Susan Cramm, from the Harvard Business Review makes the (somewhat provocative) claim that business cases are a waste of time.
Her opinion is that people are lazy and basically lie in their business case about the expected ROI. She suggests that to build a truly compelling business case, ‘smart leaders’ must build support and define clear objectives.
The question that I find most useful is ‘how do you measure success?’, and being aware of who the successful outcomes benefit – sometimes the benefits are strictly internal, others are customer-facing. But depending on who the recipients are, the rest of the business case needs to address these people’s needs, within the scope of the strategic business objectives.
She suggests using P&L results and balance sheets to define objectives. I’d counter that by saying that although that might work for Tier 1 & 2 managers, other people may have objectives that can’t be tied back to strict financial goals, or more subtly, the goals might be traceable to financial outcomes, but the measured needs are not.
Anyhoo, a compelling business case needs an accurate return on investment figure, one that can be measured, and I’m a big fan of asking what success looks like as a key part of building that.