Build a Better Business Case to get to “Yes!”
                               By Chelse Benham

“Many attempts to communic...
In the latter case, outlines the necessary components of this specific
business case, but much of its outline ap...
“Justifications should be succinct and well-articulated. Providing volumes of data
is simply not helpful to executives who...
“In summary, your job as a requestor is to be a facilitator for the decision-maker.
By helping her you ultimately help you...
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Build A Better Business Case To Get To Yes!


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Build A Better Business Case To Get To Yes!

  1. 1. Build a Better Business Case to get to “Yes!” By Chelse Benham “Many attempts to communicate are nullified by saying too much.” - Robert Greenleaf, ATT As a rule, businesses work with budgets and a limited amount of available funds for expenditures. In multi-level complex organizations these limited funds may be sought after by many different departments. Therefore, it is critical to build a sound and clearly articulated case, defending expenditure requests, to achieve the desired approval for funding. “You should not assume that the person who must approve your request knows as much about the subject as you do. In other words, the justification may be self-evident to you, but it may not be to the person who must decide,” said Juan C. Gonzalez, assistant vice president and budget director for Business Affairs at The University of Texas-Pan American. “Not providing justification, generally and immediately, places your request in the rejection category in the decision- maker’s mind. The decision-maker must then work hard (something that will not endear you to the decision-maker who is probably your supervisor) to find a reason why she should approve it.” Jack Keen, founder and president of The Deciding Factors Inc., in his interview on defines the “business case” as a management roadmap. “Business cases are not just computations; in fact, good business cases are really more about conversations than computations,” Keen said. “It's more about the criteria and the psychology of what this proposed investment is really all about, so you have to be very good at not only uncovering potential value, but discovering a strong rationale as to why this proposed value could potentially come true.” At, it lists three main reasons why a business case would be made for a voluntary expense. They are: 1. Cost reduction 2. Profit making 3. Making something more efficient – (this is the more difficult of the three cases to defend) This type of business case usually entails purchasing equipment, up-grading operating systems or improving current operations. Often decision makers see the expense as a cost rather than an improvement and it can be difficult quantify the improvement into actual dollars.
  2. 2. In the latter case, outlines the necessary components of this specific business case, but much of its outline applies to any business case. Once you can clearly articulate the business need that the new hardware purchase addresses, you can move on to actually building the case itself. The case should include at least the following: 1. A summary briefly explaining the business need, the recommended solution and the estimated timeline for the deployment project. If it is known, include the potential price (in terms of dollars or hours) for the deployment project as well. 2. A detailed description of the business need. Take the time to outline all of the contributing factors, including any costs avoided, reduced or potential profits gained. 3. A detailed description of the proposed hardware solutions. Aim to present at least three: • one that is a minimal response coming in under budget, but just barely meeting the criteria (or missing several), • one that meets as many of the criteria as possible with the budget and • one no more than 10 percent over the projected budget. 4. An appendix containing any vendor-specific information. Generally this appendix can be omitted in all but the most technically sophisticated companies. The goal of this case is to prove that the hardware purchase and its associated costs will in some way either save or make the company money. This approach shows the business decision makers that you are not only financially responsible, but also working with them to achieve the company's overall objectives. Regardless of the type of request, all business cases or justifications have some basic elements in the formation of them. According to, on-site training resource company that teaches systematic approaches to justification writing, states that all proposals must explain the following: • strategic alignment and the impact on business objectives, • why the work or equipment is needed, • what will be done, how and when, • the benefits and costs and, • the risks and alternatives.
  3. 3. “Justifications should be succinct and well-articulated. Providing volumes of data is simply not helpful to executives who are generally overwhelmed with work,” Gonzalez said. “A brief, persuasive justification with relevant and equally succinct data is ideal. Decision-makers look for “the meat” in the materials presented to them, having them search for these nuggets of relevant information in voluminous materials is not helpful.” There are some definite ways of organizing a business case that provide an advantage over other proposals that are not as well prepared. According to Gonzalez requests that align closely to the organization’s stated goals will have a better chance of approval. That should be kept in mind when putting the other components of the case together. At it provides some fundamentals of a basic business case. Keep your business case simple and to the point. Make sure the benefits are clearly highlighted and the risks are supported with counter measures. All projects have risks no matter how complete the business case is. The simple rule is that whenever you undertake a new project there is always a risk it will fail or not achieve its full potential What about the financials in your business case? At this stage you may not have the precise costs of your project. This is not a negative, but rather a tactical step towards ensuring your project gets off the ground. It is easier for senior management to sign-off on a project with budget limits than it is to sign-off on a purchase order for a project they have just been acquainted with. The key to presenting the financials is to provide a range for the dollar figure you are seeking and to equally provide a range for the expected return on investment. What time-frames do you apply to your business case? Don't take the short-sighted approach when presenting your time frames. It's true that many senior managers want to see quick wins but at the same time these quick wins should be balanced with some longer-term benefits. A business case that has solutions which provide benefits over the shorter, medium and longer terms is likely to have more appeal than one which is limited to one particular time frame. Again, the key is to ensure that you do not set unrealistic expectations and that your audience is aware of the associated risks. Expect to be asked questions about your business case and don't be afraid to say you do not have all the answers at this stage. Remember the key to success is to convince senior management of the need to change, the cost of not changing, and the benefits of changing.
  4. 4. “In summary, your job as a requestor is to be a facilitator for the decision-maker. By helping her you ultimately help yourself and your department,” Gonzalez said. “Package the request in such a way that she can easily make a decision on your request so that she can move on to the next task at hand. In your summary justification, state exactly what is being requested, the cost, the source of funds (if known), and a line with her name and title where she can quickly sign. Help her help you.” “An empowered organization is one in which individuals have the knowledge, skill, desire, and opportunity to personally succeed in a way that leads to collective organizational success.” – Dr. Stephen R. Covey, author of “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”