Gaining approval of a complex project business case can have its challenges. And, when you are competing with other initiatives within your organisation – as you often will be – some of which might be providing similar benefits to your own, this process can be even more daunting. Therefore, you may be interested to learn how to put your initiative ahead of these others to secure the funding and resources you need.
To achieve accelerated approval of your project business case it is of primary important to provide clear evidence of when each of the benefits you identify for your project are likely to materialise. This helps to create a compelling business case that is more likely to accelerate its path through the approvals process.
Complex Project Business Case Efficacy Assurance
To assure the efficacy of your project business case, along with having the right evidence available for stakeholders in the approvals governance process, it’s important to have several key factors in place, including:
- Benefit timeframes. Identify the timeframe of when the benefits and outcomes are likely to materialise.
- Clarity. Clear articulation of the purpose and objectives of the business case.
- Alignment. Evidence how your project directly aligns with the goals of the organisation.
- Solution. Clearly define the challenges with the current operating process which your initiative aims to solve.
- Feasibility. Demonstrate the feasibility of the project.
- Risk mitigation. Outline the results of your risk analysis and how key risks to achieving stated benefits within the timeframes outlined, can be mitigated.
- ROI. Analysis of the financial impact and evidenced return on investment.
- Planning. A clear implementation plan.
- Buy-in. Feedback from your stakeholder analysis confirming buy-in to the initiative and support of the business change process that will be involved.
Together, these factors contribute to a comprehensive, evidence-based, business case that creates a compelling argument for your proposed idea. [For more detail on what a sound business case should contain, see our article: Business Case Development: Is it important and what should it contain?]
Understanding why a project business case might fail can help you to gain the approval you need
As well as having a checklist of what your complex project business case should contain, it is helpful to keep a list of the typical reasons why good initiatives can fail to gain approval. Use this list to sense check your own business case to make sure it doesn’t fall foul of any misunderstanding by stakeholders in the approvals process. Your complex project business case is more likely to be rejected if decision-makers:
- Do not see its relevance to the organisation’s overall strategy
- Are unable to understand the need for the proposed idea
- Question the value in approving your business case
- Doubt its potential for success
- Hesitate to approve it due to its high perceived risk
- Cannot see the return on investment
- Are unsure of how it can be successfully executed
- Question the potential impact of the proposed idea on the organisation.
Yet, even with the application of a best practice approach to compiling your project business case, with the upside being conservatively estimated and the potential causes of failure having an appropriate plan for mitigation, there are often other factors beyond the written document that you need to consider in order to maximise your chances of gaining approval and, therefore, the funding and resources for your project.
9 Top Tips to Help Accelerate Approval for Your Project Business Case
- Understand the competition within your organisation
Before you start your business case, it’s important to understand what other projects you are competing against for funding approval; this will help you to tailor your project business case to highlight the unique benefits of your project and the degree to which those benefits are likely to materialise in a shorter timeframe. It is useful to know what projects have recently been approved, thereby understanding the organisation’s priority focus and what is regarded a ‘worthy cause’ in terms of budget allocation. You may also find it helpful to understand what business cases have been rejected – and why. This will help you avoid the barriers or pitfalls that other initiatives have fallen foul of.
- Demonstrate quick wins and medium-term organisational benefits
In order to secure funding and resources, in addition to highlighting the long-term benefits of your project, it’s important to also demonstrate the quick wins that can be realised. This usually helps to create momentum and build support for your project as ROI will become evident from the early stages. Most importantly, as the project is being delivered, individuals both on the ground and in the senior executive teams gain more and more confidence if they see small elements of progress actually being realised.
In addition, all good business cases demonstrate how project benefits contribute to/align with wider organisation outcomes. If you are able to show that your project can realise short or medium-term benefits and secure a ‘big goal’ achievement for the organisation, you can create a compelling case for your project and improve your chances of securing approval.
- Highlight your skills, capabilities and resources
One of the biggest delays in getting business cases off the ground is the lack of available dedicated skills, capabilities and resources. To avoid such delays, demonstrate that you already have buy-in from the organisation to obtain all the skills, capabilities and resources you need to deliver the project if the business case is approved. The sooner you can get your project up and running, the sooner you can start delivering those early results and evidence a return on the investment.
- Be clear on your end-to-end project costing approach
Be as clear as you can on costs by taking the Whole Life Costing approach to ensure that the full end-to-end costs of your project are understood and accounted for. This will facilitate the decision-making process by providing a comprehensive and accurate picture of the total costs for budget allocation. The aim of this is to build confidence with the financial decision-makers that there are unlikely to be any costly surprises further down the line. [For more detail and guidance see our related blog on Whole Life Costing].
- Understand the drivers for decision-makers
Find out who exactly will be responsible for approving the project business case and what they are likely to base their decisions on. If it’s a committee or a team making the decision, you will need to appeal to each specific area of interest while also finding common ground to harness unified support. Use your stakeholder network to explore connections and relationships with decision-makers and educate yourself in what drives their prioritisation of budgets and resources.
- Demonstrate integrity
Present the information and analysis using a strong evidence base. Good evidence helps to support the objectivity of your business case and highlights the rationale for why the initiative should be approved and how it will be successfully implemented to ensure overall project success. Demonstrate the integrity of your business case, highlighting your previous project successes with track record data of performance and benefits realisation.
- Garner support
Harness your stakeholder network, selling the benefits to them first to build support across different areas of the business. If you can’t directly influence the decision-makers, analyse your stakeholder environment to identify relationships that can help to communicate the merits of your proposals. Budget decisions are rarely taken in isolation – the more support your initiative has, the greater its chance of success.
- Anticipate and address concerns
It’s important to test the waters and anticipate objections to your proposed initiative. Test your proposed initiative with decision-makers to gauge levels of support and identify any concerns which may prevent them backing your case. Don’t be afraid to ask them directly during this consultation process whether or not they would approve the project business case. Where you receive ‘no’ responses, be sure to identify the reasons why. Specifically address and resolve these concerns in your business case before submission.
- Control the delivery of your business case
It’s important to control the delivery of your business case and not leave it to chance. If possible, submit your business case by delivering a presentation to decision-makers to allow you to directly communicate the key benefits before they read the document. Your belief and passion in the project helps to communicate your respect for your own accountability to assure the project’s success.
Highlight the research and consultation you have undertaken that evidences buy-in with key stakeholders across the organisation and illustrate how you have identified, addressed and resolved any material issues that arose from that collaborative process. After your project business case submission and presentation, follow up with the individual decision-makers to gauge their reaction and thank them for their time.
So, you have compiled a well-developed, compelling project business case that effectively communicates the benefits and potential outcomes of the proposed initiative aligned with the organisation’s goals, and you have systematically eliminated the common reasons why business cases fail to get approval.
Now, by adding these top tips to your game plan, you are giving yourself the best chance possible of getting that all important go ahead, more quickly.