6 Steps to a Watertight Business Case

If you have ever tried to pass an investment decision by the senior manager without a well-thought-out business case, you’ll know that it simply won’t work. Nothing gets past the board without some sturdy financial projections, a few reasoned assumptions and a host of benefits for all – but how do you go about putting such a proposal together? Worry not – we’re here to guide you through, step-by-step.

Step 1: Outline the Objectives

Every decision is rooted in the desired outcome: improved productivity, shorter sales cycles, or reduced customer service overhead (to name but a few). Speak with management to understand which objectives they prize most, lay them out on paper and understand how you might achieve them.

Do your sales team need to improve efficiency to increase revenues? Map this objective to replacing current workflows with an automated business management system, benchmarking a shorter sales cycle as the conduit to success.

Such objectives are the foundation on which you will build your case. If they are weak, don’t be surprised if the case topples over.

Step 2: What Steps Will You Take?

You know your objectives, now establish what you need to achieve them. This step reflects the early stages of any project – you need to define which features you will use to achieve your goals. Consider a round-robin of your sales staff to understand their particular ‘pain points’ and the solutions that would make their lives simpler.

Step 3: So, What Will that Cost?

You know the pains to address; now detail the cost to relieve them. Review all fees, taking into account:

  • What features you need?
  • What license(s) you will purchase?
  • Which team(s) will cover the operational overhead?

Step 4: Who Will Benefit?

Outline the specific benefits that will amplify your business. Perhaps a showcase of the sales funnels, illustrating how the improved notes function will streamline proposal creation.
Speak the language of those around you, highlight tangible gains, and explicitly state risks or assumptions so that there are no hidden surprises. Honesty is always best when there are unknowns.

Step 5: OK. Show Me the Money.

Now, speak numbers. Consider the return of this shiny new solution. This will be a ‘finger in-the-air’ forecast, but beware: it’s your finger and questions will come back to you. Offer a conservative estimate – perhaps a 20% increase in deal size – and use historical data to reveal the potential increase in annual revenues.

Step 6: Is There Another Option?

People are naturally risk-averse – that is, they don’t like to lose. Now is your time to push for the win.

Create an alternate universe without your solution – one where the sales team struggle, revenues slide, and the business falls back into the dark ages.
OK – perhaps not so dramatic but showcase how not having this solution will hold you back. It is hard to say no when the loss is so apparent.

Next Steps

Investigate as to whether your organisation has a set format for business cases before you begin building your own.

If you have a set format for your business case to follow, be sure to cover:

  • Past, present and particularly future (‘customer’) need (for the outputs/results produced by the project)
  • Benefits and outcomes achieved to date for what cost/investment o Benefits and outcomes to be produced in the future
  • Resources, costs, investment, etc., required to produce future required outcomes and benefits (identify capital vs revenue costs, i.e., acquisition of major assets and ongoing overheads)
  • Alternative methods or ways of satisfying needs, with relative cost/return (return on investment) comparisons (ie., what other ways might there be for satisfying the need if the project doesn’t happen or ceases?)
  • Outline strategy and financial plan, including people, aims, philosophy, etc (ideally tuned to meet the authorising power’s fulfillment criteria) for proposed start or continuation of project (assuming you have a case, and assuming there is no better alternative)

Keep it simple. Keep to the facts and figures. Provide evidence. Be clear and concise.

Be concise, speak your audience’s language, and leverage historical data to back up your proposal.

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