Validate your change
Business cases are a key step to validating the feasibility of a change and minimising the risk of starting work that is not affordable and has undesirable outcomes. They also provide an opportunity to promote a change, gauge interest and ensure essential ’buy in’ from the start.
Before getting into the detail of a business case, validate the headlines of what the case is trying to do and why. This clarity is critical to sense check and prioritise the development of the case, ensuring appropriate identification of and engagement with key stakeholders.
Sometimes this information can be vague – in which you may be at a Strategic or Outline Business Case stage, where the aim is to add more shape, and see if further time and effort is justified to develop a Full Business Case.
Armed with the headlines, your case needs to articulate the case for change, test viability and explain how it aligns to the strategic priorities and values of the organisation.
Knowledge and consideration of the audience and approval route is key, to ensure it’s pitched to the right level of detail. For some organisations, there will be a set template and process to follow, e.g., to score risks, evaluate options, quantify costs and benefits, etc. For others, a more summarised view is acceptable, and the emphasis is on the presentation of the case to a panel (or several!). Get clarity up front to avoid abortive work and confirm key dates.
3. Collaborate on potential options
Collaboration is crucial for buy-in, and many heads are better than one, providing diversity of thinking and minimising any bias. Subject matter experts from different operational teams will be required, supplemented by independent expertise, particularly if you are considering innovative or specialist options.
Early and ongoing engagement with financial stakeholders is key, to not only provide cost information, but also model the financial impact of different options and help quantify cashable benefits. Similarly, input from HR and organisational change teams; as all changes have a people impact, and the best projects are ones which have effective change management at the core.
As a minimum, you will need to consider a range of options; ‘do nothing’, ‘do everything’ and some hybrids options, before arriving at a recommendation. Bear in mind that ‘do nothing’ will have an impact.
4. Sense check
Always sense check (and challenge where necessary!) the scope and consider the impact from different perspectives, as this could highlight additional risks, assumptions and dependencies. Customer perspectives are critical, but so are third parties. Don’t overlook commissioning authorities, partners and regulators, to ensure proposals are compliant.
Ensure you include the costs of transition into the costs you present. This will enable you to backfill inhouse resources and / or hire an external team when the case is approved.
By this stage, you should feel confident that you have engaged with all the necessary stakeholders, understood and addressed any concerns, and have all the facts necessary to justify your recommendation.
All that remains is to present the information in a succinct way, to ensure it is well received. Visuals and summary tables can help your explanation. It can be useful to tell the story of how the case was developed and the steps taken to arrive at your options and recommendation. Transparency is also key. Ensure that all sources of information are quoted and state any gaps, best guesses and assumptions. This will enable the audience to make an informed decision.