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Building an Effective Business Case

March 24, 2015

I was in a client visioning workshop recently for the global QA function of a large life sciences organization. The workshop was fantastic – which is the subject for another post – but one thing stood out in my mind. An executive from manufacturing came to give us an overview of their 2020 roadmap and strategy, and in doing so, he provided a crisp definition of strategy: Where are you now, where do you want to go, how will you get there, what will you get when you do, and why are you doing it?

I loved this not only because it distills “strategy” down to its essence, but also because of the last question: “Why are you doing it?” To me, this is the most important question to ask (and answer) when doing a strategy, because the success of your strategy ultimately depends on the strength of this answer.

You might be thinking that “What will you get when you do?” is the more important question; after all, this is the payoff, the ROI, the benefit statement, so what could be more critical? Show me the money, right?

Wrong. Organizations have lots of ways to realize returns, including leaving their money in the bank, which gets them a return with almost no effort. So if you want leadership to get off the dime to find and support your strategy, you have to be offering more than simply a bag of cash at the end of it.

This is where “Why are you doing it?” comes in. Your strategy has to be grounded in something the organization cares deeply about, and that’s going to be different from organization to organization, as well as within the same organization – over time, in different divisions, different geos, etc.

To be effective, a business case needs to be about more than simply the numbers; it needs to connect the numbers to something the organization cares about, to connect the dots between the costs/benefits and a reason for taking action that leadership can support. No matter how good the anticipated return on investment, realizing that return will take effort and organizational change, and there’s always risk that it won’t work out as planned. Dollars alone won’t be enough for an organization to bet on your strategy; folks need to believe in the why of what you’re doing. When they do, you’ve got a successful business case on your hands.

Given how important the business case is to a strategy, and how difficult it is to build a good business case, we’re dedicating a panel session to building an effective business case at the upcoming DOCUMENT Strategy Forum in Greenwich, Connecticut, May 12 – 14.For the session, “Effective Business Case Development,” we’ve tapped three experienced leaders to talk about how they’ve built business cases, what’s worked and what hasn’t, and give you practical, tangible advice you can take back to your organization to use in your next business case effort:

  • Thad Scarrow, Director, Nationwide
  • Ankur Laroia, Principal, Noah Consulting
  • James Watson, President, Doculabs

To learn more about the conference, which brings together leaders from across all industries to share their experiences and expertise with information management, click here. We’d love to see you there!

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