How to Improve the Odds for Funding LP Projects in Tight Times

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More stores are opening their doors but a return to normal doesn’t appear imminent, likely causing retail organizations to preserve cash and limit non-critical spending. Loss prevention is likely to be among departments seeing good projects put on the shelf. Successfully convincing senior management of the need for a security investment could get tougher.

Effective persuasion requires presentation of an orderly business case that pinpoints specific benefits, details costs, and provides all the information management needs to feel confident to grant funding approval. In tight times, however, even the most systematic project proposal could fall short.

While it is important to detail facts and figures to show the need for a security project, security is not purely a numbers game—and LP should use that to their advantage. Personal persuasiveness, storytelling, communication, and outreach are less tangible—yet no less critical—ways to advocate for security. They are critical companions to a rational business case to communicate budget and staffing requirements.

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Security Business Case Development Guide

It is telling that a resource from the Leadership and Management Council of ASIS International, Security Business Case Development Guide, is not purely a discussion of project financial accounting methods. It also highlights less-tangible actions that are key for security leaders to win management’s approval.

Understand your role in the business. Before you can sell others on the need for security, LP leaders must understand it themselves by reaching across many departments to gain a holistic view of the organization’s needs. A clear understanding of the vision of the organization is necessary to successfully advocate for how a LP project will contribute to fulfilling it.

Cultivate accurate perceptions of the current state of security and loss prevention. Senior management’s understanding of security is often over-estimated, and if an audience isn’t grounded in reality then it will likely misinterpret requests by the LP department. The ASIS guide, for example, says the onus is on security leaders to partner with other departments and functions to improve their understanding of the value that LP provides to the organization as a whole. If LP is not perceived as relevant to the day-to-day operation and contribution of the organization, then it’s going to find project approval an uphill climb.

Be politically savvy. Knowing the channels for selling a business case may be as important as the business case itself. “It is in the recognition and identification of key decision makers and informal leaders, and then by gaining their trust and support, that will ensure successful acceptance of your program and projects,” according to the Council guide. Look for a champion and secure support from a broad coalition—CFO, board members, HR, legal, operations, and specific managers affected by a proposed project. Identify the intended audience and then tailor project promotion toward their focus. “There is almost always a difference in focus between you and those you must convince,” the report notes.

Promote your vision. “This is one of the most critical steps in achieving acceptance and approval of your project,” the Council guide warns. Focus should be on promoting your vision and how it benefits other organizational units. “Achieving this level of positive exposure requires consistent and continual dialogue with key stakeholders in many areas of the company, as well as the need for you and your department to demonstrate your skills, services, and value to the enterprise.”

Making the Written Case

The Leadership Council’s recommendation identifies eight elements that an effective written business case will include:

1. Executive Summary. A short summary of the entire business case—in a single paragraph or so—should tell the complete story of the proposal, “as it may be the only part of the document that someone will actually read.”

2. Project Description. This section should offer a detailed explanation of the problem. For example: “There is minimal electronic surveillance at the property. There have been frequent complaints from staff and reports of unauthorized people walking around the buildings.” This section should cover the goals and objectives of the project, perhaps in a half-dozen paragraphs and some bullet points.

3. Business Impact. This section should answer the utmost question on management’s mind: What is it going to cost us? In additional to dollars, you should describe how the proposed project will modify or affect the organization’s processes, hardware and/or software, and explain any additional resource requirements it will entail, such as staffing, training, or other expenditures.

4. Justification. Explain why the recommended project should be implemented and why it was selected over other alternatives. It may, for example, describe how the project will affect the organization’s compliance with standards and regulations, reduce loss, improve operational efficiency, or enhance workplace safety.

5. Cost-Benefit Analysis. “This is one of the most important parts of a business case as it is often the costs or savings a project yields which results in final approval to go forward,” says the guide. This section details the “math” of a proposal, including project options. It should identify the capital cost and payback, if applicable, as well as detail the project budget breakdown. But don’t limit the business case to just bottom-line benefits, advises the guide. Non-financial benefits, such as “better workplace safety,” do indeed have a place in a business case. Intangibles like “shorter customer wait time” or “improved employee parking” are real benefits that impact the business.

6. Alternatives and Analysis. “The analysis and recommendation phase is considered the heart of the business case.” You should answer key questions: What are the viable options and costs associated with each? What are the risks of maintaining the status quo versus the risk of doing the project? What options were considered but rejected?

7. Recommendation. This section brings closure to the business case, summarizing the approach for how the project will address the business problem. Most business cases offer options to consider that include full adoption of the proposal; a blended or middle possibility; and a “do nothing” option. A case can provide as many options as necessary.

8. Approvals. Since the business case is a written document that tracks a project’s status, it should include areas for individuals to grant their approval to move forward with the project.

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