Make the business case development process efficient

Submitted by Kamal Wickramanayake on

Development of business cases is a time consuming process. So as evaluating them. An effective way organizations can employ to optimize the whole process is by following a two stage process. Here, the business cases are first described in a brief manner and send through an initial evaluation phase. Those that pass the initial evaluation can then be fully dressed, made more accurate and sent through a detailed evaluation.

It's ideal that organizations use a web based system facilitating this process. Modern day web based content management systems easily allow creation of forms and defining workflows. What you find here is a template that you may use to build one for your organization - for the brief version of business cases.

You can use this template not just for business case development but in some other situations too. For example, I have used this to collect and evaluate initial versions of board member proposals in an organization to improve the efficiency of the strategy development process.

This template captures most of the important details of business cases that allow swift evaluation of them. Feel free to modify the template as required.

Sections of the brief business case template:

  1. Proposal title
  2. Alignment with the vision of the organization
  3. Alignment with the mission of the organization
  4. Description
  5. Targeted benefits
  6. Risks
  7. Initial investment
  8. Ongoing (operational) expenses
  9. Timeline
  10. Outcome measurement
  11. Collaboration needed from others
  12. Constraints and dependencies
  13. Assumptions made
  14. Other important notes
  15. File attachments

Once the business cases are collected, evaluating them is another topic not covered here. This form however guides the business case developer to think about the important and different aspects of a business case.

Encourage those who use a system of this nature to develop concrete business cases. Sometimes, they tend to submit descriptions of broader goals and broader plans. Such cannot be evaluated easily. Instead, a good business case should describe a concrete way to achieve one or more goals. What is meant by "concrete" is neither detailing everything. For example, if your business case has an item called "cleaning", you may not have to describe the type of soap to use. So a "concrete" business case is one that details its content to a level that you and others involved in developing, evaluating and using the business case can easily digest and act in the way the business case author expects. Hence a "concrete" business case will use an abstract language that is familiar to the consumers of the business case (i.e. those who use the business case - to evaluate it, to execute it and so on).

The expectation in the first stage of the two stage process is that you want the development of business cases that are brief but can still be evaluated easily. Both the creation and the initial evaluation should improve the efficiency of the overarching process (for example, the process of building a strategic plan for your organization). The brief business cases that will pass the initial evaluation can later be developed as fully dressed business cases. Once that step is done you are in good mood to build your strategic plan so you may send the full-fledged business cases for a portfolio optimization review.