Organizational Development Consultant and Leadership Coach

Business Cases as Transformation Tools

August 25, 2013

“I’ve been having trouble getting approval for important changes to the way we do business. I can’t seem to get the leadership team on the same page. What can I do?”

What is it?
A Business Case describes the goal, costs and benefits of making a change with the purpose of influencing decision makers to approve the change. Although Business Cases are usually expressed in financial terms and written with the CFO in mind, a strong business case is one that addresses not only the financial rationale for a change, but also the non-financial and non-quantifiable components of the change. The ability to tell a compelling story about the rationale for the change can be used both to gain approval for the change, and also to motivation people to implement the change.

A strong Business Case will include the goal/purpose, the benefits, costs, payback timeframe, measures and targets and risks and plans to mitigate them.

When do you use it?
A business reason for any change is always required. But the level of ‘proof’ required to make a decision will differ depending on the degree of money, time and risk involved. Regardless of the size or scope of the change, the sponsor or owner of the proposed change should always be able to articulate the rationale to all key stakeholders in a manner that creates enough dissonance between the ‘as is’ and the ‘to be’ to motivate support and action.

How do you use it?

Preparing the Business Case:
Determine the owner/sponsor of the change and its business case. Determine the key stakeholders, i.e. who will be involved in making the decision and implementing it. Think in advance how to address their concerns and motivations. The CFO will have different issues than the HR Director, Sales Director, or Head of Customer Service. Gain insight into the drivers of executive red issues and align your Business Case accordingly.

Be clear on the vision or goal of the change. Be able to describe the future state once the change is made in a compelling way to all stakeholders. Also be able to describe the ‘do nothing’ status quo scenario and the risks of doing nothing.

Define the financial and non-financial benefits, both quantifiable and unquantifiable.

Examples of Benefits:

Financial and quantifiable: Sales, costs
Financial and unquantifiable: Customer retention, effective work processes
Non-financial and quantifiable: Customer satisfaction, service quality
Non-financial and unquantifiable: Improved communication, increased teamwork

Outline the costs to get the benefits.

Describe the payback timeframe and overall financial impact. Provide measures of success, along with targets and timeframes for achieving them.

Describe risk areas, possible impacts and how to manage these risks.

Consider overlapping initiatives, and how to handle them.

Gaining agreement for your Business Case:
Be sure to validate your business case before presenting it. Test your case by arguing the other side.

Gain personal credibility with key decision makers. Pre-present your business case to key stakeholders and gain feedback and alignment. Tell a compelling story. Make it real.

Never assume support. Gain ‘sign off’ in writing from key decision makers.

Implementing Your Business Case:
Refer back to your Business Case before, during and after implementation to ensure that it is met as per your original promise. If there are positive or negative changes, communicate them proactively to key stakeholders and decision makers. ‘Course correct’ as necessary.

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