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Does Your Strategy or Initiative Pass ‘the Business Impact Test’?

Business Impact: It is (or should be) the number one factor that determines your project or initiative’s access to power and resources. But how clear and compelling is the impact of your strategy or initiative?

Obviously, the expected Results or ‘deliverables’ of any project or initiative must be clear.  However, the ultimate measure of success is the project’s Business Impact. But what is business impact and what is it not? Well here is a quick guide.

Beyond Project Benefits

IT projects promise technical benefits. HRD initaitives highlight talent implications. Marketing campaigns focus on marketing objectives. But there has to be more than just a list of project benefits or deliverables!

If you want to connect your strategy or initiative to power and resources you must join the dots for the C-suite. You must draw a direct line between your strategy or initiative and business performance and success.

What is Business Impact?

Business Impact is more than just the results of the project or its key outputs.  It is the impact on the business. It challenges leaders to take a longer-term bigger picture view.

Business Impact is not just about what the project or initiative will do for your department, function, or team, but what it will do for the organization. Taking a ‘business first’ perspective is key. That means your IT or HR project has to talk the language of business performance.

Business Impact is what your strategy or initiative will do for the organization—how it will drive performance, create value and serve customers. The latter is essential because if these things are happening shareholder value will naturally follow.

It is not enough that you know or have calculated the impact.  People must believe it.  Stakeholders must co-create it. They must own it.

Business Impact is not just a well-rehearsed PR statement. It is a conversation – the most powerful conversation of all—a strategic dialog.

Business Impact is not just a number. It is also a vision of a better future. It engages hearts as well as minds. It is a form of storytelling.

The business impact involves both the spreadsheet and the crystal ball – it is underpinned by assumptions and scenarios. The spreadsheet may be very complex, but at heart it is still a hypothesis.

Business Impact requires the tricky act of balancing confidence with ambition. Making exaggerated claims regarding business impact maybe a part of the charade involved in project approval, but it comes back to haunt projects later.

Business Impact is a question, as much as a statement:  What is the business impact?  It is a question that needs to be asked for as long as a project is running. It is not just something to be addressed in planning a project. Realizing the benefits means keeping the issue of business impact center stage.

Business impact is key, but a business is made up of people – that means you must address the people impact too. People are naturally going to be more concerned about the impact that an initiative or set of changes will have on themselves, than a group of relative strangers, such as the shareholders.

The Business Impact Test

There is a simple test of Business Impact: The impact talking about it has on the key sponsors and stakeholders. Does it get them fired-up? Does it compel them to act?

So, what is the business impact of your project or initiative and just how compelling is it? Does it pass the test.

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