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17 February 2009

Business cases

A business case is a case for doing something.

“Here is my case for change!”

That something could be to either ‘run a project’ or ‘build a product’ or ‘improve a process’ or ‘renegotiate a contract.’ It could be other things also.

Business cases do two things;
  • Describe an exploration of the costs and benefits of doing something, and
  • Explain how you’ll measure when or whether you are ‘done’ at the end
The key attributes of this description are;
  • Describe
  • Doing something
  • Costs
  • Benefits
  • Measuring
  • When you are done
(If you go to your corporate intranet right now and look up the business case template that is provided I wonder if the template focuses you in on these fundamental areas?)

Here is what I think you need to focus on to build up a business case. Regardless of what your template drives you towards, these are the things I think you need to focus on.
  • What is the problem or opportunity you are addressing?
  • What’s your vision for the solution?
    • Check this vision off against the SMART objectives criteria – Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant, Time based
    • Are there multiple parts to your solution? If so, break them down (via a WBS or PBS) and set SMART goals for each solution component
  • How capable are you of getting to these solutions?
    • What are the costs? Effort & duration estimates – analogous at first, then more refined, Capital, Cost of organisational inefficiencies
    • What are the risks? Cost your risk in terms of money and time
    • What are the environmental constraints?
  • What benefits will your organisation get from doing this?
    • Use the balanced scorecard or a similar model to help ensure coverage of all key benefits areas. (Financial, customer/stakeholder, process control/quality and building in flexibility for the future)
  • How will you measure your benefits? What is the baseline you are measuring against? How will you isolate this project’s benefits from other initiatives and environmental changes?
  • How will you know when you project or product is complete?
    • Completion criteria can be defined up-front
    • Where agreement on completion criteria cannot be obtained, focus on a process to help define ‘done.’
If you address these things, will your business case do what it needs to do?

Photo by Pikturewerk CC @ Flickr