Presenting a business case to justify resources or expenditure is a chance to show your ability to communicate and influence
There are lots of occasions when one needs to make the case for something and, whether it is a significant project or not, presenting a business case to justify resources or expenditure is a chance to show your ability to communicate and influence.
The investment of sufficient time to present a proper business case may require you to go beyond the call of duty, but it will be time well spent. The following points will help you get it right:
- When introducing the business case and project, you should give a brief overview of the reasons why the need for change has come about: the problem, opportunity or change of circumstances.
- The context should identify the business need you are trying to address or the market opportunity you want to seize. To obtain support from management, the benefits need to be apparent, convincing and aligned with corporate goals and strategies. Just because you perceive an opportunity, it does not mean the business will choose to pursue it.
- Your outline plan should list the major deliverables and indicate what is required. In more substantial business cases, indicate how you think it may be achieved and by whom, and estimate when you think things could happen to effect the change. You could seek brief initial input from subject matter experts in other functions ― finance, compliance, HR, IT, operations/service delivery, etcetera – but researching past presentations, related programmes or projects, or indeed the strategic business plan, will give you a good idea of how to shape things.
- Make your case interesting and well thought through while also being clear and concise. Above all, you must demonstrate the value and benefit the project will bring to the business, and the reasons why it is important to act immediately.
- Consider the estimated project costs against the forecast benefits, and establish whether, ultimately, the project is likely to offer value for money. Will it generate additional revenues, reduce costs or improve competitiveness or customer service, and will the investment be more than recouped from one of these aspects?
- There may be several potential solutions to the problem in question, or various ways in which you could pursue an opportunity. Your argument will have a greater balance if you describe the alternative approaches in detail and explain why you feel a particular direction is the best option.
- Remember that your case will also be evaluated on the basis of: what happens if we don’t do this? You should outline what is likely to occur if the firm does nothing in the area that you have highlighted.
- If your project is accepted, you should review and update the business case at key stages to check that it remains viable, and ask to receive progress reports.
A lot is to be gained from being proactive and looking at ways to improve your organisation. Many careers have been boosted by making suggestions to enhance service, achieve cost savings or grow the business through innovation and investment.
Irrespective of the ultimate decision, you can create a favourable impression with your employer. The fundamental element of any business case is good communication and this is a key skill in career progression. You are demonstrating that you see potential opportunities and can provide a balanced and coherent argument for something you believe in.
In fact, you may be the eyes and ears of the business in terms of the market’s response to your proposition. If you demonstrate an understanding of the marketplace in which your business operates, you can build a reputation as someone who should be listened to.
A well-presented business case is likely to get more commitment from management to look seriously at the initiative, and will, regardless of the outcome, grow your profile within your firm.
Peter Gwilliam is owner of Virtus Search