InnovationProfessional Development

Tips on making the business case


Implementing data-driven workforce management requires nurse leaders to make the case to the financial team. In addition to citing research that supports the efficacy of this strategy, leaders will want to keep the following tips in mind when building their business case and writing the business plan.

Take a stepped approach

Here are key steps to take when considering how to justify a project to stakeholders (,

Identify the problem and the opportunity.

State the problem and its implications for the organization, followed by an overview of the opportunity it presents.

Research and identify alternative solutions.

Identify benefits and costs for each solution and determine feasibility. Note risks associated with each solution. You can include qualitative benefits, but the emphasis should be on quantitative.

Recommend a solution.

Include an explanation as to why you chose that solution. For example, perhaps you created criteria to rank various types of staffing systems and the one you’re recommending had the highest score.

Develop the budget.

The budget should include equipment costs and labor costs, both initial and ongoing. Double-check all numbers.

Describe the implementation plan.

Outline the process for putting the solution in place. Be sure to include key milestones and personnel.

Calculate ROI

When building a business case, Regional Chief Clinical Executive Sylvain Trepanier, DNP, RN, CENP, recommends that leaders identify an outcome quantified in dollars. For instance, since the purchase of a staffing system can support an improvement in patient outcomes, you can justify the cost by quantifying the improvement in terms of increased reimbursement dollars.

For example, assume that you expect an increase in reimbursement because of a decrease in mortality to equal $100,000 by 2019 (related to acuity-based staffing). In addition, assume you invested $250,000 to install a data-driven, acuity-based staffing system (spread over 5 years, or $50,000 per year). In this situation, you can expect an ROI of ($100,000 ÷ $50,000) X 100 = 200%. (Note: Numbers are fictional and only used for illustration purposes.)

Here’s the ROI formula:

  • ROI = net benefit ÷ total investment X 100


Include key sections of the business plan

The business plan for a data-driven workforce management system should include the following:

  • Executive summary. Offers a concise elevator pitch of the business plan.
  • Overview. Provides background about the challenge or problem to be solved.
  • Desired outcome. Answers the question: What’s the ultimate goal?
  • Option analysis. Includes risks, benefits, and costs for each.
  • Solution of choice. Answers the question: Why was this chosen?
  • Operations overview. Answers the question: How will the system be implemented?
  • Financial plan. Includes a spreadsheet of costs and the ROI analysis.

Be sure that the business plan aligns with the strategic priorities of the organization.

Be Creative

Although business plans have a common—and often dry—format, you can breathe life into yours by adding a dash of creativity. For example, screen shots, infographics, and scenarios lend interest. Use active, not passive, voice when writing and avoid unnecessary jargon.


If you have to present the business case, keep the following in mind:

  • Focus on how the request dovetails with the organization’s needs.
  • Include visuals when possible.
  • Develop a list of potential questions and prepare your answers.
  • Practice your presentation on your own and with others. Encourage colleagues to ask you tough questions so you gain experience thinking on your feet.
  • Position the project so that it aligns with the various stakeholders’ goals and objectives. For instance, positioning will differ between the chief financial officer and the director of staffing.
  • Be succinct.

And identify those on the review committee who you think will be supportive of the project and talk with them before the meeting.

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