Standard Business Case Development


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The basic framework to sell your ideas and proposals to top management in the language they understand.

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Standard Business Case Development

  1. 1. Business Case Development Asia Pacific College Graduate School of Computer Science and Information Technology Jojo P. Javier, MIM, MBA A business case is a documented argument used to convince a decision maker to approve a project or similar plan of action. It is often presented in a well-structured written document that may come in the form of a short verbal argument or presentation. The purpose of the business case is to support a specific need or objective whenever resources such as money or efforts are necessary. A compelling business case adequately captures both the quantifiable and unquantifiable characteristics of a proposed project. Justification for the project is derived from the information gathered. The purpose of the business case is to: a. Inform top management of challenges that hamper organizational growth. b. Justify the need to initiate a project or a plan of action to align specific activities to the organization’s business directions. c. Seek approval for the design, development and implementation of a sound project. Business cases are created to help decision-makers ensure that: a. The proposed initiative will have value and relative priority compared to alternative initiatives. b. The performance of initiatives is monitored objectively based on the objectives and expected benefits laid out in the business case c. The proponent or team has the capability to deliver the benefits. d. The organization’s resources are working on the highest value opportunities available. e. Projects with team or group inter-dependencies are synchronized. Suggested components of a business case are as follows: 1. Introduction to the Business Case a. Purpose. This should be the purpose of the project and not of the business case. Do not use statements like “to seek approval for the…..”, “to convince management to…..” or similar statements. The arguments should convince management to approve the project. The business case is not an appeal for a project’s approval. b. Objectives / Benefits. This statement or statements should have SMART elements to catch the attention of your audience. Examples are “Reduce costs by xx% within a period of xx” or “Increase the organization’s gross profit by xx% by reducing cost of goods to xx%”. Avoid unquantifiable statements such “Improve and streamline the current processes” or “Develop
  2. 2. a document that will improve the widget manufacturing.” The said statements fit better under Recommendations and Action Plans. c. Scope or Limitation. This not only gives the decision make the size of the project but also an idea how much resources will be tied down to the project. 2. Facts of the Case What is the current state of the process in question? Examples such as “Costs of Goods Sold is at 40%”, “We are dealing only with one major supplier.”, “It takes 10 hours to process a widget” etc. 3. Problem Statement What problems may arise from the facts? A strong connection should be established to the Facts of the Case. Examples pertaining to the facts may be “Industry practice indicate that the acceptable percentage of cost of goods sold is 30% thereby decreasing our gross profit margin by xx%”, “ISO 9000 standards recommend three suppliers to facilitate a fair and objective bidding.” or “The average number of hours to process the other widgets is five as compared to the widget in question.” 4. Issues (that may arise from the problem statement) A sense of urgency should be established at this point of the presentation. This is where the pitch to approve the project is made. The decision maker should feel the need to approve the project and hopes to see the solutions in the next part of the presentation. a. What caused the problems? b. Are there other issues may arise in the long run? c. How will these inefficiencies affect the organization? 5. Recommendations and Action Plans a. How do you plan to meet the objectives established in the introduction? b. How do you plan to address the issues that would resolve the problem statements? c. Are there stop-gap solutions? d. How much will it cost? e. How long will it take? f. What resources are needed to meet the objectives?
  3. 3. An important aspect of business case development is the gap analysis. It compares the actual performance (found under Facts, Problem Statement and Issues) with the potential performance found under the Objectives / Benefits of the case. The Action Plans and Recommendations outline the way to close or narrow the gap between actual and potential performance. Do not attempt to solve the problem in the business case. Again, it is to seek approval for a project that would address issues that would meet the organization’s objectives. If you have solutions to the objectives, then there is no need to call the decision maker to a meeting. Other pointers necessary for an effective presentation are: 1. Get right to the point in less than two minutes. Executives have the attention span of seven year olds because they are faced with other problems that may be more pressing than what you have on hand. Always keep in mind that the first question they have in mind is “Why am I listening to you?” Decision makers are not mean creatures. They just like to go straight to the point. With this in mind, you should avoid lengthy openings or you’ll eventually face interruptions with a barrage of questions like curve balls. 2. Talk about problems that are necessary to win in the marketplace or make the decision makers look good to the gods in heaven. They think about how to get to the future. Today’s problems are not their problems, it’s yours. If you talk about inefficiencies in the workplace, decision makers would easily point out the person responsible for fixing it. God forbid if you carelessly point out your own inefficiency! 3. Think big picture but be prepared to answer details with facts and supporting data. Detailed flowcharts, spreadsheets, news and magazine articles, raw data etc have no part in the main body of an executive presentation. Executives find it comforting to know that you have exhaustively hammered the data. But they find it extremely uncomfortable if you hammer it with them. Use picture charts instead to establish relationships in the sea of data you have gathered. 4. Decision makers always look for fluidity in a presentation. Gaps, show stoppers, illogical reasoning and inconsistencies in the presentation’s trail of thought are some of an executive’s pet peeves. 5. The entire presentation should end in ten minutes. Fifteen minutes at the most. So practice, practice, practice.