Monday, 14 October 2013

5 Steps to Building a Business Case for Any Project


It's amazing just how many professionals struggle to articulate the vision of a proposed project. Not being able to project the passion, the objective or the reasons for a project can sometimes come down to simply not knowing where to start or just being lazy. Follow these 5 steps and insure you head in the right direction.

1. Establish clear and measurable project goals
Too many times, poorly defined business problems become a hindrance in progression. Simply putting pen to paper with a few objectives is always a step in the right direction. This can apply to a project, strategy, department or even a personal vision.

2. Align business and technology goals
This can sometimes be the difficult part, as this is where the breakdown in communication comes into play. Aligning business and technology goals may simply be, suggesting the use of existing infrastructure, budget or resources and highlighting the benefits of doing so. A business case doesn't always have to be about the release of more money. Just acting to a plan that takes into account the realistic expectations of stakeholders, is sometimes enough.

Communication can help share a vision or principle, which extends to both within the team and externally.

WARNING: Failing to do this step correctly can sometime create the perception of hidden agendas (An undisclosed plan, especially one with an ulterior motive [1]). Purposely leave this part out (sadly, not to uncommon) and that perception may simply be a keen observation.

3. Establish team roles and responsibilities
Defining team roles and aligning people and budget to a project's needs, not only eliminates any lack of clarity, but helps with buy-in and accountability. This also eliminates the ownership from the project manager to the team. That way people don't feel like the project manager is getting all the credit.

No doubt, we have all been part of teams where people are so thirsty for credit, they'll pick it from the easiest place, their subordinates. These are normally the same people with the hidden agendas. 

Following these steps though, will definitely help you avoid this and give more clarity to everything you do.

4. A milestone driven process with clearly defined deliverables
A common obstacle is the breakdown in the process. Be sure to not only implement, but iterate (and re-iterate when required), the milestones and deliverables. Done is better than perfect!

5. Manage risk proactively
Pointing out the risks in a business case and/or strategy ensures that you don't open yourself up to people taking the wind out of your sales and pointing them out for you. The only way to combat mistaken assumptions, and unanticipated risks, is to have a well-defined approach to them and respond to change effectively, recognising the inevitability upfront.

Support your beliefs and influence people
Along with building a strategy, creating a business case is one of the most important skills for any professional. All it means is that you have the ability to support your beliefs and influence people.

THE MORAL
CLARITY IS KEY! WHEN BEING AS TRANSPARENT IN YOUR WORK AS POSSIBLE, YOU'LL FIND THAT YOU NOT ONLY EMPOWER THOSE AROUND YOU, BUT PEOPLE WILL BEGIN TO NATURALLY LOOK TO YOU AS A LEADER.

[1] - source: thefreedictionary.com