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Building A Better Business Case

There’s an abundance of poor presentations with bad business cases these days.  Attend an important business meeting or local city council meeting and you’ll likely see extensive debate.  There may even be tempers and ill-will.  It seems like anywhere there are key decisions to be made, you’ll find conflict.  Why?

City Council Meeting Business Case

“Because it’s important.”

“It’s just politics.”

“There are too many people in the mix.”

“Emotions are high.”

“There’s an urgent deadline to meet.”

Are these the true root causes of the conflict – or just the excuses?  Are there really that many different ways to see the same issue?  I don’t think so.  I believe a group of committed people CAN reach consensus.  The following seven tips will help make it happen.

1) Agree On What You’re Trying To Achieve In The First Place – It’s often cited that the biggest reason for team failure is confusion about the goal or charter.  Document it.  Make this clear with all stakeholders before you begin.  Gain their approval for any changes along the way.

2) Include The Right People – And only the right people.  A good rule of thumb is to consider all the people who are involved in each step of the process in question.  One representative from each area should be enough.  Too many from one department and/or too many bosses can derail your meetings and the entire effort.  The right people will then have the right buy-in and present a united front.

3) Gather Relevant Information – This is a tough area that trips up many complicated problem solving efforts.  Brainstorm all the information you think you’ll need.  Document why you want the data, and how you’ll chart it or analyze it.  Assign owners to each piece of your data collection plan, note where they’ll get the data, and when it’s due.  Plotting out your strategy here helps avoid multiple data gathering iterations and analysis paralysis.

4) Analyze The Information – Tables of raw data usually confuse people or invite multiple interpretations.  The right graph, format and scale clarifies and gets everyone on the same page.  Don’t guess at the root causes of your problem.  Keep asking “why” and peeling back the layers of the onion.

5) Follow A Decision Making Process – When a big decision is on the line, emotions can run high.  A good process will help you clarify your objectives, create the best options, and select the best one.  There should be a scoring and ranking step that helps remove emotion.  You should also methodically document the risks associated with each solution and proactively mitigate those risks.  This entire step should be documented so your audience can follow your logic.  Skipping this step can lead to heated debate among stakeholders and team members.  It can also lead to poor decision making and ultimately, project failure.

6) Quantify Each Decision Scenario – In addition to scoring your decision criteria and options above, you may want to take it a step further.  What’s the cost and return on investment (ROI) over time of each solution?  How do your solutions impact other areas of your organization?  Think about budget, resources, and other critical projects.  Don’t leave this to chance or you’ll attract understandable resistance.

7) Tell The Story – Your presentation should flow so well that anyone reading it should be able to follow it and come to the same conclusion.  For example:

– Each set of data should point to a corresponding root cause(s).

– Each solution should match those causes.

– There should be a strategy to mitigate any risks of each solution.

– Include the financials of each option to help clarify the best one.

– Document a project plan with owners and dates to ensure clarity, buy-in, and a smooth roll out.

If the story isn’t there, you haven’t finished your business case.  It’s not the stakeholders’ fault if they can’t agree with you.  It just means they can’t follow your logic and you have more work to do.  There are training options to teach you how to put all of this together.

Most people don’t want to argue or waste time on difficult issues.  I believe that most want to do the right thing for the common good.  We just need to understand how to build – and expect – a better business case.

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Edward Livesay

Edward Livesay

Co-Founder & Strategist at Mosaic Strategic partners
Edward Livesay is a business and financial strategist with over 16 years of consultative experience. His work has generated millions of dollars in growth and savings for business and government clients.
Edward Livesay

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