Case studies are primarily regarded as marketing collateral by organisations and are specifically written for an external audience. However, case studies can also have an internal focus and result in real value for employees.
While an internal audience has different needs to an external audience, you may find that these needs are not so far apart as you might think. Here are some ways case studies are useful inside the organisation.
Probably the single most important thing case studies provide inside the organisation is awareness of what other teams are up to. Organisations tend to be very siloed across teams, divisions, locations and even individuals. Do you really know what those strangely-quiet people who sit near the coffee machine are up to?
Case studies are an excellent vehicle for awareness of other team activity. They are very tangible examples of services provided which highlight client needs and show related solutions. This awareness is important, particularly to spot opportunities for cross-selling and to drive a more joined-up service to clients.
An external-facing case study is almost always a success story. Highlighting the great work of teams and individual employees also helps them to get recognised within the company, and is engaging for those concerned. It also allows your organisation to celebrate success.
To support recognition, the process for preparing a case study can also be intertwined with organising internal communications. For example, each new case study could provide a headline for your intranet.
Making a business case
Some case studies might involve the use of an internal system or application. These success stories can be used to make a business case for investment in different applications and also be used to help drive adoption.
For example, CRM systems tend to be very unpopular and severely under-used by many parts of an organisation. (Did you ever hear of a popular CRM system?) A case study which shows the positive contribution a CRM system can help drive the argument for both usage and investment.
Developing best practices and new approaches
A case study can also capture good, unusual and innovative practices that were particularly successful with clients. These can be developed further and adopted by other parts of the business as best practices or new approaches.
A case study is an excellent and very practical format for demonstrating new approaches, actions taken and the associated value. This encourages rapid take-up and learning.
One thing that’s not often mentioned is that the process of writing and reviewing a case study can help you reflect on the activities of a team and its individuals during a project. What worked well? What could have been improved on?
The writing process can facilitate learning. It may even be possible to make the preparing of a case study part of a formal project review process, or at least derive a case study from notes taken from the review.
Driving friendly competition
Case studies usually highlight a great win and good client service. Within any organisation there’s always friendly (and less friendly) competition, some of which is usually encouraged by management. Sales teams are especially competitive.
A good case study and the recognition it receives can inspire and drive others to match the efforts of their colleagues. A case study can be that catalyst to another great win!
Supporting organisational values and purpose
Case studies aren’t always about what a company does for its clients. Instead a case study can focus on the activities of employees, for example how initiatives or individuals are supporting communities or volunteering.
These case studies can be inspiring, demonstrating organisational values and purpose. This can be engaging for both employees and customers alike, and also helps to break down the barriers between organisation and customer.
The convergence of internal and external digital channels and content is a recurring theme in the world of communications. It can definitely apply to your case studies.
If you are predominantly focused on external-facing case studies:
Even if you don’t find there is too much synergy between your internal and external case studies, greater internal awareness of your external case studies will have a positive impact. The more people who know about your case studies from both inside and outside your organisation the better!