A strong business case is vital to obtaining board approval for investment in a H&S program. Only 10% of business cases for a health & safety software will succeed if those business cases are based solely on the admin saving from removing paperwork and spreadsheets from your process.
Health & safety managers and professionals who want to invest in software need to understand the skills to build a compelling business case.
1. The Mistake
Building a business case on the foundations of removing paperwork and saving administrative effort is a mistake and will fail roughly 90% of the time. This is the mistake that most business case authors make. Do not fall into this trap. This is a seductive and easy approach to building a business case. It will not work.
2. Your mindset needs altering
When building a business case, take the perspective that this business is yours. Your organisation. It is precious to you. What are the potential risks to this business? If a serious negative health & safety event happens – what are the possible consequences to your business? Could you be criminally prosecuted, if so who (what person) would be in the dock? What would be the consequences of massive reputational damage? Could your business lose customers? Could insurance costs spiral? What is the possibility of facing claims for damages that cannot be successfully defended? What are the moral and ethical considerations to your staff? What IS a duty of care? How much productivity cost (£) is being wasted through lost time?
Asking these fundamental questions will bring you into the correct frame of mind to build a compelling business case that will make senior management sit up and take notice.
3. Where to start?
When you’ve altered your mindset and you’re in the correct frame of mind about the seriousness of H&S, take a moment to understand your business. What is your business all about – who are your customers, suppliers, competitors? What is your competitive edge? Think about your customers and why they buy from you. Is your business growing or contracting? What is the nature of your business operations and where are they based? Where are employees located and what jobs are they doing? What is the risk of a H&S event to those people? Do you have visitors to your sites? What is the risk to them?
A really good business case shows a very strong understanding of the fundamental facts of your business. Know thyself, as Will Shakespeare told us all.
4. Roll up your sleeves
Building a business case is exciting and interesting. But like anything that is satisfying to complete, you need to put in some hard work. You need to research your industry and you need to research your regulatory health & safety context. Buckle up because you need to do some hard work. Who regulates H&S in your geography? In the UK, it’s the HSE and the Law outlines your legal obligations. Research the law and the criminal guidelines for health & safety offences, which are based upon culpability and severity and the turnover of your business. Be factually confident in your research. Know what a Duty of Care means. Be clear on the Possible Fines and Custodial Sentences to your business and to the people that are responsible officers in your business.
There are other possible regulatory contexts: does your business have an ISO accreditation or other accreditation that assesses your health & safety processes? If so, be clear on your obligations. Research why this accreditation is important to your business and ask yourself what might happen if this accreditation is lost. The answer is usually to do with customers or revenue: losing an accreditation risks losing revenue because of lost sales, tenders, customers.
5. The worst case scenario
Bad things happen. They happen rarely but they do happen. A powerful business case is factual about the worst case scenario. Usually these are harrowing events where fatalities have occurred. You need to research these worst case scenarios and outline them as the extreme events that need to be avoided. Do not become sensational or scaremongering – research the facts and state the facts and the consequences. In the UK and good place to start is the HSE press release feed.
6. Bring the spotlight back home
Now that you know your business, you know the HSE regulatory framework and you understand the worst case scenarios, it's time to come home. Look back at your business and the past and present H&S events. Research what has happened in the recent past. Look at incident rates, lost time. Do not get back into the cosy old slippers of just passively collecting some data here. Become tenacious in understanding the real consequences.
Ask the hard questions of your own business. What claims have we been subject to? Did we ever have a negative experience as a result of a HSE visit? What happened? Have our insurance costs been increasing in recent years (don’t forget to uncover your excess levels)? Have we ever suffered reputational damage to our business – what happened? How much do we pay on legal fees defending cases or claims?
7. Be the Health & Safety professional
As a Health & Safety professional, you’re obliged to not only understand what has happened. You need to make a professional assessment of what could happen. Make a dispassionate assessment of your current H&S processes and state clearly what’s wrong with the current processes. Are all Risk Assessments, Audits carried out? Are all staff trained, including training on Risk Assessment? Are all hazards and near misses reported? Are we collating all the information that we need to prove we are fulfilling our duty of care? What’s our health & safety culture – does every single person in our business understand their role in supporting a vibrant zero harm safety culture?
8. Delight your maths and english teacher
A fundamental rule of a business case is to document hard facts. Get your analytical hat on and turn your above narrative into numbers. Have confidence in your numbers. Remember George Orwell “four legs good, two legs bad.” Bad = cost increase (insurance / legal costs), productivity losses, fines, revenue losses through reputational damage. Good = supporting increased revenue through excellent H&S culture, improved worked morale and productivity, reducing costs, eliminating paperwork and admin burden.
9. Power & Success
A massive benefit of having an excellent business case is that you will get strong executive sponsorship for your project. This demonstration of power will help you deliver the safety culture that you need and your business needs. You will also be extremely clear on the success criteria for your project and the KPIs that you need to measure after you’ve implemented your new solution. Best of luck!
In order to make life even simpler for you, why not download our own Business Case Questionnaire Template.