“Moving the Needle”

…real value to business decision making or just interesting?

Martin Cowan
October 5, 2020
Articles

Recently, I have been researching the phrase “move the needle”. A quick web search will get phrases like “Most Annoying Business Jargon” (forbes.com) but don’t let that put you off! It conveys the method of understanding how some kind of change can perceivably improve a process or metric inside a business. So, it must be valuable, right?

“Most Annoying Business Jargon” (forbes.com)

This grabbed my interest when I realised that sometimes a small change in a single aspect of a business can have a large impact on the whole business. I also realised that all you need is an easy way of expressing what a solution could do for a business when there has been no sponsorship into the matrices yet. Our software (Shark) contains many business metrics as standard which are the building blocks of business cases – any of them can be used to demonstrate the impact of moving the needle.

For example, you have a solution that may save costs and therefore improve margin. For moving the needle, often an arbitrary movement of 1% is taken as the starting point for the conversation. So, what might a 1% change in revenue be worth? The trick is to choose a handful of metrics (e.g. improve customer retention, shorter sales cycle, more sales calls, improve margin) that are relevant to the business, populate the metric with current (known) data and include a 1% improvement.

This is how a 1% uplift in revenue might appear in Shark

The output from Shark will give the Net Present Value (NPV) of all the chosen metrics to illustrate the case and can be used to prompt a potential customer into action.

Moving the needle isn’t a business case, merely a way of highlighting what could be possible. It’s a good way of engaging a customer on the economic impact of a solution. Building a sponsored business case with agreed and correctly phased metrics rather than arbitrary improvements is the next step.

So easy – and don’t be put off by the jargon!

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