How to build the business case for test tools

How to build the business case for test tools

Your company is shortly going to launch its new eCommerce website or application.

You have to test it thoroughly and quickly, but either you don’t have tools, or you know that the current tools you have will not do the job.

It’s already clear how it’s going to unfold. Everyone – you, the developers and management – will end up frustrated because the launch is delayed and too many bugs slip through. And you could easily get the blame.

Luckily, you have found the perfect testing tool for the job. It is a valuable long-term investment for your company.

There’s only one problem.

You are sure that your budget-holder will say ‘no’, and you’re not sure how to build a convincing business case, to get them to change their mind. Maybe you have never written a document like that, and have no idea what goes in it or what would make a winning argument.

So where do you start?

The key to making the case for your tool is to think of it is an internal marketing exercise.

When marketers want to sell something to their target market, there are certain steps they will never skip. Follow them, and you will be able to “sell” your new testing tool to your budget holder, too.

Here they are…

1. Get to know your “audience.”

The first step is to know your audience – those who will be involved in the decision.

The more you understand about what is important to your budget holder, the better your chances of persuading them, especially as they are inundated with similar requests from your colleagues and can only approve a handful.

Ask them outright what they need to see in your proposal in order to say ‘Yes’.

Ask, as well, what might stop them from giving you the go-ahead. Are there any red lines? Are there any internal political or procedural issues which might prove a barrier?

At the same time, identify potential allies. If this tool helps create a better-quality product, for example, you might get the support of the IT operations area – they hate software defects because it is a burden on their helpdesk and affects SLA metrics. Identify, as well, who might oppose your proposal, so that you can better anticipate their arguments.

 The better you understand the landscape, the easier it will be to build a solid case.

2. Focus on benefits, not features

The best marketers don’t talk too much about their product’s features. Those are boring technicalities.

They focus on the benefits: How customers’ lives will change for the better after using their product, how great they will feel and how others will perceive them as smarter, richer, happier, better-looking….

You have to take the same approach.

While I would never tell you not to mention features at all, you need to find every key benefit your company will experience when it buys your new testing tool. Your budget holder may not even understand the technical aspects, but they are very interested in how it will move the company forward.

While every case will be different, you must always show that the tool solves a big problem for the company. If it is perceived as a luxury, not an essential, it will rarely be approved.

Most key benefits will fit under the headings of time, quality and cost. For this example, I have assumed you are buying an automated test tool, however, it can be adapted for other test tools.

Time:

  • Less time spend doing routine manual testing
  • More time available for complex manual testing
  • Test pack can be run in hours when it previously took days

Quality:

  • Greater test coverage, finds more defects and creates a better quality product
  • Test pack can be run time and time again, ensuring quality remains high
  •  Fewer defects in production = happier customers

Cost:

  • Once the test harness is created, the cost to run it is a faction of the cost of doing the same manually, so saves money over time. Typical payback within 12-18 months
  • Avoids taking on temporary staff to do the same testing
  • Can reduce the time taken to test, so saving cost
  • What is saved by having fewer defects in production? Work out a figure.

The bottom line is always crucial…

3. Pre-empt objections

Great marketers understand the reasons why their audience might decide not to buy, and create campaigns that answer these objections even before the audience has voiced them.

You, too, must anticipate your budget holder’s concerns so that you can address them in advance.

Again, the most important ones will often revolve around money. For example:

“Can’t we just use free tools?” 

No, you can’t – not if you are testing anything that is mission-critical and not if you want to build the infrastructure for long-term success. I cover the essential arguments here.

How much is this going to cost?

Whatever you do, don’t focus on the numbers. And as soon as you mention cost, your budget holder will go into defensive mode.

Instead, work hard to justify the price.

Demonstrate that other options will end up more expensive long-term. Show the value that the company will get for its investment (a great word to use instead of “price”). 

Professional, paid testing tools are safer, give predictable and repeatable results, can meet your long-term needs, always have support available and so on. These all save money in the long-term!

Set the terms of the discussion. Lead with value or ROI (Return on Investment), so that price is not the focus.

4.    Launch your campaign….

Now it’s time to write up your formal business case. Get help from a colleague or acquaintance who has written up a successful business case before, if necessary. Your company may have a standard template.

Standard sections to include are:

Overview

>> Strong overview giving a clear reason why the company needs this tool

>> Assumptions – key facts and information that are relevant

>> Constraints – without the test tools we will not be able to do X

Options that have been considered. A minimum of 2 and maximum of 4

>> 1st tool considered – strengths, weaknesses, why ruled out

>> 2nd tool considered – strengths, weaknesses, why ruled out

>> 3rd tool considered (your preferred option) – strengths, weaknesses, why selected

>> Do nothing option – what happens if no tool selected? Impact to project and any additional costs

Investment required

>> A clear explanation for what is required

>> Savings – what will be saved by making this investment

>> Costs – any extra costs if you don’t get the tool

Summary – ask for the investment

Supporting information – include any supporting information as an appendices. It is unlikely to get looked at, so move it to the back of the document.

Always follow up with a request to meet the budget holder so you can present your proposal face-to-face.

If you simply deliver a document, the budget holder will most likely skim it in a few minutes and decide, “No”. It is much harder to dismiss when you have a face-to-face meeting and a proper discussion is held.

Practice your presentation beforehand, so you can deliver it calmly and confidently. A good performance goes a long way – if you sound timid, they are more likely to ask difficult questions.

But be prepared for an inquisition. Know every detail about the tool. Speak to your supplier first, because they will be able to give you valuable insight into what has come up at other presentations and what was persuasive in other companies.

Most of all, focus on benefits and value.

5. Don’t take no for an answer. Be persistent

Marketers don’t just promote their product or service once. They create sustained campaigns because they know that the more often their audience hears about their offer, the more likely they are to buy. It takes time for the main points to sink in.

After delivering a compelling presentation, some stubborn budget holders might still say “no”. But, if you’re serious about taking your testing to the next level, you just have to be persistent.

Sometimes the budget holder may have just been having a bad day, or the timing wasn’t right. So do not accept the first “no” for an answer. Ask:

  • Why they have said no
  • What would change their “no” into a yes

Be prepared to have to get more information and rework the business case, this is normal. 

When you think like a marketer, you shift the focus away from writing a dry document into getting inside your budget holder’s head, and making it easy for them to say “Yes”. The more you focus on your budget holder and their needs, the more likely you are to get your brand-new testing tool.

Stephen Davis
by Stephen Davis

Stephen Davis is the founder of Calleo Software, a Micro Focus (formerly HPE Software) Gold Partner. His passion is to help test professionals improve the efficiency and effectiveness of software testing.

To view Stephen's LinkedIn profile and connect 

Stephen Davis LinkedIn profile

11th January 2018

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