DPC icons hackathonA summary of hints and tips on writing business cases and selling your proposal to your organization. Use this to ensure you create a positive and convincing business case.

  • Prepare. Before you start your business case, make sure you know exactly what you are asking for, then do your groundwork to introduce the idea before making a formal proposal. This can involve activities like running workshops with a view to gaining staff agreement on areas such as scope, benefits and values. This will help you pitch your business case at the right level (budget, resource, language etc.) as well as gaining engagement and buy-in for the work with key stakeholders.

  • Know your audience. Understand the audience to whom you will be making your business case and tailor your language and messages to suit them personally, whilst also appealing to organizational drivers! Also consider institutional sensitivities (e.g. other organizations they compare themselves with) which could act as a motivator or a deterrent, as well as any external contexts (e.g. the 'digital shift' post covid) which might influence decision making.

  • Use the right language. Talking or writing about digital preservation can involve the use of some technical terms. Try to talk about digital preservation in ways that your target audience can relate to. (e.g. Digital preservation is 'gold standard' information management) and avoid scaring people off with jargon. Consider whether you should even use the term "digital preservation" at all. Discover how your audience describes it and mirror their terminology.

  • Keep it focused and relevant. For those unfamiliar with digital preservation, it may seem intangible, long term and even a bit boring(!) when, in fact, digital preservation can support all parts of a business process. Therefore, use careful definitions which are relevant to your audience. It can be helpful to make use of diagrams or visualizations for expressing complex information and you should aim to describe issues in a way that will have the broadest appeal. If you discover that a single large business case is not within scope, consider breaking your business case into multiple projects which may have a better chance of being accepted.

  • Network. Once you know your audience, take every opportunity before, during and on completion of the business case to make your case personally to key people. Your aim is to win over key decision makers before your business case is even formally assessed. If you are not able to communicate with the decision makers directly, it can help to get other members of senior management on board to convey the message for you. And, make sure anyone mentioned in the business case knows about it in advance of reading it!

  • Stay positive. Take care to focus on what will change or be better as a result of the investment you are asking for; rather than trying to sell "digital preservation" itself. Equally, try and gain a balance between the benefits and the risks, don't be too alarmist or focus too much on a negative vision e.g. 'digital black hole'. And carefully explain context to avoid the accusation that you are creating a problem to solve.

  • Make your costing realistic. Despite all of your best efforts to point out the benefits of your digital preservation activity, for many organizations the most critical factor is the COST. This needs to be acceptable to the organization. Do your preparation to make sure you are making realistic demands.

  • Use evidence. Make sure you can back up any claims that you make using examples from within your organization, case studies from other organizations, authoritative sources and hard data.

  • Learn from others. Work with (or at least consult with) someone who has worked on other successful business cases at your institution. Once you have drafted your business case, test it on them before you submit it, and be open to suggestions and feedback.

  • Practice. Part of the business case submission process is likely to include a presentation. Use clear concise slides and practice your pitch on your experienced business case colleague (see tip above) to make sure your messages are clear and understandable. 

  • Play the long game. Be prepared to re-submit (or for it to take a long time before you gain approval). Your business case might be perfectly good, but there may be other competing priorities at the time you submit. In many cases you will be able to resubmit your business case again, and you can use the additional time to do further research and refinements, but be aware that some organizations limit the number of submissions. Do your homework to find this out.


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