How to Justify Technology Investments to Decision-Makers

By Aliah D. Wright Jun 28, 2016
Reuse Permissions

Change is never easy, as Joe Rotella demonstrated through a series of anecdotes and jokes during his concurrent session on how to justify investing in technology purchases to decision-makers. Rotella spoke June 21 in Washington, D.C., at the Society for Human Resource Management 2016 Annual Conference & Exposition.

However, he said, doing your homework and making a business case for such an investment can go a long way.

Rotella, SHRM-SCP, chief marketing officer and former chief technical officer of Ohio-based Delphia Consulting, also told attendees they should follow a process before trying to make any changes.

Get executives to sign on and commit early. "You will not succeed if you're a renegade and you wait to present a finished solution at some meeting." Executives "won't like that you did this without input," he said.

He offered a seven-step process for those hoping to justify technology investments:

1. Conduct a complete self-assessment and internal needs analysis

"You have to know what you want and what's important," he said. Consider functionality; best of breed vs. single solution; process automation; pricing/licensing model; training and implementation; customization; flexibility; integration; scalability; reporting; and whether you want the solution on-premise or hosted in the cloud.

2. Rank requirements based on organizational impact

Once they decide if the software can solve problems and deliver results that achieve their objectives, HR professionals should determine the value of solving specific problems. Which features will most immediately and dramatically affect the bottom line? That doesn't just refer to money, he said. Ask yourself—not only does it boost revenue, decrease costs and improve cash flow, but does it also offer cultural enhancements, improve processes and increase client (think: employee, manager, executive) satisfaction?

3. Identify potential solutions and then narrow the field

How do you find the best software to meet your needs? "Google is your friend," Rotella said, noting that "95 percent of all searches in the world go through Google." You can also review analyst reports; contact existing software providers; review trade publications; attend industry tradeshows; and ask your peers for advice. After that, narrow the field to three to five options, he said.

4. Get "real" with providers

Once you've selected providers, "review websites, marketing collateral and online demos or webinars, and … communicate your requirements," he said.

5. View demos from promising providers

"Tell them what you want [demonstrated]. If you don't tell them what to demo it's going to distract you and you're going to forget about your list" of requirements. The demonstrations should be "scenario-based." View how the software works from an employee's perspective and a manager's or department's perspective. The demo shouldn't be longer than two hours.

6. Score solutions based on requirements

"Rate each feature, then multiply it by the weight" of your requirement, he said. It's OK to factor in your gut feeling, but it should only be part of the score. Request access to a "playground" site so you can experiment with the software to see how it works, he added.

7. Select desired solution

Request a written proposal from the selected vendor, and remember you can get a price quote without a proposal. Schedule a walk-through. Compile and assess all of the information about the software, and document the business case for its necessity.

"A business case includes an analysis of business process performance and associated needs or problems, proposed alternative solutions, assumptions, constraints, and a [risk-adjusted]

cost-benefit analysis," he said.

"The whole point of a business case is to sell leadership on your idea."

Rotella said the business case should include a reason for why you'd like to invest in a new solution and how it aligns with the company's strategy.

It's important, he said, to include a sign-off sheet with a deadline for an answer from the executive making the decision, he said. Too often there's no follow-up.

Aliah D. Wright is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Reuse Permissions


The application deadline is November 11

Apply Today

Job Finder

Find an HR Job Near You


Find the Right Vendor for Your HR Needs

SHRM’s HR Vendor Directory contains over 3,200 companies

Search & Connect