Writing a Winning Business Case for Training

Another benefit and measure in this example may be the speed at which the training can be completed. Training the group assures everyone has the information prior to the planned kick off of the project. For skills training such as business process modeling, you could either create a sample test or review process maps created following the training. Incorporating these types of measures in the business plan provides a sound basis for the ultimate success.

Although participant satisfaction and learning outcomes are important, the meat of the business case is the performance improvement expected as a result of the training. The primary ROI will be based on the changes achieved as participants apply the knowledge and skills they have attained. For example, if training is provided on BPM and the BPM methods are implemented, what are the expected results? What process or processes are to be analyzed and revised in the next 6 to 12 months? Will there be a focus on improved efficiency, cost reduction; will reduced cycle times reduce the inventory, etc.? Can the same level of results be achieved without training and how? Expected results vary by organization but these are some of the common BPM deliverables you can quantify.

As you quantify the expected training results for your business case, one of the challenges will be to identify and quantify what portion of the results can be directly attributed to the training and what portion may be due to other factors. For example, after BPM training, participants should be able to document the processes and make improvements. Organizations that completely document their processes typically report between a 10 to 15% improvement in efficiency as a result of gaining a better understanding of the process and making simple changes without a major technology investment. By looking at the areas to be impacted and quantifying the effect of a 15% improvement in efficiency you can develop an estimate of the expected benefit as a result of the training. If your business case in this scenario identifies a much greater improvement due in part to expected software improvements, changes in equipment or job training, your business case should identify what portion of the results is due to each factor since the training alone would not achieve the results.

Once you have identified all other potential factors such as systems improvements and other costs, you will need to use estimates to adjust the benefit numbers. Validate your estimates. This can be done by asking other key stakeholders what percentage of the expected result they think is reasonable.

The last type of data relates to intangible results. Intangible benefits are often overlooked as part of the business case or identified but not quantified. In the example above, there are some intangible benefits of training internal resources versus outsourcing but assigning a numeric value to that benefit is difficult. To determine a value, consider whether the training will reduce employee turnover? Will it reduce the need to recruit externally and pay recruiting fees? These are just a couple of ideas you can use to place a value on the intangible benefits. In our article Process Performance Measures - Going Beyond Cost and Time Savings, we identified some ways to develop and use intangible data. If you have not already read that article you may find it useful in developing your business case.

Finally, your business case should also identify the alternatives and compare the costs and benefits of those alternatives. For example, what would be the cost to hire consultants or recruit new employees who have BPM experience versus train internal resources?

We hope this information has provided you with some ideas and will help you write stronger business cases for training. We would be happy to provide you with a free consultation on your training needs and training options to help you write your training business case.

Companies typically do not have methods and processes in place to measure the value of training which can make creating the business case a challenge. All business cases, even those for training, should identify the problem to be solved, the proposed solution and any alternatives, the expected results, how those results will be measured, the cost, and the expected economic benefit (ROI).

Each company's problems are unique but the following information will help you identify the types of data you can use, processes for validating results, how to link the results with the performance objectives, and provide some suggestions on how to use this data to determine an ROI for your training business case.

Key Types of Data:

  1. Participant satisfaction: After completion of most formal training, participants are asked to complete a general feedback form as to their satisfaction with the trainer, training materials, and the facilities. The questionnaire may also include questions relating to how the participant anticipates using the knowledge or skills on the job.
  2. Learning outcome: The second type of data is the measurement of what has been learned. Has the participant acquired the desired knowledge, skills, and techniques?
  3. On the job applications and effectiveness: This data focuses on the specific job applications that can be identified and measured. i.e. How often has the business analyst facilitated requirements gathering sessions? What is the quality of documentation and what degree of rework was required?
  4. Expected and actual impact on the business: When the knowledge or skills are applied, what changes or improvements in the business are expected?
  5. Intangible results: Some results are difficult to apply a monetary value to or may be influenced by other factors. Intangible results are often associated with BPM projects and various types of systems initiatives.

The various types of data provide different economic value to the company. Participant satisfaction is often used since it is easy to measure and provides an early indicator of potential success or failure of the training but offers little value to the business case.

Evaluating the learning outcome provides an indication of how well participants have learned the information or new skills. Learning outcomes typically aren't measured since it is difficult to do so but for certain business cases they are a crucial piece of information. If the least expensive training option is to provide employees with a book or on-line tutorial and the most expensive option is a workshop or live training, why should management approve the more expensive option? If the differences can't be articulated, targets set and measured, you will have difficulty getting approval for the more expensive training even though it may well be the best option.

The types of targets and measurement methods for learning outcomes will vary depending on the nature of the training. You can consider measuring training effectiveness by the use of tests or by observation as to the individual's ability to use the information or skills. The difficulty with tests is that unless they are extremely well designed, which takes time and experience; they tend to measure memorization as opposed to knowledge. For example, with BPM one of the desired results is for all participants to gain a common understanding of BPM and BPM methods. It is difficult to achieve a common understanding through self study so your business case should support workshop training. The targets to measure the training effectiveness would be based on the participants' understanding of key BPM methods and results could be evaluated either by testing or observation of participant's actions after the training.