5 An introduction to ‘making the case’
Much of the T883 course is concerned with making changes to existing methods of doing something. The changes might be very radical and far-reaching in their impact, or relatively minor incremental improvements to current practices. They might involve large investments of finance and other resources over extended periods, or there might be trivial financial outlay associated with them. Some changes might be entirely within your own sphere of influence but others may involve resources outside your personal discretion. In the case of the latter, you will need a well-argued case to gain access to the required resources. Senior managers must be convinced in order to sanction the expenditure and provide other support, and those people directly involved in the change must also be persuaded so as to give their commitment and put their effort behind it.
Managers must therefore be capable of preparing an effective – that is a persuasive – case for whatever course of action they are recommending. This part of the unit (originally Sections 1 and 2 of the Making the Case resource pack) provides advice on putting together an effective business case for a process improvement.
Many of us consider the job of persuasion is done once we have convinced ourselves, and assume that all our hard-won analytical information speaks for itself in making the case equally forcibly to senior colleagues, the workforce, and other relevant stakeholder groups. This is rarely true, however, for two important reasons. Firstly, all the various stakeholder groups see the issue in different ways – they may have different objectives and therefore different priorities. Secondly, other people have not had the advantage of your involvement in all the information gathering and analysis which has built up a convincing argument in your mind over perhaps a considerable time period. Consequently, stakeholders need to be taken through, if not that entire process, at least the key issues that make the case as far as you are concerned, and more importantly, that specifically address the issues that are important from their perspective. This should also foster their commitment to the change, reduce resistance to it and generally ‘oil the wheels’ of the implementation process.
Section 6 highlights the factors to be considered in preparing the argument, whether this is to be presented orally or in written form. The emphasis is not on writing or oral presentation skills but on what the ‘case’ needs to achieve in order to convince its audience, and what it needs to contain – that is, the specific pieces of information and evaluation that need to be included.
A crucial part of ‘making the case’ is to be able to present relevant evidence in support of different aspects of the argument. For example, an argument in favour of deployment of new technology might include expected benefits such as improved customer service, reduced operating costs and thereby a stronger competitive position in the future. Claims of this sort need to be backed up with suitable evidence to demonstrate their achievability, otherwise they will carry little weight with your audience. Table 6 contains some examples of how you might demonstrate that typical benefits of a change to an operations system can be realised in practice.
Table 6 Examples of evidence to be presented in support of a technology implementation proposal
|Benefit claimed from proposed use of new technology||Examples of evidence to support the claim|
|Return on investment||Financial analysis of the cash outflows and inflows associated with the new technology, to show a net gain. Although simple payback techniques are the most commonly used methods, discounted techniques (such as Net Present Value) are preferred, especially for longer term investments, because these reflect the time value of cash inflow/outflow i.e. £1000 spent or earnt today is worth more than £1000 spent or earnt tomorrow.|
|Enhanced operations performance e.g. reduced operating costs; improved quality; improved customer service; higher speed or more flexibility||Technical capabilities of the proposed new system showing expected productivity increases, reduced waste production, lower reject rates, or reduced energy consumption, for example. Such information might come from:|
|• results of pilot trials, experiments and so on.|
|• the experience of other organisations with similar technology.|
|• results of a customer survey showing that the aspect of customer service in question is a priority for customers.|
|• analysis of the technical capabilities of the technology in relation to customer requirements, showing that the stated aspects of customer service are likely to be improved.|
|Better competitive position||Trade press reports that competitors are already investing in equivalent technology, and therefore not to do so would be to fail to keep up.|
|Customer surveys or analysis of sales that demonstrate that the quality/service improvement predicted amounts to an ‘order winner’ and therefore can be expected to have a positive impact on competitive position.|
A wide variety of information types may be needed to work up and support a proposal. Figure 12 shows a range of different categories of information.
It should be borne in mind that ‘secondary data’ – information that already exists in the form of internal organisational reports or records, published research reports and so on – are by far the cheapest and easiest to acquire. Secondary data acquisition is often known as ‘desk research’. By comparison, primary research data acquisition, specifically for the purpose of the proposal, is much more resource intensive. For this reason, it should be used only for information that is unobtainable from secondary sources.