The ultimate guide to building a business case for a facilities management platform
Whatever the reason you’ve decided to implement a new facilities management platform, you’ll more than likely need to apply for the budget in order to purchase and implement it. And to do that, you’ll need to build a business case to help get your budget, and your project, across the line.
But where to start? There’s a lot of information that needs to go into a business case. If you haven’t developed one before, or are new to the world of facility management platforms, you likely to have a lot of unanswered questions. Luckily, we’re here to help solve that!
This guide will:
- help you articulate the benefits and anticipated ROI
- show you how to communicate better with your internal stakeholders
- understand the risks and how to use them to justify your position
- help you define the cost of the project including software, hardware, education and change management
- walk you through the main considerations to build your business case
Who this guide is for
If you’re a facility or asset manager tasked with preparing a business case for the selection and implementation of a new facilities management software platform – this guide is for you.
Understand what a business case is, and why you should develop one for your project.
Your business case should articulate the value of a new platform for the entire organisation, not just the facilities team.
Involve the right stakeholders in the process of developing your business case to avoid hassles or issues down the track.
Risk is inherent in business but early steps and proper planning can help to minimise its impact.
Investigate and compare the vendors in the market with solutions that meet your needs and requirements.
Learn how to structure your business case ready for submission, in a way that will guarantee success.
Facilities management (FM) software is an enabler for transformative business improvement. It has the potential to underpin process improvement, can lengthen the asset lifecycle across your portfolio, and help you shift to a predictive maintenance strategy. While a software platform offers clear benefits for the facility team, it can be hard to translate that into business benefits.
The business case is just one step in the process for procuring a facilities management platform, but if it’s not strong enough you’re likely to not have your budget approved and all that time and effort has gone to waste.
Before we go too far, let’s first look at the “what” and “why”.
What is a business case?
A business case is important as it makes the argument for why your project or new product (such as a facility management platform) should be invested in. It justifies why the company should be willing to invest and outlines how it will benefit your organisation.
Why do I need a business case?
“The business case brings together the benefits, disadvantages, costs, and risks of the current situation and future vision so that executive management can decide if the project should go ahead.” (Workfront)
The business case is to inform decision-making and provide evidence to support your assumptions about the project. In general, a business case is developed when resourcing or expenditure is needed, particularly the budget is in addition to what’s already been budgeted. The business case also ensures all stakeholders involved in the project have input into it to maintain open communication throughout the business. Putting a business case together for your new facilities management platform will set you up for success from the get-go.
Identifying a business problem is just the start. If you’re at the stage of putting a business case together, you should already have completed some of your own research to determine how the project will impact the business and some conceptual level solutions to weigh up.
As a Facility Manager, you might have realised there is a more efficient way of tracking your planned maintenance activities, or you simply want to move away from the manual spreadsheets that house your asset information. Other reasons for implementing a facilities management platform could be:
- Better collaboration needed with the sub-contractors tasked with some maintenance work
- Needing to understand which assets are performing better than others
- Needing access to analytics to help demonstrate the efficiency of your team or being able to better determine the longevity of your asset portfolio
Whatever the reason, you’ll need to clearly articulate the need to your internal stakeholders and be able to demonstrate why it matters for both you and the business.
Understanding your audience (which we’ll cover in more detail in a later section) is key to being able to properly articulate the value of a new platform. By understanding your audience, you can align the way you communicate with the benefits and needs that matters most to them.
When investigating potential FM software products, it’s important not to focus just on the functionality of the system, which matters to you and your team, but likely no one else. What’s important is how you demonstrate the value of it. Your proposal should outline the way the technology will enable a new process or change the way the business runs. The best way to do this is to align your requirements with the business strategy and, if your business has them, the key performance indicators (KPIs) fuelling that strategy.
What does it mean for me?
To properly determine the ROI of your proposal, it’s helpful to align your business case with a number or figure to support your goal of approval. In most cases, businesses put a dollar figure against the work currently completed by the FM team to show how the system, for example, can reduce expenses or the time taken to complete a task once implemented.
Actual numbers or cost savings are the tangible, “hard” benefits of a system. Naturally, there will be intangible, or “soft” benefits, and defining and measuring these will be a different challenge.
Hard benefits will be based on actual figures so you can determine the ROI. For example, the daily cost benefit will be in the day to day operational cost reduction:
- Reduce the average cost of each maintenance task
- Improved efficiencies by automating regular and recurring tasks
- Reduce the cost of asset maintenance
- Reduce the cost of insurance premiums based on better and managed work practices
- Reduce the per sqm spend on operating facilities
- Reduced time spent managing each task
You could also look at opposite scenarios. For example, you may be in a situation where you are aware insufficient funds have been allocated to your team for the maintenance of plant, equipment and infrastructure but don’t have the evidence or data to support your needs. Deterioration and failure exists, so a software solution could help you identify where issues lie or where risk is above acceptable thresholds for your organisation, supported by hard data and displayed visually.
We spoke earlier about aligning your business case with the business KPIs, but KPIs could also be assigned to your existing processes to help determine the hard benefits to focus on. This is a great benchmarking exercise. Not only does it give you a starting point for understanding where you’ll likely see cost or effort savings, but sets you up for longer-term benefits realisation that can be tracked and monitored long after the system has been implemented. It helps you to continuously monitor and optimise the different processes to make sure the system is being used to its full potential.
Soft benefits will be positive benefits that can’t necessarily be tied back to a cost saving:
- User satisfaction, engagement with the facilities team, or even use of the system if you’re organisation provides that type of functionality (e.g. if you’re a university you might provide your students with a solution that allows them to raise maintenance requests themselves instead of funnelling everything through the FM team)
- Move away from complex, bulky on-premise solutions
- Allow staff to access the system and be more flexible in how to access the system
You might find yourself in a situation where you’ve been using paper or manual processes, so haven’t been tracking anything, meaning you don’t have a baseline to work from. How do you go about finding a figure for cost reduction or improvements? One solution could be as simple logging basic request information (such as number and time taken to complete) over a certain timeframe (a fortnight or month) to give you a starting point. Talk to colleagues within the industry who have been through a similar project. They might be able to give you some key benefits that you should be focusing on. Their numbers may not be the same as yours, but industry benchmarking is a great way to see how your organisation compares to your peers.
It will also be important when looking at benefits to identify what benefits exist for other functional areas within the business. Do they have specific assets that you can help them manage more efficiently. What reporting do you have to do on a regular basis and who is the audience of the reports? Thinking outside your own team will ensure value is created right up the chain of command.
Communicate & engage
According to the Better Business Cases outline published by Treasury New Zealand, the common reasons why programmes and projects fail are: lack of strategic fit, lack of senior management engagement, lack of stakeholder engagement, focus first on funding then value-for-money, lack of supply side engagement; and lack of a systematic approach to considering investment proposals. The role of the business case is to help you overcome each of these potential challenges. This section covers who, and why, you should engage through the business case development process.
Before embarking on your business case journey, identify who in the organisation needs to be involved. Without identifying, and involving, the right stakeholders, you’re not setting yourself up for success. Ask yourself:
- Which departments depend on information that only your team can provide?
- Who holds the budget and what information do they need to approve your case and not the other one sitting on their desk?
- Is there an internal champion who you need on side who can help you get across the line?
- Are there teams or departments you deal with regularly who will be enabled by the technology you’re wanting to implement
The most common teams that should be involved in the procurement of an FM platform are:
- Senior management
Of course, this list could change depending on the size of your organisation or industry you work in. It’s also important to make sure you don’t just include decision-makers in your planning. There’s no benefit involving someone in the process of selecting a new system if they won’t actually be using it. Make sure you include end-users and influencers in the decision-making process to find a solution that suits everyone.
When speaking to the different stakeholders, it’s important to talk to them in the language they use. Understanding their individual motivations, requirements, and how they do business will help you communicate the benefit and value proposition up the organisational ladder.
Facilities management is full of acronyms and technical jargon that only you will understand, and if you continue down that path, it will be hard to get across what it truly is you want. Steer clear of using the language you use on a daily basis and focus on communicating your needs in a simpler and concise way.
It’s helpful to always helpful to base your conversations around the acronym WIIFM: What’s in it for me? What are the needs and outcomes that are going to benefit the person you’re speaking to? This is all about identifying the benefits that relate specifically to your stakeholders, their job role, and what will ultimately make them successful. CEOs, as an example, want to leave a legacy. How can you enable them to be remembered if and when they leave the company?
Identifying the right stakeholders will help you narrow down the business benefits to those that will support your business case. Understanding benefits for the different areas in your business will help you clearly articulate what you need, in relation to the overall business.
Let’s say one of the main business drivers for your organisation is “to elevate the level of consistency and quality of services across the entire portfolio and automate standardised business processes by using enabling technology”. Examples of existing challenges without a system and the benefits with a platform could be:
|FM team||Scattered, inconsistent asset data and no process for how data is captured||Centralise the storage of asset information; provide consistent processes for capturing data|
|Finance||Little to no visibility of “asset movements” e.g. asset location, new or disposed assets||Faster reporting capabilities; less time spent going back and forth with the FM team|
|ICT||Reliance on the IT team to manage the FM software infrastructure||SaaS platforms provide minimal support overheads and monthly updates keep the system secure|
|Management||Compliance issues that haven’t been acted on||Reduction in fines for non-compliance; improved company reputation|
There will be a number of different benefits that relate to your different stakeholders. By involving them in the process from the beginning you’ll be able to ensure their needs are included in the business case from the beginning.
Risk is inherent in business but there are steps and strategies that can be taken to help mitigate it. A good business case will show how the business will function with and without the proposed solution. It will highlight the “do nothing” scenario, and the risk associated with this approach, as well as compare it to the proposed solution.
To start, identify where the main risks in your business are. Some good initial questions to ask are:
- What are the common risks to the business?
- How often do tangible events occur and what do they cost the business?
- What high-impact, “black swan” events have you identified, or could you identify, that need to be included? This could be something like a 1 in a 100-year flood, or even a global pandemic that shuts down the global economy. What’s the risk and how would you deal with it?
- What happens if we continue as we are? This question will help you paint the picture of what you’re aiming to achieve, and highlight the gaps of where existing processes fall down.
- What plant or equipment failure could seriously impact the business and the services provided?
For your own team, look at the risks you experience on a day-to-day basis. Some to include could be:
- 3rd party trade compliance
- Manual spreadsheets for task management means some are missed or completed late
- Asset failure
- Asset degradation
Once you’ve identified the main risks, relate them back to the business outcomes you identified earlier and, where possible, to the ROI you expect to see once the solution has been implemented. Often, the major cost reductions and benefits are not in direct cost savings but in reducing risk for the organisation:
- Cost of huge fines for non-compliance
- Cost of reputation damage
- Cost of work cover premiums
- Cost of compliance with multi-layered government agencies
- Cost of lost business and/or revenue
Identifying the risks with both the proposed project, and the “do nothing” approach will help sell the value to the organisation. Senior managers, including the C-suite and board, are often driven by risk or compliance challenges, and understanding their drivers will help you position the project from their perspective.
How much & how long?
Without indicating the costs associated with your project or how long it’s likely to take, chances for approval are pretty slim.
It’s important to include high level estimates of what you expect the project will cost the business. Items to include are:
- Expenses relating to supporting infrastructure, administration, maintenance, and resourcing
- Costs for planning, design, or implementation costs for change management, training, ongoing benefits realisation tracking
- Operating costs like licensing: how much will the system cost to manage on an ongoing basis?
And always, always include a contingency cost. A good rule of thumb is to include an additional 10% (minimum) – 30% (maximum) contingency – you don’t want to get caught out with unforeseen problems and no budget to fix them. Even with the best planning intentions, it’s going to happen! The amount you include for your contingency will depend on the size of the requested budget. Your estimated budget could be reasonable but if you add too much of a contingency it could push the total budget too high. Your finance team could help you determine an appropriate figure.
You’ll need to identify a high-level project plan. It might change down the track, but knowing how long it will potentially take will help your executive team understand how long key resources might be seconded to the project, and help you define the resourcing costs for the project. Vendors will be able to provide information around implementation timeframes, training requirements, and how long it will take for the organisation to be running back at full capacity. A project plan will also give confidence to your executive team or project approvers. It confirms that you know what you are doing and have planned well, and that nothing has been missed.
Build your shortlist
If you’re at the point of putting a business case together, it’s likely you’ve already done some research to see what solutions exist in the market that could satisfy your needs. If you don’t have an idea of the vendors you’d like to compare, now is the time to do some research.
For the most part, the common ways to find and compare solutions is by looking at ones you have:
If you’re a seasoned facility manager, chances are you’ve worked at a few different companies in your career and have been exposed to different facility management platforms. You likely know the names of the products that could suit your requirements.
Even if you’re pretty sure which platform or product you want to implement, conducting some sort of research is still a good idea. You may not have seen your chosen solution for a number of years so there’s a good chance it’s changed in that time (for good or bad). The number of solutions available is also changing rapidly so it’s important to get a feel for newer solutions out there that might be an even better fit. For example, if your main pain point is a lack of collaboration with your third-party suppliers, choosing a solution that doesn’t offer this sort of functionality simply because you’ve used it in the past isn’t going to do you any favours!
Internet search to see what exists
Talking of research, the internet is going to be your best friend for desktop research. Simple keyword research relevant to facilities management is a great place to start. Some good starting keywords could be:
- Facilities management software (+Australia)
- Maintenance management software
- Asset lifecycle management software
- Facilities software
- CAFM software
- Work order management software
Another great option is to look at comparison websites to get an idea of user-generated reviews and product feedback. Again, you could use the keywords listed above and include the word “review” to get a starting list of websites to look at.
If you’d prefer to go straight to a website, options include:
Having access to sites like the above is a great way to get feedback from actual users of the system you’re investigating. Review sites typically allow users to provide both pros and cons for the system, their overall happiness with the system, and even feedback direct to the vendor to help them make the product even better. In general, information is provided on the cost, length of implementation, platform UI and ease of use, features, and customer experience (including support).
Of course, these sites shouldn’t be used in a siloed approach to your research, but to help validate, or improve, the insights you’ve gleaned from other sources.
Word of mouth referrals from industry colleagues
If you’re new to the facilities world, colleagues or mentors with more experience will be very helpful to point you in the right direction. There’s a chance they’ve gone through the same process, or are using a system that will tick most (if not all) of your needs.
As mentioned earlier, even if they suggest a system they used a long time ago, make sure you check it out! Systems change significantly over time so don’t discount something just because there hasn’t been any recent experience!
As with most software platforms, there will be different solutions for different requirements and/or size of your organisation. With facilities management, platforms can be roughly split into two camps:
- Tier 1 solutions will be the larger players such as IBM Maximo, IFS, SAP, Infor and TechnologyOne. These are larger scale enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions that include financial systems etc along with asset and facilities management capabilities. Given the scope of the product, and therefore the price, these types are generally used by larger companies who need more complex and robust day-to-day functionality and reporting/analytics capabilities within a single solution. Feedback from some users have indicated that the FM capabilities within these larger systems may not be as functionally-rich as other modules (e.g. for finance) within the system.
- Tier 2 solutions, more often than not, are not as complicated to implement, have lower costs, and are often faster and easier to implement – and, ultimately, provide the same outcomes for FM users as the tier 1 solutions. Facilities that are smaller and don’t have such complex requirements are better suited to the tier two players. These platforms typically go beyond the basic requirements of only work order management and include tools that help facilities managers align their workloads with the business objectives, and, like we do here at Zuuse, provide robust business intelligence capabilities to drive long-term asset lifecycle planning, budgeting, and risk management. Popular platforms that fit into this category include Mainpac, Assetic, WebFM, and of course, the FMI Works platform from the team here at Zuuse.
Industry analysts such as Gartner or Frost & Sullivan
Industry analysts are a great resource when looking for suitable software solutions. Analysts provide useful market research insights and objective analysis of industry trends and vendor solutions.
Some of the main analysts that you could investigate include:
- Fost & Sullivan
Some, like Frost & Sullivan have more of a focus on market research and providing valuable insights into market trends, while others like Gartner have a larger focus on vendor comparisons through their annual Magic Quadrant reports.
Purchasing reports can be quite expensive, but all offer plenty of information that can be accessed freely on their websites. And reports like Gartner’s Magic Quadrant are highly influential, so you can be sure any organisation that has been included is well-worth looking into!
Structuring for success
Once you’ve identified the key information, it’s time to put it all together! Most organisations have a preferred template for structuring the business case so ask your procurement or finance team to provide one for you. If they don’t have one, you can find useful templates online, or create your own using the following headings:
- Executive summary
- Background information
- Project definition
- Business Requirements
- Option presentation and evaluation
- Presentation of preferred option
- Strategic alignment
- Project implementation plan
- Financial Analysis
- Resources required
You've got approval, now what?
All things going right, and by following the above, you should have developed a solid business case that your stakeholders could only have approved! But approval is only the beginning.
Different sized organisations will have different processes for selecting the final vendor. Larger businesses, or those which are publicly funded, will have stricter procurement methods and will likely include a tender process (Request for Propsal) – there could be one or more stages to this, before moving selecting a shortlist and beginning vendor demonstrations. For smaller companies, the business case might provide enough information that you can move straight into the vendor demonstrations. This is the exciting bit! You get to see your shortlisted platforms in action, can tangibly compare the ease of use and look and feel between the different systems, and get to ask the vendor detailed, in-depth questions.
If you’ve come this far, congratulations! We hope this guide has been useful and helped you prepare and develop a solid business case for your facilities management software implementation.