Practical steps for planning your ROI business case

This guide will help you build a strong business case for an ITSM investment.

Here’s a sneak peek at some of the most important steps:

Establish the need/opportunity being addressed
Construct a compelling ROI matrix
Clearly define business objectives and outcomes
Address the risk factors in the eye

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How to Build a Business  
Case for ITSM  
Table of contents  
Current situation  
The values of an ITSM solution  
Steps to planning a business case for ITSM  
Step 1: Establish the need/opportunity  
being addressed  
Step 2: Identify the stakeholders and  
get their input  
Step 3: Clearly define business objectives and  
outcomes and make sure they’re strategically  
aligned with business priorities.  
Step 4: Consider the technology requirements  
Step 5: Construct a compelling ROI matrix  
Step 6: Address the risk factors in the eye  
Step 7: Get your business case evaluated (so you  
can move forward with ITSM vendor evaluations)  
What do I do if my business case  
gets ignored?  
Appendix A:  
The role of ROI (and a sample model)  
Appendix B:  
Examples of vendor evaluations  
Option 1: Typical evaluation  
Option 2: Typical RFP/RFQ  
In the world of IT service management (ITSM), it’s incredibly  
easy to be overtaken by the constant necessity to “put out  
fires” or deal with “break-fix” incidents as they occur. But that  
certainly doesn’t complete the realistic picture of what is  
required by ITSM professionals.  
It’s the role of IT to keep your organization running smoothly,  
regardless of the company size. Adopting an ITSM solution will  
help to optimize your service delivery, allowing you to focus  
more energy on the value you provide to your business.  
Unfortunately, investment in such a solution often gets  
cancelled before it even gets off the ground – because the  
necessary work of presenting and understanding the ROI  
of the investment has not been properly explained to the  
authorized stakeholders.  
This guide is designed to help you build a strong business  
case for an ITSM investment, show you how to increase  
the likelihood of getting the business case approved,  
and ultimately improve professional relationships by  
demonstrating how IT adds value to the organization as a true  
In the end, you’ll understand how to highlight the need for  
the investment and be able to justify the cost based on the  
value it will offer. Your business case will build consensus and  
urgency among stakeholders – creating a compelling reason  
to change from the status quo and invest in future growth.  
Current situation  
According to IDC, the total worldwide spending on digital  
transformation is forecasted to reach .97 trillion by 2022. It’s clear  
that business leaders are prioritizing the value of IT, yet it goes  
without saying that organizations have taken a harsh hit with the  
countless IT project failures.  
Today, digital transformation demands that organizations  
continually change the status quo, experiment, and get used to  
failure. As a result, a huge strain has been placed on IT leaders and  
employees working in technology.  
Harry Moseley, CIO at Zoom, had this to say about digital  
“Feverish is the word I use. I think it’s compounding itself, and  
I think some businesses are challenged on how to keep up –  
they’re almost hyperventilating.”  
It creates a lack of trust in the IT department, which in turn causes  
business leaders to lack confidence in spending the big bucks on  
IT projects.  
How can we alleviate this fear and strengthen business-IT  
The solution is by proving that an IT investment is the same thing  
as a business investment.  
Enter your business case for ITSM.  
Here’s your chance to show that an ITSM solution can help  
your organization grow technologically and prosper amidst the  
changing digital landscape.  
You’ll need to develop a compelling ROI matrix that includes easily  
tangible measures such as: increased productivity, decreased  
downtime, improved service quality, decreased mean time to  
ticket resolution (MTTR); as well as less tangible measures such as:  
compliance alignment, relationship improvement, cultural fit, and  
brand values.  
The values of an ITSM solution  
According to Gartner, “IT service management tools are vital  
for infrastructure and operations organizations to support  
and deliver IT services.” The need for a strategic approach  
to designing, planning, delivering, operating, managing,  
and continually improving IT services is clear to service desk  
managers, IT leaders, IT operations executives, and service  
engineers alike.  
The importance of a structured support model cannot be  
overstated. For service quality and efficiency, it’s necessary to  
have in place a software solution that can address some of the  
IT service organization’s biggest challenges, including:  
lꢀ ꢀPrioritizing and automating services  
lꢀ ꢀEnsuring transparency  
lꢀꢀ Enabling open communication with end users  
lꢀꢀ Providing reliable, easy-to-use self-service channels  
lꢀꢀ Providing support with mobility  
lꢀꢀ Continuous improvement of processes and services  
Steps to planning a business case for ITSM  
Here are key steps to getting you started with your business case for ITSM.  
Step 1: Establish the need/opportunity being addressed  
It’s important to be clear in identifying the problem and the solution  
because without context or a compelling reason, your business case will  
quickly be thrown out.  
Typically, a large pain point or problem is the trigger to kick off the project.  
Regardless of whether it’s a single inciting incident, series of incidents, or  
a desire to do better, strong identification of needs is essential for building  
the business case and creating buy-in from stakeholders.  
Some common examples that may apply to your organization:  
lꢀ We’ve been experiencing high levels of end-user downtime due to  
poor information gathering.  
lꢀ We’ve been asked to investigate how to increase/improve  
lꢀ We’ve had a lot of dropped issues/emails/tickets resulting in very  
unhappy end users.  
lꢀ We’re not properly alerted to downtime on a high-value asset  
resulting in $X lost revenue for the business.  
lꢀ Our business processes and approvals are still done through email,  
creating a lack of transparency and inconsistent turnaround times.  
lꢀ We failed our last software or inventory audit, which cost $X, so we  
need a better way of dealing with this.  
lꢀ Our highly paid IT professionals are spending too much time on low-  
value activities, and we need to improve our efficiencies.  
lꢀ Joe was our “go-to-guy” who knew everything, but all his  
troubleshooting and easy fix knowledge was in his head. We lost  
those resources when he quit, we need a better way to share  
lꢀ Our compliance office has raised a red flag that we don’t have  
effective change management and history tracking, which creates  
compliance risk and could damage our reputation if something  
goes wrong.  
lꢀ Our service levels across our multiple locations are inconsistent,  
which create frustration and mistrust within our department.  
lꢀ We are so concerned with service “break-fix,” we can’t seem to  
prioritize high-value activities like preventive maintenance.  
lꢀ We have no way to track our leasing/licensing agreements and  
easily see what assets are associated with them, and be reminded to  
start our renewal processes.  
lꢀ Our department is seen as a “black hole” by our executive  
management. We have no way of tracking and communicating the  
value we add to our business every day.  
Step 2: Identify the stakeholders and get  
their input  
Here’s the truth – successful projects and  
investments are not just about the dollars and  
cents, but also about the internal politics of the  
organization. The larger the scale and scope of  
the project the more stakeholders will typically  
be involved.  
Typical stakeholder breakdown:  
Engaging with stakeholders is key in the  
entire lifecycle of your business case. Right  
from the beginning, it’s important to identify  
your stakeholders in order to persuade them  
to invest in your plan. Setting your priorities  
from the beginning will assist in building your  
case. It’s also important to identify the key pain  
points of each stakeholder, as well as their  
needs and KPIs. The ITSM business case should  
be crafted around these points. The focus  
should be on how the solution will solve these  
Step 3: Clearly define business objectives and outcomes and make  
sure they’re strategically aligned with business priorities.  
Set the stage for success.  
This is where you write up a brief summary of the value you’re expecting  
to bring to the organization with your new ITSM solution. Be sure to  
answer this question:  
How will an ITSM solution create efficiencies and/or reduce costs while  
aligning with core business objectives?  
Be sure to clearly describe why this project is important, and why  
change is needed. Think of it as the elevator pitch and guiding goal for  
the project.  
We have a problem. The problem is causing this negative  
impact. Let’s find a better way to improve on this.”  
Next, you will define how your business case will support the larger  
business objectives. If the business priorities do not align, then the  
chances of rejection are much higher due to the fact that there’s  
no evident value to the organization. Although every organization’s  
business objectives and outcomes are different, many of the core  
objectives or outcomes will fall into the following categories:  
lꢀ Controlling operational costs – Overhead costs cut into the  
profitability of the company and limit the executive management’s  
options for making strategic investments and returning value to  
lꢀ Improving business productivity – Generally, the matter (and  
solution) isn’t cutting prices, rather, it’s deriving a lot of worth from  
the resources the company has. Improving end-user engagement  
and streamlining business processes have huge impacts on  
creating efficiencies and improving the bottom line.  
lꢀ Improving service quality – By decreasing response time,  
increasing self-service options, shifting low-value activities from  
high-value human assets (through automation) – all these  
contribute to an overall higher end-user/client satisfaction.  
lꢀ Risk and compliance – The executive managers are key players  
in the company’s governance process and process consistency  
is a powerful tool in demonstrating regulatory compliance and  
managing risk.  
lꢀ Growing revenue – The more revenue the company can bring in,  
the more resources the executive management has to work with.  
This is also a fantastic opportunity to work actively with all stakeholders  
to create requirements lists, criteria weight requirements, and ensure  
that all stakeholders agree with the potential evaluation criteria and  
Step 4: Consider the technology requirements  
One of the most important aspects of a business  
case is to include the technical requirements for the  
desired solution. Every vendor you consider will have  
different technical requirements. These differences  
can have a high impact on the functionality,  
compliance, cost of purchase, and total cost of  
One of the biggest mistakes many organizations  
make in purchasing any new software is trying  
to “save money” by not purchasing enough  
implementation support. In the end, these companies  
are not able to set up and implement the software properly  
on their own, resulting in low engagement, wasted time  
and money, and no ROI on the investment. To compound  
the problem, many vendors don’t include implementation  
information in preliminary pricing. It’s vital to understand the  
implementation requirements and costs at this stage in order to  
build the strongest possible business case and ensure long-term  
success with this investment.  
To drastically impact who makes your vendor shortlist, here are some  
of the key questions to include as part of your vendor discovery:  
Cloud or On-Premises?  
a. Is your project budgeted for CapEx or OpEx? Cloud will  
generally be a SaaS-based pricing model, which means  
yearly recurring cost. Although SaaS can sometimes still be  
purchased through CapEx budgets, it is typically considered  
an OpEx line item. On-premises may also be yearly recurring  
cost or perpetual license depending on the vendor.  
Perpetual licenses are often approved for CapEx budgets and  
maintenance and support is typically then part of the OpEx  
b. Is there any functionality difference between platforms?  
Some vendors will have no functionality differences between  
their on-premises and cloud platforms, where others  
will have exceptionally limited functionality in one of the  
platforms. It’s important to understand the differences.  
c. How much server space is required for on-premises? What  
operating are compatible with this software?  
d. How often do updates occur, and are the updates automatic?  
e. Compliance: Have a full list of all major compliance standards  
your organization requires (ex. HIPAA, FedRamp, SOC) This  
can drastically impact if an on-premise or cloud is the best fit.  
2. Who takes care of the implementation?  
a. Are we responsible for all implementation on our own or  
does the vendor recommend implementation and training  
b. Are those service in-house with the vendor or  
outsourced to a third-party?  
c. What does a typical time investment for  
implementation look like?  
d. Is implementation support included or is it an  
additional cost? If so, how is it typically charged?  
What is the rollout schedule?  
a. Is there a recommended or typical rollout and  
implementation schedule?  
b. How often is the technology updated/changed?  
c. What is the average lifespan of this software? Is lifespan  
impacted by a delivery method?  
Understanding these key requirements makes a huge difference  
in determining vendor fit and determining a budget for a  
successful business case. Many of the above questions also help  
to compare the total cost of ownership (TCO), not just purchase  
Part of your process will undoubtedly involve discovery calls to  
potential vendors as well as the creation of a vendor shortlist in  
order to move into more formal demos and potential POCs with  
potential vendors.  
Step 5: Construct a compelling ROI matrix  
Nothing speaks louder than a solid ROI. In alignment with your  
organization’s definition for what a ‘solid ROI’ is (6 months’  
return, 12 months? Less? More?), create the spreadsheet and  
present a financial justification that cannot be refuted. A sample  
ROI model is provided in Appendix A.  
Step 6: Address the risk factors in the eye  
The nature of the job and culture of IT professionals is to trust in  
technology and the growth that it can produce. For executive  
management, it’s to be skeptical and limit risk.  
Not adequately assessing the risk with large budgets on the  
line is not a smart move. It leaves you susceptible to failure, with  
tainted credibility, and at risk for irrefutable damage to your  
business case. Therefore, being unprepared for potential risks is  
highly frowned upon.  
Project risk is defined as, “The exposure to a company that arises  
from taking on a particular task. This task can be internal, involve  
external events or can stem from any other circumstances that  
can hamper the project’s overall success and result in loss or  
embarrassment to the firm undertaking it.”  
Below is an example of a process cycle, identifying the risks that  
can potentially threaten you meeting your project objectives as  
well as your overall project success.  
Keep in mind, the risk  
management process is  
The risk managment process:  
Successful risk management is a continuously  
iterative process  
continuous. Assess and address  
the risks as they arise. This is  
the key to controlling risks and  
not letting them get the better  
of your project. Don’t let your  
project get away from you by  
failing to address these risks early  
on and head on.  
Step 7: Get your business case evaluated (so you can move  
forward with ITSM vendor evaluations)  
Decision time! The next step is to swiftly and effectively move  
through your vendor evaluation. Some examples of vendor  
evaluations are outlined in Appendix B.  
This is where a well thought out, well-planned, and well-  
executed business case receives final approval to either move  
forward with an evaluation or is denied.  
CONGRATULATIONS on completing your business case! You  
have effectively proved that the business can’t continue on in the  
status quo. There is now a better way forward!  
If you have followed all the steps successfully, you should close  
the deal with ease. The decision should not come as a surprise,  
and you should glide through the final stages.  
What do I do if my business case  
gets ignored?  
You wrote a strong business case, you addressed the pertinent  
topics, but still got ignored. What next? Don’t give up yet, says  
ITSM thought leader Doug Tedder – here are seven actions you  
can try:  
lꢀ Do a double check: Are your assumptions reasonable?  
Have the needs and benefits been clearly articulated? Is  
the ROI strong enough? Is the business argument strong  
enough? Have you demonstrated that you will be a good  
steward of the company’s funds?  
lꢀ Engage the decision maker: Try to understand why your  
case is not prioritized, which cases are, and why. Request  
assistance for gaining approval of the initiative. Identify  
the decision maker involved in your business case, and get  
them involved.  
lꢀ Engage key stakeholders: Identify and seek out the key  
stakeholders. Make a clear point of how ITSM can help  
alleviate pain points and enhance performance for specific  
issues. This will help you in establishing a relationship as  
well as strengthen your business case.  
lꢀ Make goals and measures well-known: Share your  
initiative and the anticipated benefits and results with  
colleagues. Explain how not meeting these goals will  
impact the organization and how ITSM would help. If you  
can recruit support in greater numbers, you will be able to  
more effectively develop a sense of urgency (and ultimately  
support) for your case.  
lꢀ Conduct an experiment: Can you try out a sample of the  
ITSM implementation? Extract a current data sample  
as a tabletop exercise to confirm assumptions and the  
anticipated benefits of the implementation. Then, share  
the results to motivate advocacy for the initiative.  
lꢀ Execute a communications plan: Great communication is  
one of the most important components of a successful project.  
Therefore, it should be clearly mapped out and planned at the  
earliest possible stage.  
Here are some key points to address:  
Know why you need to communicate.  
Draft your starting message.  
Consider who you are communicating with.  
Prioritize and characterize the audiences.  
Define the reach of the messaging. Are there more  
than one audience parties? Are they subdivided?  
Research and adapt to your audience.  
Be relevant!  
Develop a plan of action.  
Put yourself in your audience’s shoes.  
mꢀ Invite feedback.  
Regardless of the plan, the person with the most refined and  
well-honed communications orientation and skill-set should  
take ownership of this strategic task from launch to tail end.  
lꢀ Accept that the timing might be a factor: Sometimes even  
the best-presented business cases aren’t always approved  
immediately. You shouldn’t take it personally. This does not  
mean that ITSM is a bad idea, but it may mean there are other  
business priorities that need to be addressed first. Take the  
feedback from senior managers into consideration in your  
follow-up business case and present an even stronger one next