The better the business case the easier to communicate, fund and implement.
How do you achieve your best year ever
For many small enterprises, most of their time is spent working on day-to-day issues and business is more a struggle than a huge success. One important thing they are missing is innovation to help them on the journey to a better year. What can make all the difference is an innovation program backed up with a Business Case for the larger projects?
You may already be innovating in your business successfully, but may not have thought about preparing business cases. Could your business be more innovative? Do you want to boost innovation in your business? Could you make use of increased funding?
Does your success require working around the clock, at the expense of a balanced, healthy lifestyle? Some people think it’s cool to work on the weekends or holidays, priding themselves in 80 hour work weeks.
Don’t let this happen to you as it’s a recipe for disaster. Instead, prepare a Business Case for innovation. Innovations that can help you to achieve your ambitions and improve your health and lifestyle.
“The greatest ideas are the simplest”. William Golding
Slow down to speed up
What a thrilling moment it is to see the result of all that hard work showing up in your financial results.
Whatever you issues, there is always something you can do. If you are not careful to slow down and start an innovation, or reengineering program your health will deteriorate rapidly. People look for all sorts of solutions but they keep trying to fix their problems in their head when there are better ways to get back on top.
Your issues may seem complex and out of control, but most challenges only require 90% research and 10% decision-making. To resolve a significant issue, firstly you must understand whether you are looking at a problem that needs to be solved or a dilemma that you need to cope with. This is when writing a Business Case can pay big dividends.
Making better use of your time
When you have little time and even less clarity, complexity steps into demand even more of you, particularly if there are health, financial and family problems. When putting it all together it can cause the best of us to falter.
Perhaps you’ve been through a challenging time or have health problems that are lingering or aren’t healing as quickly as you expected. Maybe you notice that you don’t have the energy to do what you’d like to do. It could be that your sleep is disturbed, or your weight is slowly creeping up, and you’re resisting what you know you should do.
It could also be that your finances are troubling you and your positive direction has suddenly become hazy. Are you in a bad mood most of the time, or that your relationship with family, friends and colleagues is not as you would like it?
Well by preparing a Business Case for innovation you can start to make better use of your time. Not only will a Business Case save you time it will give you clarity and help considerable when you are negotiating finance and other resources to put behind you innovations.
Isolating your innovation from your mainstream business activities can produce a dangerous cultural side effect. Creativity and leadership can be perceived as operating in opposite direction. This artificial disconnect means that innovators often lack the visibility and clout to compete for the resources necessary for success. Only when innovators operate with the credibility of their leaders and managers will innovation become a productive part of everyday business.
Be clear on what you want and need
It is important to be clear about the difference between an invention and innovation. An invention is a new idea whereas an innovation is a commercial application and successful exploitation of the idea. Fundamentally, innovation means introducing something new into your business. This could mean creating clear objectives to:
- Build capability and capacity.
- Improve or replace business processes to increase efficiency and productivity.
- Enable the extension the range, or quality of existing products and services.
- Become more competitive.
- Create new ways to meet rapidly changing customer wants and needs.
- Improve customer service and the customer experience.
- Introduce a more flexible and mobile working environment.
- Improve new business generation.
- To take advantage of an opportunity.
- Better utilise technology.
- To take advantage big Data and the Internet of Things (IoT)
- Improve our knowledge base.
- Minimise risks.
- Break down barriers and roadblocks to the future, breaking from past constraints.
- Add value to existing products, services to differentiate the business.
- Improve productivity and performance.
- Reduce costs and improve return on investments (ROI).
- To improve logistics.
- Build the value of your brand.
- Create a health and well-being program.
- Improve the customer experience.
- To reduce waste.
- Make a major breakthrough in the way you do business.
Businesses that fail to innovate run the risk of:
- Losing market share to competitors.
- Experiencing steadily reducing margins and profit.
- Declining productivity and efficiency.
- Losing key staff and inability to find new staff.
- Having to close the business down.
Identify opportunities for innovation
Innovation is a creative process. with ideas coming from both inside and outside the organisation including customers, suppliers, market research, new technology and big data.
Success comes from filtering those ideas, identifying those that the business will focus on and apply resources to turn the ideas into real innovation.
Analyse the marketplace
There’s no point considering innovation in a vacuum. To move your business forward, study your marketplace and understand how innovation can add value to your customers. For more information on analysing your marketplace, see the page in this guide on planning innovation.
Identify opportunities for innovation by adapting your product or service to the way your marketplace is changing. For example, if you’re a specialist hamburger manufacturer, you might consider lowering the fat content in your burgers to appeal to the health-conscious consumer.
You could also develop your business by identifying a completely new product. For example, you could start producing vegetarian as well as meat burgers.
Innovate by introducing new technology, techniques or working practices – perhaps using better processes to give a more consistent quality of the product.
If research shows people have less time to go to the stores, you could focus your innovation on your distribution processes, offering customers a home-delivery service, possibly tied in with online and telephone ordering.
Preparing a Business Case for Innovation
An executive summary should be prepared to outline you innovation program in general and to site the innovation that will be the subject of the Business Case. Specific points to address might include:
Your future direction. The outline of your purpose vision and objectives for the innovation. Show how you need the innovation to develop your business and what the anticipated outcomes will be. Discuss how the innovation will not only improve the chances of your business surviving but also help it to thrive and drive increased profits.
Details of your marketplace and the industry trends. Awareness of the economic environment in which your business is operating will not only help you to plan your Business Case for innovation, but it will also give financiers and others insight into your reasoning.
Discuss the relationship with your customers. Show how your proposed innovation will address their problems, frustrations wants and needs. It’s not enough simply to know who your customer base is but how they have led you to the new innovation initiative and how they will respond to it in terms of new business.
Involvement with your suppliers and other business partnerships. Pooling your resources with your suppliers or other business partnerships will help to strengthen your Business Case and help you to develop the innovation and implement it.
Assessment of your competition. Know who your competitors are and how you new innovation will impact them. Discuss their products, pricing strategies and innovation culture and how it might impact your business if you new innovation is not implemented. This will provide an overview of their strengths and weaknesses, as well as any areas you might be able to exploit.
If your main competitor’s products have a reputation for being cheap and cheerful, rather than trying to undercut them on the price you could innovate by revamping your marketing to emphasise the quality of your products and services and consider charging a premium for them.
Financial considerations. Outline the financial and other resources you will require in order to develop and implement the innovation along with any timelines and the probability of them being met. Consider what taking a particular innovation could mean for your business. Ask yourself:
- What impact it will have on your business financial situation.
- How you propose to finance the
- What is the ask, and when can any loans be repaid.
- What extra training may be required.
- What extra resources you may need to take full advantage of the innovation.
- Whether you’ll be creating any intellectual property that will need protecting.
- Have you considered extra funds for launching and marketing the innovation?
There are a number of ways you can fund your growth through innovation, either by using your own funds or tapping into external funding sources such as loans or equity finance. If you’re willing to relinquish some control of your business to external investors, you could consider using equity finance.
You may also wish to consider applying for a government grants or to be included in a government program. This will only usually cover part of your project, but you will retain control. You may be able to claim tax refunds and credits on appropriate research and development spending associated with your innovation.
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One of the most sort after business skills today is the ability to innovate. Unfortunately, I come across far too many businesses, non-profit organisations and communities who don’t even think about innovation and the need for any tools or processes.
Or worse their thinking about innovation is still based on self-limiting assumptions about light bulbs flashing over the head of some inspired genius.
Where as in fact given the right processes and tools and the ability to write a Business Case anyone can introduce important innovations into their organisation that will propel them into the future they want.
You need to encourage innovation when your organisation or community is doing well. The last thing you want to do when you’re being successful is to become complacent.