hard for buyers to identify what they need and that’s why building a compelling business case is a critical part of the process. What’s more, learning has changed to a digital-first, resources-based approach so you’ll need to build a case for a platform that reflects this shift
Focus on business impact
When thinking about building a business case for a learning platform it’s important to focus on the business challenges the system will help you overcome and how you will measure the impact the system will have on those challenges. A good example includes performance and productivity metrics. Taking this approach will help you build a successful business case – and ultimately buy the right learning platform for your organisation!
Building the business case for a learning platform
Learning technology has advanced rapidly over the last few years and so has our understanding of how employees learn. That’s good news for the first-time buyer of a learning platform because you are able to focus on technology that will help employees learn in the most effective ways whilst at the same time helping the organisation meet its goals.
Here are three key elements of modern, digital-first learning that your platform should support.
Employee development, especially reskilling and upskilling, is now a core focus for organisations as they seek to thrive in a post-pandemic world. This will be delivered ‘digital first’, so ensure you seek out a learning solution that supports the development of individuals and teams by curating the digital learning people need to develop their skills. Make sure the platform delivers content and resources in multiple formats and is easy to access so that employees can learn in the flow of work.
The ability to connect people with what is going on in the organization, by curating the news and information people need is a priority for organisations. Learning technology now enables you to do just this by enabling the organisation to quickly create new updates and respond to employee needs by curating resources on emerging topics of interest. Combining news with internal communications and relevant learning resources is a powerful way to engage employees.
Communication plays an important part in successful organisational learning. When buying your first learning platform, consider it more as a communications and learning platform because without the communications element it will be a challenge to engage employees around the learning and development agenda and to keep your communications fresh and relevant. Legacy learning technologies focused on content management. This is no longer enough. Employees want to be kept up to date on skills and how they can develop themselves at work. They want to know about how work is changing and what that means for them. Regular communications will enable you to deliver resources that engage the organisation around change. And this in turn will help create a culture of learning.
Once you are clear on the need and value of supporting modern, digital-first learning, you need to engage your stakeholders around your vision and plan. To do this, focus on the basics of building an effective business case.
These four questions will help you do just that.
What does procurement look like in your organisation?
This sounds like an obvious question but you need to be crystal clear how procurement works in your organisation. What’s the process? How do you go to market? Do you have preferred suppliers? How long does the process take? Each organisation will have slightly different ways of doing things so make sure you know how things work and the part you play.
What makes for a successful business case in your organisation?
Don’t waste your time working up what you think is a brilliant business case for a learning platform until you have seen examples of other successful business cases in your organisation. Why? Because these will give you the template for yours. You want to give your business case the maximum chance of success, so base it on something that has worked.
Who are the key players in the buying process?
Before you build your case, find out who you need to influence to get your investment. It might be that your organisation has a set process for pitching the business case (see above) but don’t start that process until you have carried out some stakeholder analysis of who you need to influence.
In many organisations, relatively little is known about learning or the learning department. It is usually known for compliance and little else apart from leadership development. So, educating stakeholders around modern, digital-first learning and its business impact becomes an important, and necessary, part of building your business case. Having clarity on the business outcomes of learning will really help in these discussions. They will also help you challenge stakeholders who might want to base the business case on inputs. Clarity on business value should always prevail.
Building positive relationships with stakeholders will help you influence their thinking ahead of you pitching your case. This is especially important when pitching the case for technology that is new to the organisation.
Why will this business case fail?
This might seem like a counter-intuitive question to ask at this stage but when engaging your stakeholders around building the business case for a learning platform make sure you ask them for any reasons why your pitch might fail. Gather their feedback and make sure you are able to answer those concerns. You don’t want to pitch the business case only to see it shot down for some minor points that you could have easily addressed at an earlier stage*.
Pulling it all together
Once you have answered the questions above you are in a good position to build your business case for your new learning platform. However, there is a risk associated with asking the business to invest in something new. And that risk is that it might not work. To counter this, reach out to peers to find a learning or HR professional who has been through a similar process and whose organisation is now reaping the rewards. Capture their insights and bring these into the business case. Ideally, find an organisation that is similar to yours – this will help your stakeholders relate to your proposition.
Finally, consider the total cost of ownership of buying the learning platform. This is the real cost of the platform and includes the time it takes from purchase to being fully operational as well as any other additional costs that might be incurred along the way. Learning technology analyst Fosway Group provides some useful tips on total cost of ownership across the different phases of purchasing technology.
Building a business case for a learning platform provides you with an opportunity to really engage stakeholders with how learning technology can support the business now and into the future. Make sure you focus on business impact rather than learning inputs when building your case. This will also help with the buying process as it will help weed out vendors that are ill-suited to your needs.
And most importantly, make sure your case reflects modern organisational learning, with a digital first focus on development, knowledge and communications.
*Gartner has created a list of the five most common reasons a business case fails and how to remedy them.
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