Business cases that work Part 2/2

This is a continuation of a previous blog which deals with the details of successfully executing, presenting and gaining acceptance of a business case. In a future post we will deal with the content of that business case.

  1. Think long and hard about the recommendations which you present to your management. During the presentation, go over the obvious ones (divest/stop investment) rapidly but ensure that everyone agrees. Also list options offered by the execs which you heard while building your business case. You can show your creativity by presenting options that meet your objectives but offer a lower cost to entry (partnership/ alternate sales channel).
  2. Think about the organizational structure you will need to make the business case a reality. We will discuss this issue in more detail in a future blog. A business case may be a subtle way to plant a seed that the current organization will need to be revised to get the most out of the investment which you request. Is the company’s existing support/development/implementation organization able to handle your new product, or do you need a dedicated team? Will the sales force be empowered and willing to sell your new product or will changes be needed when the new product goes live? Think big. Don’t leave this out of the discussion.
  3. Be as conservative with the timing and amount of projected revenues as you can.Sales cycles can be extended; the price originally set in the business case may have to be discounted. Recessions do occur. Your product may be delayed while the competition intensifies. You must be very careful about painting a credible revenue picture. A conservative view will definitely enhance the trust in your business case. Some present three cases – worst, best and most probable. If you present just one, everyone assumes that is your best case scenario.
  4. The presentation meeting to the execs is critical. In an ideal case, all the decision-makers come to your presentation meeting, and are knowledgeable about your business case, your recommendations and agree with them. The function of the meeting is just here to seal the deal. Contrast this with a situation where one or two critical execs do not show up, and you have lost control of the meeting because 2 other execs disagree on an irrelevant point and precious time has been wasted. In order to run the meeting properly, you must first work the “back channels” and make your case individually whenever possible. Listen to each input and address it in the business case. Ask where they stand. At the very least you will be prepared for their objections prior to the meeting.
  5. Demand alignment. Now that your business case is accepted, and a decision to invest has been made, you must ensure that the engineers will be available for coding, support employees will be available and trained, and service teams will be able to implement your product when it is ready. How does the investment make it to each individual department and get allocated to your product? You need to ensure that there is an alignment between all your teams, otherwise your business case, although accepted, will become a useless document because your initiative will keep being delayed or cut to make room for the crisis of the month. State this issue during the presentation meeting and later organize regular review meetings at the exec level to ensure that all the pieces are falling in place on schedule.
  6. The truth shall set you free. There are times when the numbers do not add up and your product should be terminated. There are ventures that just won’t work because of the way they are set up. There are enhancements that will not provide a ROI commensurate with your company’s expectations. In these cases, think of your personal integrity, not your personal agenda. Telling your management that the partnership won’t work because the contract clauses are too limiting to do business is valuable information. You can be creative in proposing options to recover, but first state the facts as they are. Presenting a negative ROI business case and recommending that you should not move forward may be your best contribution to the company.

Keep in mind that there may be a time when the investors of your company request a copy of your business case and ask you what went wrong. At that moment, having a credible, truthful document will come in handy. It happened to me!