Do Soft Benefits Belong in a Serious Business Case?

To some business people, non financial benefits are soft benefits. Unfortunately, soft benefits are often treated as second class citizens in the business case.

Soft benefits in a hard business case

When non financial outcomes help meet important, they deserve value and a place in the business case.

Important benefits from an action are sometimes hard to value in financial terms. Are these benefits soft benefits? Or, real business benefits that belong in the business case?

The answer to such questions can be an emphatic Yes! Outcomes qualify as business benefits if they meet two conditions.

  1. Outcomes contribute to meeting important business objectives.
  2. There is tangible evidence for the outcomes.

Continue reading “Do Soft Benefits Belong in a Serious Business Case?”

Expect Your Business Case Critic. Be Ready!

You can avoid potentially damaging criticism at your business case review if you take steps to prevent it. Expect your business case critic.

The Business Case Critic Comes With the Turf

Expect your business case critic

Expect your business case critic.

No matter when or how you prepare your business case, there will be a sinister, uninvited stranger in the room when you present it for review: the business case critic. You can’t bar this person from the meeting and  speaking to everyone present.

Know for certain the critic will be there, working against you. This person “comes with the turf,” whenever you project future business results. The critic’s name is The Credibility Question. Your critic is the moving force behind questions like these: Continue reading “Expect Your Business Case Critic. Be Ready!”

The Business Case is Not Optional. Be Prepared!

Business people everywhere are hearing something like this from management: The business case is not optional! 

Management Sends Messages  Like These

Business Case support is becoming mandatory

Business case  results include practical guidance for increasing gains, reducing costs, and reducing risk.

When do you know you need a business case? You know it when your management sends 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 non-starter without a strong cost/benefit analysis behind it.”
  • New 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. Be Prepared!”

New York City Business Case Seminar. Join Us at Times Square

Join us at the New York City business case seminar in Times Square

Seminars also in London and Washington DC

New York Business Case Seminar

  • Master the Solution Matrix 6D Case Building framework in
  • Earn professional education credit.
  • Enhance your resume with in-demand skills.
  • Build your own business case in class, in three days!
  • Download business case books and software when you register online.

Continue reading “New York City Business Case Seminar. Join Us at Times Square”

Where’s the Case for Building Your Business Case?

How long should a business case analysis take?
How much labor should go into it?
More to the point, is there a business case for building case?

Is the Business Case Worth the Time and Effort?

Where's the business case for building your business case?Business case results include cash flow projections and practical guidance for managing actions and investments.

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 business case seminars report that professional labor requirements can easily range anywhere from several person days at the low end to many person weeks on the high end.

Those involved in doing the work and their managers naturally want to know if the project is worth the time and effort. They may ask: “Can the people who propose business case analysis practice what they preach and present the business case for building the business case?”

The answer is “Yes,” of course. The case for the case should stand on compelling logic and concrete
evidence. But do not expect a simple ROI figure or cash flow value for the business case itself. Instead, keep in mind the following points when thinking about the value of a business case project.

For many managers, the “Case for the Case” comes down to comparing (a) the cost of labor and other resources that go into case building with (b) the order of magnitude of funds that are either at risk or the size of the opportunity to be taken or missed when a decision to act or not act is made.

Reducing Risk has Value

Remember first the purpose of business case analysis: reducing risk for decision makers and planners. The value of the case depends on the value at risk in the action under analysis. Here, you can begin by assessing the cost of previous bad decisions or missed

  • Consider the cost of bad decisions which might have been avoided with good business case analysis: unexpected project costs, surprisingly large cost of ownership, law suits, bad loan decisions, product failures, missed time-to-market objectives, bad portfolio management decisions, and so on.In many settings, the cost of bad decisions is many dozens or many hundreds of times the cost of the business case project.
  • Consider also the value of opportunities that were missed because management did not have enough confidence to take action at the right time.

Good business case analysis will not lower the bad decision rate or missed opportunities rate to zero, but it should reduce them by a significant percentage. When the case includes a good risk and sensitivity analysis, the level of risk and uncertainty remaining is measured and known.

Reaching Objectives has Value

Try also to estimate the financial value of reaching business objectives addressed by the subject of the case. The business case deserves credit for some of that value, if it contributes to reaching the objective. For example:

  • If your company sells products in a highly competitive industry, where new product design is a constant need, the value of reaching time-to-market objectives or reaching production efficiency targets is huge.
  • If you are in financial services or another transaction-intensive business (reservations, online sales, customer service), then the value of staying online and delivering better service than your competition, is very large (compared to the cost of being offline).
  • If you belong to a government organization charged with delivering high quality service to a large population, then the value of completing your mission (to the population served) can be very large.

Saving Time and Effort has Value

To fully understand the value of the case building project, be sure to consider also the time and effort already going into decision support, accountability reporting, budgeting, and planning. This may very well be many reduced, significantly, if you establish a business case discipline in the organization, with methods and support that are structured and well communicated.

But, what is the Value of the Case itself?

Further questions about the value of the business case project, or about the “ROI” for the case itself could be answered after the analysis is performed. That value could then be taken as a change in expected value for results of the action under study (the subject of the case) from doing the analysis. (Expected value is a concept from applied statistics: the expected value of the action should improve because the probabilities of low value outcomes decrease and the probabilities of high value outcomes increase, thanks to the analysis).

I suspect, however, that most managers would not consider that kind of result as very practical guidance. You cannot take expected value to the bank. And, in any case, it comes too late to help decide whether or not to do the case.

As mentioned, the “Case for the Case” comes down to comparing (a) the cost of labor and other resources that go into case building with (b) the order of magnitude of funds that are either at risk or an opportunity to missed when a decision to act or not act is made. If the case building costs are no more than, say, 2-5% of the magnitude of funds involved, most agree that it’s “money well spent.”

The case for the case is more compelling and easier to understand when you show simply that the cost of the case is very small compared to:

  • The value at risk with the proposed action
  • The cost of bad decisions
  • The value of opportunities that could be missed
  • The value of reaching business objectives and the role the business case in
    getting there.

Time and labor saved by building a good business case, compared to business as usual planning, information gathering, and accountability reporting.

Take Action!

Learn and practice proven methods for building your cases at a Building the Business Case Seminar. Learn more about business case design from one of our books, the Business Case Guide, or the most frequently cited business case authority in print, Business Case Essentials.

By Marty Schmidt. Copyright © 2004-2017.
Published by Solution Matrix Limited.
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Don’t Let Your Business Case Crash! Five Mistakes to Avoid.

Avoid the business case crash.Anticipate the hazards ahead for your business case. Don’t let your business case crash!

Business case support is becoming mandatory for leaders in government, business, and non-profits everywhere.

As a result, case building is no longer just a job for Finance in the back office. Case building responsibility now belongs to those who propose and those who take action. Csse building therefore is the job of those who manage projects, programs, and products. And, it is also the job of agency directors, sales people, engineers, trainers, and many others. Now, it is they who must build the case.

We see many of these people in our business case seminars. Some are there because they’ve just experienced business case failure and they need to answers to questions like these: What happened? How do I avoid this kind of disaster next time? Continue reading “Don’t Let Your Business Case Crash! Five Mistakes to Avoid.”

The IT Business Case: Keys to Accuracy and Credibility

Have you  ever supported  a proposal with an information technology business case?  If you did, and then failed to gain approval, or failed to deliver expected returns, you may find here just what was missing.

The Information Technology Business Case Dilemma

Information Technology Business CaseProving the business value of IT actions is a challenge.

The World Wide Web is awash with IT business case templates and IT ROI calculators. You know this if you’ve heard from IT vendors or the IT consulting community lately. Yet IT business case results still fail to “come true,” still raise cries of “Soft Benefits!” and still fail to instill confidence in senior management. Why? What can be done about it?
Continue reading “The IT Business Case: Keys to Accuracy and Credibility”