Business Cases – thoughts about how to get the best collaboration

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How do we get from concept to solution in a way that the parties involved agree and buy into? This is the function of a well-defined Business Case.

To make the journey from the concept to the final delivered solution, with the outcome being a change that is in line with the initial expectations or better, then those involved must positively collaborate to ensure a clear and agreed vision of the outcome is captured and bought into.

This should be done both informally as a team but also formally by using a Business Case product, that is in line with organisational standards. Where these do not exist then the crystallised capture of the business case should be in a format that clearly shows the solution and removes ambiguity, avoiding misunderstanding months or years downstream, when the eventual outcome is ready to be deployed.

A well prepared and agreed business case provides the detail of what it is that everyone is working towards and why they are working towards this change. It should show the benefit to the organisation and provide the delivery team with confidence, from the clarity, of knowing the goal they are working towards.

Business cases are not the domain of one area of the business, for example Finance. The successful capture of the Business Case will take all the inputs from everyone who has a vested interest in making the transformation work. Their involvement may be advisory but nonetheless these are all parts of the jigsaw that will eventually provide the whole picture of the change required.

It is a case that more senior management prefer their view of such changes to be visual and less mountains of text. Their time is precious and they need to see an overarching view in as clear a way, in as short a time, as is feasible for adequate comprehension to enable their buy-in. Sadly, particularly in more formal environments, for example public service environments, there is a tendency to draft pages and pages of text that in a lot of cases never get fully read. This is in itself a bad start for any transformation programme or project as the teams may be working toward something that has not been fully appreciated at the initial sign-off.

This not to say that the business case should be devoid of detail, quite the reverse. The goal during the collaboration and capture of the Business Case should be clarity and conciseness. There are organisations that use what they term Business Case LITE the aim being to encourage the business parties to become more engaged with a less onerous framework, but still retaining features such as key risks, estimated costs and expected benefits.

So you need to be clear what success is to the champion or sponsors of the programme or project and their respective areas of the business. For example the current procurement process to the organisation is seen as ineffective, laborious and heavily manual burning up valuable time and resources. The Procurement Manager wishes to replace this with a more automatic and scalable solution. When attempting to capture what success will be for the Procurement Manager it is obvious that a suitable replacement will have quite an impact to more than just the Manager, so collaboration needs to ensure that involvement through stakeholder engagement techniques gets the involvement of all impacted parties to determine what a holistic success will be and what it is going to take to achieve. This is then captured and signed off to. Recognise that sometimes this can involve external stakeholders too and this should be given equal credence at the start of the journey to determine the business case.

The business case will change as the programme or project evolves and there is mechanisms to amend within governance lifecycles but the bedrock is always a great business case from the onset.