Six Steps for Making a Business Case

Organizations tend to work collectively. Ideas tend to come to individuals within the organization. However, they need to be spread across the organization. Any change only takes place if several people in key positions believe that the idea is good enough. This is where a business case comes in handy.

Executives from all departments in all organization need to create a business case in one form or another. It is essential that executives understand the nuances and soft skills used in the process. There are chances of an idea being rejected or being stolen by another colleague if a proper business case is not made for the same.

In this article, the six steps for creating a compelling business case have been listed.

Step #1: Begin with the Problem

It is essential first to sell the existence of a problem to the audience. This is because people do not buy a solution unless they believe that there is a problem first. The key is to make the problem look compelling and ensuring that the management shares your opinion that immediate action is required to solve the issue.

Also, by beginning with the problem, one respects the authority of the management. It is arrogant to straightaway arrive at a decision yourself. Top management generally believes that decisions taken by one individual may not always be accurate. They prefer to involve a lot of stakeholders and gather information before arriving at a decision. Hence, the urge to directly skip to the conclusion must be avoided. This puts the management on the back foot as they now believe that you already have an agenda that you are trying to implement.

At the first few meetings, it is important just to mention the business need as well as how you discovered it. For example, was it found during a yearly review or is it something that you observed while following the business process.

Step #2: Know Your Stakeholders

Once the management has been convinced, there is a need, and that action needs to be taken immediately, the change management process begins. Organizations have created checks and balances to ensure that decisions are not taken by one person alone. Hence, it is likely that several people will review the business need and your suggestions within the organization.

In order to effectively present your business case, it is important to know the stakeholders. Usually, this includes your boss, your bosss boss as well as senior leaders in the organization. Once you know who your audience is, you can tailor your presentation and message accordingly.

Step #3: Begin with the Beneficiaries

The next step is to ensure that your idea has some sort of momentum within the organization. If a presentation has to be made to the stakeholders, it is essential that there are other people in the organization who are backing your idea.

The best way to gain momentum is to understand who the beneficiaries are and then get them on board. For instance, if you are getting the information technology team to create a new report for financial purposes, you need to get the people who manually create the report on board. You need to explain to them that their workload will be reduced once this report has been created. You also need to convince the users of these reports that they will get better information and there will be no lengthy wait times.

If you can get beneficiaries on board, the odds of your business case being accepted increase significantly.

Step #4: Getting Experts On Board

The next step is to get the experts on board. Every organization has some subject matter experts for different processes. It is likely that the seniors involved in the project will introduce you to the SME in your case. This is the person that the management trusts and believes in. Hence, this is where you make your technical pitch. This person knows the process inside out. They may be able to tell you about some scenarios that you may not have thought of. It is important to have a two-way conversation and tweak your idea a little bit to their liking. The word of SME holds weight in front of the management. Hence, if some of their inputs are also considered, they may feel personally invested in the project. This will help you get a good recommendation and significantly strengthen your business case.

Step #5: Create Alternatives

The next step is to work with the SME and create two or three alternate solutions. Top management seldom believes that there is only one way to accomplish a task. They want to ensure that the team has thought through different possibilities and have come up with the best alternative. Technical details may not be of much importance here. Since the top management is the intended target audience for this, it is essential to crunch some numbers and show some calculations here. The management will use these numbers to zero down on what they think is the best alternative.

Step #6 Cultural Fit

Lastly, it is essential to ensure that the selected alternative is in line with the organization's culture. Even if theoretically it is the best available alternative, many times the execution fails because of cultural differences.

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