Why a business case gets turned down

Today I want to look at some of the reasons why a business case gets turned down. Here are the top 5 reasons that I have seen over my time recently, reviewing business cases.  What can you learn from this when you next need to write a business case?

1. They are too long

Yes, this might seem crazy, but if you are a very busy executive wanting to make a decision about how you are going to spend your allocated budget, you don’t want to have to read 100+ pages in order to get to the recommendation of which way to go.   Keep your document to a minimum, and by that I don’t mean 2 pages (well not unless you can get all of the information that you need for your ‘case’ into that space), but don’t waste space either.

2. They are full of meaningless words

My word for this is ‘waffle’..  people write big long marketing stories, which dont’ really get to the heart of the problem as to why this business case is being written, let alone submitted.  They also don’t have the right substantiating information to support and back up their decisions which are ultimately the recommendations for sign-off.

3. The financials are too ball park/pie in the sky

If I don’t do my work on costing estimates and I throw in a cost estimate that is way above the real mark of what is required, my sponsor/business owner is going to smell it a mile off.  He/She will know that it’s too inflated.  They won’t buy it, and they certainly shouldn’t be willing to commit funds without reasonably substantiated high level costs, that provide enough detail to show that you’ve really done your homework.

4. They don’t highlight the risks involved

Senior Executives/Managers want to know that you’ve thought about the risks involved in the potential project.  They want to see how you are going to handle these.  One of these risks might in fact be a show stopper to the go/no go for business case sign-off – and you’re just not aware of it yet.

5.  It provides a solution and not options

Whilst you will have a good idea of what you would want the solution to be, a business case is not about just providing one solution.  The business case needs to contain options.  Why, because your sponsor/business owners needs to be able to do nothing and be comfortable with his/her decision. Or, go for a more tactical solution than a strategic one.

If you run your draft business case through these filters before you send it out for sign-off you’re sure to ensure that you have a better chance of approval.  In my blog post of April 2012 I spoke about how to write a good business case, one that is going to get over the line.  You might find other valuable tips there.