Making the Business Case: Assess Your Options
The previous installment of this series focused on managers’ need to identify and articulate solid business drivers. Once managers document those drivers, the next step involves identifying and analyzing options organizations can use to address the case.
These options should include the potential impact if the solution is not implemented – the do-nothing or baseline scenario. For each option, consider the specific strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats – a SWOT analysis – about the appropriate drivers. The goal is to define the benefits of each option, leading those evaluating the business case through each assessment stage and bringing them to the same conclusion.
It is important to stress this last point and put it into context. Nobody should rig the business case to make a project look good, although too many cases have used that approach. Rather, the key to selecting alternatives is to ensure the proposed solution is truly the best one for the particular problem it is designed to address. The objective is making stakeholders comfortable that the research has been conducted, that all reasonable alternatives have been considered, and that they can now make a decision regarding the business case because it presents the most effective solution available.
On the other side of this assessment is not getting bogged down in seeking out the perfect solution. Remember, the price of perfection is bankruptcy. The case needs to present a viable solution with a clear opportunity to provide sufficient benefits that are worth the risks associated with the investment.
Above all, any solution must be driven from a business perspective. Most business cases will include a technology component, and cases often focus exclusively on technology, so a warning is necessary. Remember, “the tools are cool, but the processes rule.” Business cases built only on a technology often will fail because the reality is the technology is not a solution – it is only an enabler – with the solution addressing a change or new approach to a business activity. Analysis of options must include assessing the root cause of the current state and how the business will be changed positively by the solution presented in the business case. Streamlined, automated best practices must be the focus of this assessment.
Next in this series: An article about identifying and recommending the proposed solution.