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Creating Bulletproof Business Cases - Part 5: Ten Tips for Presenting a Business Case

By Richard Larson, PMP, CBAP, Watermark Learning and Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, CSM Watermark Learning

We conclude our series on creating bulletproof business cases with a number of tips for presenting a business case. Some of these are pitfalls to avoid, some are things we always recommend doing, and others are a summary of the business case process. Here they are.
  1. Treat every business case as a project. Projects need sponsors, scope, and stakeholders. If we ignore key stakeholders, they may raise objections when we present the business case, and may end up being saboteurs. 
  2. Avoid Leading with a Solution. Always define the Situation first! Analyze why next, Then a recommended solution is appropriate. Better yet, avoid responding to a Solution Request! We business analysts and project managers are often given solutions. When presented with a solution, we need to ask: “What business problem are we solving?” 
  3. Avoid “Satisficing,” which means finding the easy solution. Executives want us to find the “low hanging fruit,” a popular term today, but the right solution takes time to formulate. To avoid “jumping to a solution,” we need to use logical, step-by-step arguments, and ensure that our recommendations address all the elements of the business need and its root causes. 
  4. Create a SARIE business case:
    • S – What is the current state/business need?
    • A – What is causing the business need, and what is missing today?
    • R – What do you recommend?
    • I – What is our approach for implementing? 
    • E – How will decision-makers evaluate your business case? 
  5. Costs. Focus on the top five costs. Remember that we should spend one-quarter of our Cost-Benefit Analysis time on costs (Keen & Digrius). When appropriate, we need to include total cost of ownership in the annual costs. Some financial formulas we looked at include current at use future costs, like IRR and NPV. Use them. 
  6. Ensure benefits align with the organization’s goals and objectives. We need to assume the audience wants mostly tangible benefits, but will listen to intangibles, if linked to the strategic direction of the organization. We need to find the criteria of importance to decision-makers and base our benefits on them. 
  7. Avoid phony benefit numbers and admit it when no data is available. Intangible benefits may carry the day, particularly when they align with the SWOT analysis, such as offering a product or service that allows us to compete in the marketplace. 
  8. Presenting a Business Case. Before presenting, we need to do all our homework and be prepared. It helps build the trust we need and gives us the confidence and courage we need to make a good presentation. 
  9. Assume the audience is impatient, and provide executive summaries up front. We find it helpful to include alternatives along with our recommendation. We assume our decision-makers are always thinking of alternatives, especially cheaper ones, and we need to work to disarm their objections in advance. 
  10. Handling Objections. Remember that we are advising the organization with our well thought out recommendation. Don’t take rejection personally. If your business case is rejected, ask:
  • Did I work closely with the business owner to develop the business case?
  • Do I understand the “objections”?
  • Can I address objections to meet stakeholder needs? If I can, the final product will be even better. 
  • Am I enthusiastic enough? Courage helps this, but so does a real belief in what you are proposing. 
  • Have I given stakeholders enough time to think about the proposal before asking for a decision?
  • Should I advise the business owner to walk away (at least for now)? 
Final Thoughts

There are numerous impediments to creating bulletproof business cases. Many organizations don’t even bother to create them or have a formal process for doing so. If you have the opportunity to create formal business cases, some of the benefits we can expect include:

  • Increased likelihood that project benefits will be realized.
  • Reduced political friction through greater transparency and objectiveness.
  • Reduced time in evaluating and prioritizing projects.
  • Closer match of projects to strategy, increasing the odds of selection.
  • Increased likelihood of solving the right problems, keeping them from recurring.
Happy bulletproofing!
 


References

Keen, J. M. & Digrius, B. (2003). Making Technology Investments Profitable: ROI Road Map to Better Business Cases. John Wiley and Sons, Inc. Hoboken, NJ




Read the previous articles in the “Creating Bulletproof Business Cases” series:

Part 1: Overview of Business Cases
Part 2: Situation Analysis
Part 3: Solution Analysis
Part 4: Cost-Benefit Analysis