In its simplest form, a business case is a written justification for doing (or not doing) ‘something.’ Classic examples include seeking funding to hire someone or to purchase something expensive.
Key reasons for developing business cases, are to:
- Constructively think things through;
- Avoid missing important details;
- Be prepared to answer questions that will arise; and,
- Clearly be able to define outcome and value.
Many times, being able to achieve the seemingly impossible simply came down to having created a business case.
Two examples. A major customer needed a software patch created to solve a major productivity issue. With millions of other customers using the same product, the likelihood of getting a patch done for a single customer was all-but unheard of.
The winning approach was to identify the number of people being impacted (directly and indirectly); the revenue $$ impact to ourselves and our customer; determine the level of effort required to address the problem; and, potential work-arounds (alternatives) and their impacts. Once I could clearly identify a multi-million dollar impact effecting 1,800 people, the justification had weight.
The second example is more straight-forward. I need to add team members to my organization during a hiring freeze. One thing that is almost always true of ‘hiring freezes’ is that hiring still occurs. Just the level of effort to get it done might be significantly higher.
Again, the same basic approach is needed. Identify what the need is, what the type of person is you need to solve the problem, the related costs, and expected benefits (such as improved customer satisfaction, higher throughput, or to launch new revenue-generating products).
At the end of the day, you will be using the business case to convince someone (your boss, VP, or the CEO) to let you do something that usually involves money. He or she will need to feel comfortable that you know what you’re doing, that you’ve thought through the risks, and what the benefit will end up being. The benefit may or may not necessarily be measured in hard currency.
One benefit may be saving yourself embarrassment; having concluded yourself something isn’t as grand an idea as you thought it was.
There are countless articles available on building business cases. One thing that should not be lost is that the person gaining the greatest benefit—is You. Because you need to know, and be able to explain, things like:
- What will be achieved, or avoided?
- What are the benefits, the risks?
- What are the alternatives, how do they compare?
- What are the costs, real, imagined, or unknown?
- How will you be able to confirm success, or determine failure?
Even as simplistically as just discussed, being able to put together a basic business plan will demonstrate yours is a level of professionalism often head and shoulders above your peers.
More than once, I have seen very experienced managers return from meetings with their VP or the CEO, frustrated they couldn’t hire someone they felt was desperately needed. Only to wonder how, even in a hiring freeze, I managed to get more than one person hired. They’d ask, “Can you tell me how you did that?”
The answer: I didn’t just go in and ask. I built a plan that let me clearly convince them it was a sound decision…one that needed to be made.
We can all learn from each others’ successes (and failures). If you have examples to share, please, leave a Comment.
(photo credit: Svilen Milev)
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