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6 Steps to Building A Bulletproof Business Case for Project Management Software [With Free Template]

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Consider these two project management statistics:

  • 97% of organizations believe project management is critical to business performance and organizational success.
  • Most projects fail.

There’s clearly a disconnect here: projects are essential for the health of most companies, but they are not reliable. Some more statistics:

  • 75% of IT executives believe their projects are “doomed from the start.”
  • Fewer than a third of all projects were successfully completed on time and on budget over the past year.
  • Project management software can help solve these problems.

Of course, project management software can’t prevent all project failures. It can’t stop bad leadership, wasteful spending, or an unwillingness to collaborate—but it can, according to project management software research, improve communication, adherence to budget, adherence to schedule, and final product quality.

Business Case for Project Management Software

If you’re at the point of knowing that you want a project management tool and want buy-in from executive leadership, keep reading.

The Business Case for Project Management Software

Building a business case for project management software can be a daunting task, especially when you’re presenting to senior representatives in your company. Luckily, I’ve built this business case package to help guide you through the process.

Below, you’ll learn how to apply Gartner’s 360-Degree Business Case Development Technique to create a business case for PM software. Using this structure, you’ll be able to identify and communicate the benefits of investing in a project management tool.

Further into the piece, you’ll be able to accurately assess your own business needs for project management software using a short quiz, which will better arm you to present to management.

Finally, at the end of this article, you’ll be able to download a customizable SlideShare, which you can tailor to present your business case. From start to finish, the whole thing takes just six steps.

The Business Case Method

No matter what kind of software you’re pitching, there are going to be common questions: Do you even need software in the first place? Will your company grow out of the new tool—or is that system too small for your needs? What are the risks, costs, and benefits for implementing new software?

Gartner’s 360-Degree Business Case Development Technique ensures that all the important questions are answered before making the business case.

This takes only six steps, as summarized in the graphic below.

Business Case for Project Management Software

I’ll cover what each of these steps means more thoroughly as I get to them section by section. If you’d like to skip ahead, feel free to use the table of contents below.

1. Analyze the Interests of the Decision Makers

Business Case for Project Management Software

The audience for your project management business case should be your initial and final focus. Does your audience—in this case, executive decision makers—have specific challenges facing it? Can project management software or project portfolio management software address those concerns?

I like to think of the business’s long-term objectives first and ensure that my business case’s target audience has a stake in those objectives. Regardless of industry or position, your audience’s success should be linked to meeting those objectives.

For example, at Capterra, we use a unified OKR system throughout the company. Every business decision ties into a broader goal, such as “grow the business,” “improve operational efficiency,” “increase profitability,” or “improve customer satisfaction.” For now, you’re simply information gathering; what are the top priorities for your business’s executives?

Be sure to interview them and to take down notes—doing so will be particularly important for your presentation.

Upon completing your investigation, you should have a list of requirements that looks something like this:

Business Case for Project Management Software

Once you understand your decision-makers’ priorities, you can start to develop your vision. Consider keeping their objectives documented to reference in the future—you reevaluate whether or not the investment in PM software continues to be within the business’s best interest in the future.

2. Develop Your Vision

Business Case for Project Management Software

Once you have a list of business objectives or key issues, you’re ready to establish a high-level goal for how project management software can help achieve these objectives in the long term.

In this step, you’ll take stock of the project management features that you’d like from your system. Because there are so many options in the project management space and identifying specific pain points can be elusive, I’ve created a quick quiz designed to get you thinking. Consider sharing it with any potential project management software users to get a sense of what they’re looking for, too.

Welcome to your Project Management Pain Points Quiz

This quiz was designed to get you thinking about different project management functionality options. We recognize that finding business pain points can be tricky, so we’ve taken a lot of the guess work out of it. While you won’t get a score or recommendation after taking this quiz, you will get a structure for how to approach buying project management software.

1. Why are you looking for project management software?
2. Are you looking for general or industry-specific project management software?

For example, buyers in the construction industry tend to prefer construction project management software, whereas marketing departments tend to prefer a more general tool.
3. Are you looking for a process-specific tool?

4. What are the most important features that you’d like your project management tool to have?
5. How many users will be accessing the system?
6. Are you looking for downloaded (on-premise) or web-based software?
7. Will you be looking for an open API or for specific integrations?

8. Will clients need to access the system?
9. What kind of software support best suits your business’s communication style?
10. Would you like mobile access to your project management tool?

As you go through this process, you may find that you already have project management capabilities in place. For example, many small businesses find themselves using a mish-mash of free tools like Toggl, Google Calendar, Trello, and Slack, along with an email service, like Gmail or Outlook, to manage their projects. When looking for project management software, you’ll likely look for similar features to what these tools provide, such as file sharing, time tracking, and real-time chat.

Your vision must take these existing tools and processes into account. Software and process changes often come up against change aversion, so, in anticipation of the change management that will likely be involved in instituting new project management software, prepare answers to push back and rationalizations for avoiding change.

In other words, your vision should consider existing processes, technology, and people when asking the following questions:

  • What kind of organizational changes does your business face to achieve your vision?
  • What change-management measures are likely to help achieve the ultimate objectives?
  • How will typical processes, such as workflow, be altered, and what effect will this have on your current project management abilities?
  • What IT concerns, such as implementation, are of top concern?

At this point, you will also be able to decide whether your project management solution will stand alone or work as an integration with an existing system, whether you want to include external customer use in selecting the tool or if you want it to solely be used internally, and whether your business will need an on-premise or cloud solution.

Once your vision is set, it’s time to develop the quantitative side to your project management software plan.

3. Develop Your Plan for Project Management Software

Business Case for Project Management Software

Who doesn’t love numbers?

More specifically, what business executive doesn’t love numbers?

If you’ve found this process to be numerically deficient until now, no worries: I’ve more than got you covered. Step three is all about the methodical approach to establishing approximate values for your plan’s key costs. The goal is to ground the vision and provide crucial calculations for your business case.

Find the answers to these questions:

Your actual numbers will vary depending on your anticipated number of users and features, so be as thorough as possible. Document everything, with the understanding that you’ll likely have to come back to these parameters once you get your stakeholders’ feedback.

Your documented plan is now your core guidance for your project management software initiative. Consider creating a Gantt chart to plan out the timeline of implementation.

Business Case for Project Management Software

Take the above example; while not created for project management software, this roadmap reflects implementation expectations for a web content management system. Developing these visuals will help your decision makers understand your expectations and objectives when it comes time to present to them.

You’ve now finished establishing your ideal timeline. It’s time to turn your focus to the software’s benefits.   

4. Identify the Project Management Solution’s Overall Benefits

Business Case for Project Management Software

Step four is all about one thing: identifying the business benefits of project management software. You’ll get a chance to identify the technical benefits in the next step, but for now, zero in on how you believe a project management tool will help you and your business.

It’s normal to feel ambivalent about “optional” features, especially when your small business’s budget isn’t firm. If you’re presenting a range of options, be sure to highlight which benefits are attached to each piece.

Your target audience—your company’s leadership—will appreciate explicit guidance as to whether or not a feature is optional. More importantly, transparency and honesty—even in a project management software business case presentation—have been shown to foster engagement and buy-in.   

And as you’re thinking about buy-in, use your audience’s preferences to frame your research and, ultimately, your final presentation. I’ve found the following three tips are particularly helpful:

  • Define and then support your assertions. Reference your calculations from the previous step in tandem with your own research. Highlight assumptions that you relied on to make those calculations.
  • Articulate benefits positively. I have found that senior leadership tends to respond better to the idea of “things gained” than “things fixed.” For example, if you’re interested in project management software to “avoid data redundancies,” try instead saying, “gain efficiency.”
  • Include metric components wherever possible. Highlight how specific processes will improve. If a singular estimate is impossible, provide a range that captures target improvements. For example, if you’re looking into project management software to improve team communication, measure the percent of messages responded to in 24 hours and how you’d like to see that number improve.

In the next step, you’ll start taking your research and these communication tips to create an effective presentation.

5. Highlight the Unique Benefits of the Proposed PM Tool

Regardless of if you use our SlideShare below or create your presentation, your business case for project management software should contain the same components, in the same order.

Free Business Case for Project Management Software Template

Specifically, you should create a presentation that includes:

  • Your business’s core objectives and how you quantified them.
  • Outlined difficulties that the business has faced in achieving those goals, and why finding a solution would benefit the company at large.
  • An introduction of project management software.
  • Your defined benefits of implementing project management software, quantified as much as possible in reference to your business’s core objectives.
  • Assumptions, risks, and solutions to those problems.
  • Financial calculations, including total cost of ownership and return on investment.
  • A proposal of your timeline for software evaluation and implementation.
  • Suggested change management procedures to help company-wide buy-in.

As you’re creating your presentation, consider these benefits that are unique to project management software:

  • “Decrease number of team meetings by [xx]% over [time frame].”
  • “Increase budget adherence by [xx]% over [time frame].”
  • “Increase on-time project delivery by [xx]% over [time frame].”

Even with all the emphasis on quantitative benefits, project management software has immeasurable qualitative features too. Consider using these in your presentation:

  • “Nonintrusive measurement of employee productivity.”
  • “Improved customer communication.
  • “Centralized system for multiple processes (ex: calendar, workflow, email, etc).”

At this point, it’s time to make your case to leadership. Good luck! And remember, the process isn’t quite over…

6. Make the Connection

First off, congratulations. You’ve done a lot of work and hopefully were able to deliver a successful presentation to senior management.

Typically, business cases for project management software are met with equal doses of optimism, skepticism, and cynicism—and that’s normal, change often breeds mixed emotions.  It’s difficult to prepare for what organizational, political, and personal factors will come into play.

Your business leaders will likely have questions and points of clarification about your business case. Because you’ve taken the time to figure out business goals, quantify the tool’s benefits, and address concerns in your presentation, their hesitation should be minimal. Plus, you can take advantage of the echo effect; remember in Step 1 how you interviewed senior management about their goals and challenges? Don’t be afraid to use their own words to support your case; statistically, and psychologically, they’ll be more amiable to your solution if you do so tactfully.

So you’ve presented your business case for project management software. What happens next?

Once you’ve gotten the “okay” from management, it’s time to start looking at which solution is best for your company. I encourage you to use Capterra’s project management software directory, which will let you filter by reviews and features to find your best fit.

Has this process been helpful? Do you have suggestions for ways to improve it? Did you use the quiz or SlideShare? I look forward to hearing your feedback in the comments below!

What will you read next?

Looking for Project Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Project Management software solutions.

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About the Author

Rachel Burger

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Rachel is a content manager for Capterra, a free online resource that quickly matches businesses to their software needs. She specializes in project management tips, tools, and tricks . She also runs her own blog on content marketing. On the rare occasion Rachel isn't writing, she's reading, hiking, jogging, or spending time with her friends and family.

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Building a business case for project management software can be a daunting task, especially when you’re presenting to senior representatives in your company.

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