Six Steps To Getting Your HR Transformation Project Approved

Russell Porter

This is a three-part series focused on building a value-based case for change in organisations undertaking transformation initiatives. While specifically targeting HR transformations, these concepts can be applied to projects in any function.

In Part 1, we looked at the common pitfalls in traditional business cases, discussed the value-based business case, and highlighted the four key elements to a great value story.

Now let’s turn our attention to the key steps required to construct a robust and successful value case. These concepts apply whether you’re embarking on a large-scale transformation, or have already begun the journey and need to secure ongoing investment and support.

  1. Ensure business ownership – IT departments have traditionally owned and managed technology projects. However, without strong business ownership, project teams can become too focused on the technology rather than the business impacts (e.g., changes to processes and roles). While it’s still important for IT to be intimately involved, cloud technology has empowered functions outside of IT to take greater ownership partly because there’s no longer a need to buy and install supporting infrastructure such as servers.
  1. Get the big picture – This step is about addressing how the project contributes to the strategic objectives of the business and answers the “what’s in it for me” question for key stakeholders. The CEO may be excited by the project’s ability to increase organisational agility which supports her M&A strategy. Finance may be interested in the project’s ability to meet their cost reduction and productivity goals. IT may endorse the project because it furthers their objective of simplifying the systems landscape. Determining early on how the project will contribute to the goals of the broader organization and key stakeholders will help build the case for change and garner support well in advance of any funding request.
  1. Secure buy-in – It’s important to understand the expectations of key influencers and decision makers (direct or indirect) in the approval/funding process. Typically they are part of a steering committee or board that provides project funding. Be upfront in asking stakeholders for their views on opportunities, inter-dependencies and concerns. Circling back with updates and for input will reduce the likelihood of surprises later on.
  1. Document the value case – Many organisations over-emphasise the financial element when evaluating projects. Our philosophy at SAP SuccessFactors (SAP) is to take a broader perspective and highlight these four benefit areas when demonstrating a case for change: strategy enablement, innovation, risk and compliance, and measurable benefit. This step warrants further exploration, and will be the focus of the third and final part in the series.
  1. Sell the vision – This is where all the elements come together – current challenges, a vision for the future, how the project will help achieve strategic objectives for key stakeholders and the financial costs and benefits – into one cohesive narrative. The pitch must be short, simple, and precise, yet backed by comprehensive analysis. And it must be delivered using language that transcends organisational functions, avoiding technical or function-specific jargon. It is helpful to start communicating your vision/narrative early, and continue to refine with stakeholder feedback.
  1. Close the loop – Lack of continuity between those who developed the business case, those who implemented the changes, and those who must own the new solution on an ongoing basis is one of the reasons that the value of an initiative is never tracked or realised. To avoid these disconnects, establish tracking mechanisms as part of project setup and governance to monitor the realisation of the benefits that were identified in the business case. While not easy, doing so will prove the worth of the investment, increase the value and credibility of the owning function, and help garner support for future projects.

While it’s not necessary to undertake these steps in the sequence described above, it’s critical that all of these elements are addressed before requesting project approval. If they are not, there’s a greater chance that funding will not be approved, that the project will be aborted due to lack of stakeholder buy-in, or it will suffer from schedule or cost overruns.

In Part 3 we’ll dive deeper into the four key elements of the value-based case for change introduced in step four.

Read Part 1 of this series: Building A Case For Change: Win Hearts And Minds For Your HR Transformation.

Russell Porter

About Russell Porter

Russell Porter is part of the Business Transformation Advisory team with SAP SuccessFactors. He partners with HR and business leaders to help them identify, deliver and realise the value of innovative cloud-based Human Resources solutions – so that organisations can optimise their workforce and achieve their strategic business objectives. Based in Sydney, he provides industry thought leadership, strategic solution advice and expert consultation across the Asia Pacific region.