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Making the Business Case for Learning Technology

Pop quiz: what do a lawsuit and learning technology have in common? You have to make a case for both. For the latter, it all starts with finding the right tools and software for your organization. But then what? How do you go about building the business and investment cases to demonstrate the need for learning technology to your leadership team?

To answer that, Dani Johnson, Co-founder of RedThread Research and Head of L&D Research at Bersin by Deloitte, spoke with three learning leaders from the Walt Disney Company, AT&T, and Airbnb to learn more about their individual journeys with purchasing and implementing technology at their organizations. Together, they created a plan for making a business case for learning technology at your organization:

1) Identify the Problem

“We had a traditional learning management system that was written for one context and one moment in time, so it was very, very clear that it wasn’t working,” revealed Chris Trout, VP of L&D at the Walt Disney Company. “We addressed it, which tied to a strategy that reevaluated some of our larger HR investments, including learning.” 

While larger organizations might have the bandwidth and budget to try multiple solutions, sometimes it’s best to start fresh. Such is the strategy behind the learning success at Airbnb. “We took a bold move to divest rather than invest first, to turn off a lot of the learning infrastructure that was already there in order to almost start from a baseline,” illustrated Barry Murphy, Head of Global Learning at Airbnb. 

For the majority of organizations, this is easier said than done.

For a monolithic-type project of large scale, Amy Rouse, former learning leader at AT&T, knew she had to find a way to streamline numerous disparate platforms and get rid of old technology to make room for what they needed.

“Our business cases were not easy, but they’re a necessity. We wanted to create a personal learning environment but you’ve got to prove why you want the business to invest a lot of money into something new or better,” explained Rouse. She continued by stating, “we identified what could be eliminated from our learning architecture, what we could eventually sunset including the LMS, and by when. This timeline strategy informed how turning off old investments would offset the costs of the new technology. This helped other leaders in the organization see the true cost of staying with old technology and the benefits of transitioning to new solutions that better suited the business case.”

2) Share Your Vision

“We looked in a few places, including how technology was happening at the time, how HR and learning technology were working together and we knew we wanted to pursue a technology that was going to help us get to that vision,” said Trout.

Airbnb started working against their vision of a learning ecosystem, in search of the technology that could integrate seamlessly and accomplish everything they needed.

The key to building a business case for learning technology is getting stakeholders involved early.

“Being able to explain the vision to stakeholders is probably one of the most important things associated with making that business case,” added Johnson.

3) Build the Case

So you’ve nailed down your pain points and shared your vision with stakeholders, now comes the fun part. It’s time to actually start building your learning technology business case. For many, this can be a convoluted and complicated process, though it doesn’t have to be. Here’s how you can start to build your business case in three easy steps:

  1. Start with a vision: Many organizations get caught up in having the latest and greatest technology. Instead, choose what will help you achieve your long-term strategy and goal.
  2. Create a timeline: This can include when you’ll turn off old technologies, scale up the new technology, or important events in the business that will require the use of the new tool.
  3. Divest before you invest: Know what isn’t working, get rid of the tools and platforms that aren’t producing ROI and then re-allocate those resources to things that do.
Making the business case for learning technology.

When you survey the business landscape, it’s apparent that learning technology is essential to growth, sustainability, and remaining competitive. This only makes building the business case for learning technology all the more vital. By identifying the problem, sharing your vision with stakeholders, and building a thorough case, you’ll be well on your way.

For a full business case template, download our Guide to Talent Development Technology today!

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