The humble old “business case” gets a very bad reputation in some organisations. A good and well written business case is a crucial document that helps organisations and teams decide which projects to progress with and even which products to launch. In many ways, a business case is a mini business plan, showing the costs, benefits, risks and impacts of adopting a proposed course of action. It shows the reasons for the recommendation, and it shows the options considered. Depending on the organisation it might be written at different levels of formality—in many ways the underlying thinking and analysis is more important than the document itself. The business case draws on insight and data from within the organisation, and a good business case will draw on the organisations analytical capabilities.
Overall, the business case protects those making an investment in a particular project or product launch and ensures that they go into the endeavour with their eyes wide open. It ultimately contributes towards protecting the interests of the organisation’s owners – who may as well be shareholders.
On the face of it, the creation of a business case sounds logical, and it sounds like a perfectly natural thing to do. I mean why would anyone object to knowing the costs and benefits of a proposed course of action? Yet I suspect many people reading this—from organisations of all sizes whether multinational or midsize— will have experienced situations where there was a desire to “fudge” the business case. Perhaps you were asked to selectively ignore some data, or put a particular spin on things to “force” a particular course of action.
There, I’ve said the unthinkable. Call me a heretic! However, in reality, business cases get fudged. And this isn’t always deliberate—sometimes business cases are unconsciously misinterpreted or misrepresented and this faulty thinking leads to organisations unknowingly taking bad decisions with complete confidence. They might even end up with a “turkey project” that should have been culled at the outset.