Businesses that create inclusive products, services, and experiences can increase revenue, decrease costs, improve resilience, and build trust with customers and employees. The good news is that executives who I speak with for my research understand and want to unlock these benefits. The bad news is that doing so isn’t easy and doesn’t come for free. Unlocking these benefits requires an intentional approach to inclusive design, something that most firms lack due to low organizational understanding of why inclusive design matters and limited funding. Without investments in people (such as accessibility experts), processes, and technologies, organizations will never realize the business impact of an inclusive design practice. Getting the necessary funding requires design and digital leaders to highlight the myriad benefits, pair data with human impact stories, and get specific about costs. To help, we recently published a report, Build The Business Case For Inclusive Design, aimed at helping design and digital leaders make the case for an inclusive design practice.

Creating an effective business case amounts to three things.

Step 1: Anchor Your Business Case To Four Benefit Categories

Inclusive design helps companies increase revenue, reduce costs, improve resilience, and build trust. An effective business case speaks to all four of these benefit categories but emphasizes the subcomponents of each that best align with your executives’ priorities. For example:

  • A design agency might lean into how inclusive design gives the agency a competitive advantage when it comes to winning contracts with businesses committed to inclusion.
  • A retailer may focus on the rising number of digital accessibility lawsuits as a key driver, laying out how creating inclusive experiences helps reduce the legal costs of addressing demand letters and lawsuits.
  • A bank struggling to attract strong design and engineering talent might highlight how this work helps the company appeal to values-motivated employees who want to work for inclusive brands.

The report provides data and examples for 17 total benefits, including these three, that companies can unlock by practicing inclusive design.

Step 2: Plan For Investments In Five Areas

It’s important to consider the costs required to build and sustain a program, as well as the work needed to remediate problematic experiences (e.g., inaccessible websites) in the short term. These costs fall into five categories:

  • Professional services (e.g., for accessibility audits and training)
  • Technology purchases (e.g., for a user-experience research platform to conduct design research with underserved communities)
  • Hiring costs (e.g., dedicated inclusive design and accessibility experts)
  • Remediation costs (e.g., to fix problems uncovered when assessing existing experiences for inclusion)
  • Process updates (e.g., work to integrate new standards into the company’s design system or to implement accessibility testing)

Step 3: Pair Data With Human Impact Stories

While it’s important to show the numbers, don’t forget that inclusive design is ultimately about empowering people to access, use, and live better lives thanks to your company’s products and services. Bring this human impact to life in your business case to make sure that your company doesn’t think of inclusive design as a compliance-focused, check-the-box exercise — something I see all too often. These human impact stories also help get your business case noticed alongside competing priorities.

So with that in mind, your business case should have two elements:

  1. Data: Craft a one-sentence version of your inclusive design business case, something like: We propose to [name of proposed inclusive design initiative] in order to [top benefits you’re focused on]; this will bring us an economic benefit of [cost savings + revenue potential], at a cost of [cost of request]. Focus on making your numbers reasonable, not perfect.
  2. Human impact: Share stories that illustrate the importance of inclusive design to historically underrepresented customers such as people with disabilities. Talk about how inclusive design can improve customers’ lives and discuss the barriers that customers face today because of exclusion in companies’ products.

Next Steps

If you’re a Forrester client, read our report Build The Business Case For Inclusive Design to understand the four benefit categories to which to anchor your business case, costs to plan for, and best practices to ensure a successful business case. Then, if you’d like to ask me questions or work through your own business case, you can set up a conversation with me. You can also follow or connect with me on LinkedIn if you’d like.