4 Questions to Ask Before Presenting Your Business Case

business planning
Paul Newton
I head the FME team of management and IT professionals from a variety of backgrounds both commercial and non-profit organizations. As a team we are keen to share our expertise and knowledge with individuals at all levels of management. Each eBook, template and checklist has been written to help individuals develop the competencies they need for a successful career.
Managers in all operational areas find themselves competing with their colleagues for money, resources and skills. Organizations need to assess the value and importance of these numerous requests in an efficient and consistent way so that its finite resources are used in the most effective way ensuring its survival and success. The business case is one of the most popular ways organizations achieve this.

To be a successful manager I had to become proficient at writing such documents. I needed to understand how to write one and make sure it contained all the necessary information so that my request for resources got the green light.

It would be untrue to say I gained approval for all my cases, but I can claim they were all read. I also clearly stated what the implications were. It is this process I want to share with you.

business case

To help me define the structure of any business case I needed to write I would ask myself four key questions.

  • How does my project contribute to the organization?
  • Can I identify and assess the risks are involved?
  • Do I have sufficient financial data?
  • Have I been able to give accurate details of required resources?

My answers helped me to do two things. Firstly, to position the way I presented my request and secondly, to focus my research in such a way as to provide me with the necessary evidenced based data.

How does my project contribute to the organization?

I found my business case gained most support when I focused on a prime reason. I then used this single reason to define the nature of the issue or problem I wanted to resolve, as well as, outline its current impact on the organization. Then I described how my business case would contribute to the strategic requirements of my organization what it would look like on the completion.

Can I identify and assess the risks are involved?

Part of my many successes relied on my ability to highlight and quantify as much as possible the risks involved both in the project itself and in not changing the issue or problem. In this section I clearly stated the organizational issue and how this could be overcome or avoided by approving my business case. I would outline the issue in terms of its relation to one of three things: an internal or external process, a product or service, or use of technology or production procedure.

As part of this process I would identify and break down each risk into manageable chunks so that I could present both qualitative and quantitative research data. This enabled me to assign a level of probability and put forward a potential response to or way to minimize the impact of each risk. Finally, I would provide an explanation of how my proposed change would alter or modify the use of current procedures, processes, equipment or roles.

Do I have sufficient financial data?

I found being able to provide sufficient detail on anticipated costs, forecasting procedures and the likely savings was critical to my business case gaining approval.  It was essential that I had compiled extensive information in this area and could provide solid evidence on the financial aspect of my business case.

This involved me gaining information and support for my proposed change from other colleagues who would be affected by the proposed change. It was essential I could show how costs compared to potential savings or benefits adding value to my organization.

I always made sure to show at least two possible alternatives and give a full explanation as to why I had discounted them. The latter provide further evidence that assists in justifying that your preferred option offers the organization the best strategic solution.

Have I been able to give accurate details of required resources?

One of the key ways I was able to show that I had given careful consideration to my resource requirements was to give a full explanation and reasoning behind any assumptions or constraints involved in my business case. For example, training costs, equipment purchases required and support available from other areas of the organization.

After writing several business cases I compiled my own checklist to make the process more efficient. Whilst it reflects my information technology background other colleagues outside this market sector found it invaluable. They said it helped them to ask key questions during the development and writing up of their business case, which enabled them to present a structured and more complete picture to their management.

Whilst every business case you present is essential to you, you must remember that your senior management team has a broader responsibility to the organization. They have to judge each business case presented to them in terms of how it contributes to the organization’s overall survival and success.

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