Business Case vs. Business Plan: Do You Know the Difference?

Captain’s Log, Entry 7286.4Business Case, Business Plan. Do the Terms Mean the Same Thing? It’s a question you may have to answer many times for your colleagues. In brief, the case is organized around an action, while the plan is organized around the business. 

Many people ask:  What’s the difference between a Business Case, on the one hand, and a Business Plan on the Other? Surprisingly few people in business are prepared to answer such questions in clear terms.

People often use the terms interchangeably or ask for one of them when they mean the other.  Why? Continue reading “Business Case vs. Business Plan: Do You Know the Difference?”

Your Business Case Critic:
De-Clawing the Cat

Captain’s Log, Entry 8180.3Prepare for the Worst—the serious critic. If you don’t want nasty surprises from the hostile business case critic at your own case review then don’t surprise your audience!

There are some things you just do not want to hear at your business case review. You are trying, after all, to build confidence that supporting your proposal is a wise business decision.

At your case review, however, certain remarks from business-case critics can dismantle that confidence—if you are not ready for them. One hard-hitting question from a devious skeptic can undermine the credibility you work so hard to build—unless you know in advance how to turn it to your advantage.

Continue reading “Your Business Case Critic:
De-Clawing the Cat”

The Business Case Is Not Optional It’s Mandatory!

Captain’s Log, Entry 8191.3—Business people everywhere are hearing something like this from management: The business case is not optional! 

When do you know you need a business case? You know it when you hear messages like these:
  • We can’t afford to fund every new project or development proposal anymore. We have to find a better way to prioritize proposals, decide which to continue, and which to drop.
  • Starting this year, any request for non-budgeted funds is nonstarter without a strong cost/benefit analysis behind it.”
  • Government policy says we have to have to show financial justification before going forward with major capital projects.”

In brief, the business case is no longer optional in more and more places. Continue reading “The Business Case Is Not Optional It’s Mandatory!”

Does The CFO Approve? How to Get a Yes! From the CFO

Captain’s Log, Entry 8039.5In some minds, a successful business case is a case that brings CFO approval for a funding request. For those submitting proposals, CFO success is what matters!

For many case builders, CFO approval is the very definition of business case success. However, participants in our Business Case seminars tell us that this kind of success can have a short life.

A business case that wins CFO approval is a case that will soon be put to the test. CFOs and others who decide funding requests know that they, themselves, will bear accountability for the actions they approve. For them, approving an action is not “success,” when predicted results do not arrive as promised. Continue reading “Does The CFO Approve? How to Get a Yes! From the CFO”

Where’s the Case For Building Your Business Case?

Captain’s Log, Entry 7833.3How long should a business case analysis take? How much labor does the case require? Is there a business case for building the business case? Those involved in doing the work and their managers naturally want to know: Is it worth the time and labor it takes to build and deliver them?

A serious business case analysis may require serious project effort, especially when the subject of the case has major impacts in a complex business environment, and when the subject has not been analyzed before. Participants in our say that professional labor requirements can easily range anywhere from several person-days at the low end to several person weeks on the high end. Continue reading “Where’s the Case For Building Your Business Case?”

Should You Trust the Vendor’s ROI and TCO Promises?

Captain’s Log, Entry 8034.3The internet is awash with sellers asking you to believe their own ROI figures. You know this very well if you are currently shopping for costly assets. Vendors know that ROI and TCO are central in purchase decisions for large IT systems, vehicles, production machines, and lab equipment.  Should you believe the vendor’s predictions?

Vendor-produced ROI figures are also center-stage when sellers submit customer ROI and TCO figures along with the sales proposal. Many vendors seem to believe that sale closing will follow faster when they show customers the attractive ROI and TCO results they can expect. Continue reading “Should You Trust the Vendor’s ROI and TCO Promises?”

Will They Believe Your Business Case? Build in Self-Evident Validity

Captain’s Log, Entry 7659.1Above all, business case credibility comes from built-in self-evident validity. The case itself must deliver the means to judge the quality and magnitude of the results. You cannot always count on ROI templates, tools, methods, and business case consultants to put a high priority on building that ability into the case.

Will they believe your business case? Your case speaks with authority only if you know how to build in credibility. An engineering manager in one of our business case seminars defined business case “success” in a way that many others would agree with:

The business case was successful! My proposal was funded!

Continue reading “Will They Believe Your Business Case? Build in Self-Evident Validity”

Business Case Figures Don’t Lie! However, …

Captain’s Log, Entry 8132.3Can you produce business case results showing anything you want to show?
“Figures don’t lie but liars figure.”
– Attributed to Mark Twain and others

One reason that business case results do not always receive support, no doubt, is this. Many believe that case results can be made to show anything the author wants them to show.

Is that belief really valid? Continue reading “Business Case Figures Don’t Lie! However, …”

Why Did the Business Case Fail?

Captain’s Log, Entry 8186.1 — Why did the business case fail? It may predict excellent results yet still fail to “make the case.” Everyone asks: Why did the Business Case Fail? 

In our business case seminars, we see project managers, IT directors, salespeople, and others who have just had a painful experience: Their business case analysis failed.

Some of them predicted great cash flow, high ROI, and short payback, but still got a thumbs down from top leaders. Continue reading “Why Did the Business Case Fail?”

Business Case Credibility: Capitalize On Your Second Team

Captain’s Log, Entry 8i83.5The most important step you can take to ensure business case success is to recruit and use effectively a cross-functional, cross-organizational Reference Group. Never approach case-building as a “Do It Yourself” project.

The moment it is clear that decisions or plans call for a business case, an insidious, deadly temptation begins to operate on the project manager, product manager, consultant, or salesperson responsible for delivering the business case. Even CFOs are not immune. The tempter sends this pernicious message:

“Do it Yourself!”

The temptation has a seductive logic. If you build the Continue reading “Business Case Credibility: Capitalize On Your Second Team”

Do Soft Benefits Belong in a Serious Business Case?

Captain’s Log, Entry 8172.5Non-financial outcomes from an investment or action deserve value and a place in the business case—when they help meet important business objectives.

Non financial benefits belong in the business case when they contribute to meeting business objectives.

Important benefits from an action are sometimes hard to value in financial terms.  Case builders struggle especially in assigning value to non-financial outcomes—the so-called “intangibles.”

Are these benefits soft benefits? Or, real business benefits that belong in the business case? Continue reading “Do Soft Benefits Belong in a Serious Business Case?”