Business Case eLearning Approval Buy-in

By now hopefully your company’s leadership team has bought off on the concept of e-learning as a cost-saver. We know it reduces time spent off the job, eliminates costly travel costs to attend instructor-led training, and allows us to learn the same amount of content in a shorter amount of time. But what do you do if you’re still not getting the financial and personnel resources you need to make your e-learning projects come to life?

Well, as we learned with our friend Jerry Maguire, it’s time for a little game of “show me the money.”

I’m going to help you do this by walking you through six key steps:

  1. Identify the need, and frame it up in a way that leadership can understand.
  2. Craft the solution benefits and objectives.
  3. Give them options.
  4. Break it down by what’s needed now and in the future.
  5. Show them the ROI.
  6. Identify all other tangible benefits.

If you’re looking for even more detail and tools, check out my Infoline through ASTD. There’s even a handy-dandy template that walks you through applying these six steps to a project for which you’re looking to gain buy-in.

Identify the need, and frame in a way that leadership can understand.

You may be seeing the problem from the learner’s or the manager’s perspective (“They don’t understand how to do X.”), but that’s not enough. We have to look at it from the business perspective as well. By not knowing how to do X, what business impacts are we seeing? Does it impact customer satisfaction? Employee retention? Productivity loss? Gain an understanding of your organization’s strategic goals, and then determine how the learning solution can have a positive effect on those goals.

If you are proposing a shift from instructor-led training to e-learning, identify the specific issues with the current training and how online learning can solve them. Is it inconsistent? Costly due to travel or time off the job? Challenging to track?

Craft the solution benefits and objectives.

Once you have the problem(s) clearly articulated from a business perspective, you can begin to list the e-learning program’s benefits to address these issues. Incorporate two to four benefits in one to two coherent, concise paragraphs. Then drill down further by outlining your objectives. Be specific about how your program will have a positive effect on your company’s strategic goals, business operations, and the employees who will take the training.

Give them options.

E-learning comes in all kinds of flavors: Which is the right fit for your program? Synchronous or asynchronous? Limited interactivity or highly interactive? Nano-learning or gaming? Examine your audience, their environment, and the learning objectives, and identify a budget range that will be acceptable to executives. Then do your research and craft two to three options. (If you are working with e-learning vendor-partners, you should get some great strategies from them that fit within your budget.) Providing options allows executives to weigh in on the choice, and demonstrates the effort and thought that went into your business case.

Break it down by what’s needed now and in the future.

Your executives are going to want to know precisely how much they need to commit to bring your program to life, from finances to labor. To do that, you’ll need to know how much time will be needed to bring the program from conception to launch, if you’ll develop it internally or with outside vendor-partners, technology needs from software to hardware, and what will be involved in communicating and marketing the training to employees.
Be sure to include a realistic timeline as well. Yes, everyone wants everything yesterday, but setting clear expectations at the start will help you avoid the pressure to cut corners and diminish quality down the line. Consider your team’s culture in terms of turnaround time for feedback and making group decisions; this can greatly impact a timeline and is a common cause for delays. Again, this is something that your vendor-partners can help you craft. Love them or hate them, Microsoft project managers are known for estimating the length of a project, and then adding 30{d89e4f83f6b6a066fc09cee339cefb53fa8e17050e8090b978ce7abfcf69967c}. If e-learning is new to your organization, it’s important not to underestimate the duration of the project.

We often focus on the costs of getting training in front of employees, but forget to include the long-term costs for maintaining the training and any refresher training that may be needed. Consider how often the training will need to be updated, and how you will accomplish this. Consider LMS maintenance, and any ongoing licensing fees needed to support the training. Thinking about the future costs (which typically decrease dramatically year after year) will also speak to the long-term return-on-investment for the program. Which brings us to…

Show them the return-on-investment (ROI).

Transitioning from classroom learning to e-learning provides us with the simplest ROI calculation: just look at cost savings from shortened training time, reduced travel costs, and administrative fees. If you’re creating a new program or upgrading an existing e-learning program, look at what your company might save through regained productivity, reduced employee turnover rates, and/or increased repeat customers due to higher satisfaction.

Identify all other tangible benefits.

Beyond specific cost savings, there are likely other benefits of your e-learning program you can readily identify. Does it pave the way for new business opportunities? Help achieve your company’s strategic goals? Does it make up for something that your previous program (or lack thereof) was missing? Be specific, and include numbers whenever possible.

After walking through these six steps, you should have a solid foundation for a proposal that will make you look like a rock star and have your executives ready to sign up for your vision. Include an executive summary that lays out the key points — if meeting with the approval team is part of the process, you’ll use these again for your presentation — and use tables, bullets, and easy-to-read formatting. Last step? Have an eagle-eye colleague proofread it for you! Typos and grammatical errors will ding your credibility, so make sure it’s right before you click send.

It will feel great when you’ve gotten the approval to move forward. Break out the champagne, because the fun is about to begin!

(1) Comment

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