4 Steps to an Effective Enterprise Information Management Business CaseThe most interesting trend I saw last year from the perspective of our content technologies consulting practice was the increase in clients asking us -- rather than vice versa -- to provide them with an enterprise information management (EIM) strategy (rather than an enterprise content management, records management, content management, business process management, e-discovery, mobile, social content, or any combination therein strategy). Two things surprised me about this trend.

The first was that organizations -- particularly in manufacturing and financial services -- were beginning to actively plan for such a change rather than lurch their way into it. The second was that their conception of EIM was more comprehensive than the usual definitions. The EIM strategy they want includes not only structured data (as clearly described here) -- but also social content, mobility, off premises delivery and information governance over the whole thing. EIM is the new stable “container category” describing what most folks are trying to do.

We’re seeing more openness to strategic content technology initiatives than we did during the brutal years following 2009, but it’s still imperative to demonstrate solid ROI for any IT initiative, particularly EIM. This is particularly true if your EIM initiative includes social content -- with such real but soft benefits as “employee engagement.”

I calculate ROI a few different ways in almost every project I do – in order to decide among a number of possible courses of action. Then our clients often use the same methods to rank their EIM options relative to other requests for IT spend. So being able to develop and present a solid business case is critical not only to making good decisions -- it’s also critical to packaging the message so that the impact of the EIM initiatives you propose will be clear to executive management.

This article presents the fundamentals for providing an effective business case, particularly:

  1. The types of EIM initiatives you should assess
  2. The types of EIM benefits you should go after
  3. The types of business case you should develop
  4. The types of data you should use in your business case

I then pull it all together and outline the methodology -- the sequence of steps you should take in order to create the business case.

1. Types of Initiatives

First, distinguish between targeted and infrastructure initiatives.

Targeted initiatives are EIM projects designed to address specific business problems or areas of EIM functionality. Infrastructure initiatives are projects that affect the entire enterprise.

The significance of the demarcation that contrasts targeted initiatives -- whether industry-specific or cross-industry -- with infrastructure-related initiatives, is that the sources of funding tend to be different. An organization’s stage of maturity within the EIM lifecycle at a given point in time may dictate which approach you should take.

When putting together a business case, you should consider your approach based on the organizational culture, the appetite for spend, the maturity level of EIM, and the enterprise’s overall familiarity with the potential value that EIM can bring. While an infrastructure investment makes a lot of sense in certain instances, other organizations find a targeted initiative a more favorable approach, given their funding constraints. In still other organizations, proving out targeted value might be the first step toward justification of infrastructure-related spend for EIM.

2. Types of Benefits

Ask yourself: Which types of benefits align most closely with my organization’s corporate business goals?

These are the benefits that are most likely to get the attention of executive management. Evaluate your proposed initiatives by how well they fit your organization’s business priorities, and prioritize and present them accordingly. Here’s a partial list:

  • Revenue lift: Benefits that help the organization increase revenues. (Example: customer communications technologies that integrate with line of business systems, allowing for cross-selling and up-selling to existing customers.)
  • Risk mitigation/compliance: Benefits that improve the organization's ability to reduce corporate risk or facilitate its ability to comply with regulations (Example: records management technologies that make it easier to manage discovery-related information in the event of litigation.)
  • Cost reduction: Benefits that decrease the hard dollar costs of business processes (Example: imaging and e-forms technologies to reduce the amount of paper in business processes.) 
  • Business continuity: Benefits that improve the organization's ability to ensure that mission-critical functions and services can continue uninterrupted during and after a disaster. (Example: imaging technologies and mirroring of repositories to ensure up-to-date copies of business-critical documentation and data are maintained in geographically dispersed locations.)

3. Types of Business Case

Next, consider the various types of business cases.

There are different circumstances in which each type of business case is appropriate. Your approach may be one or a combination of the models. Your goal here is to create defensible scenarios to demonstrate how your proposed initiative will provide quantifiable ROI, not just an enumeration of the soft benefits.