Taking Care of Business: Your Business Case Isn’t Shelfware


Man's shadow going through a maze

My recent blog, “Beware of Dante’s (ERP) Inferno”, explored some of the pitfalls along a typical ERP journey and provided tips on how to avoid them. One key “safeguard” that I identified was a solid business case, which both aligns the expectations of key stakeholder groups and secures project approval. That being said, the relevance of the business case to your project does not end with the project launch.   

Leverage the business case throughout the project to: 

  • Guide Design Decisions 

Critical design decisions are rarely clear cut, and there are often competing options on the table.  Operations wants to do things one way; supply chain prefers another. How do you decide? When weighing the merits of alternatives that will have a broad impact on the solution as well as the organization, the business case can help you “break the tie”.   

  • Manage Scope 

Scope creep is the bane of every project manager, and without clear “guardrails” to manage the project you can easily find yourself working on any number of things that bloat your project plan and slow down the entire project. It’s rarely one “big idea” that takes a project off course since those are usually easy to spot. Rather, it’s the cumulative impact of lots of smaller “good ideas” that ultimately torpedo budgets and schedules. So if you want to avoid “death by a thousand changes”, keep the business case front and center as a means to keep everyone focused on the same goal. 

  • Sustain Alignment & Momentum 

ERP transformations typically last two years or longer, which means that things are going to change.  Leadership may change, business conditions may shift, and the organization can lose sight of the original vision in the process. Having a solid business case in your arsenal will remind the organization where you’re heading and why it’s important to keep going. Furthermore, when evaporating budgets give rise to requests for additional funding, you’ll be thankful that you have a solid benefits case to fall back on during discussions with senior management.   

  • MeasurSuccess  

Upon completion of the project, the one thing that’s usually crystal-clear is how much it cost; what remains to be seen is whether the project was actually successful. In other words, your project may have completed on time and even under budget, but has it delivered the benefits that justified it in the first place? 

Unfortunately, it might be difficult to answer that question if you haven’t planned ahead. To ensure that you can track process improvements once you have flipped the switch, build in appropriate reports and measures that support the key metrics identified in the business case.  

Stay the Course 

When it comes to large, transformative projects, there could be 100 things you could do but there might be only 10 things you must do. A comprehensive, solid business case makes that determination up front and becomes the yardstick to help you differentiate between “nice to haves” and “must haves” over the course of your project.    

So, although it is a necessary and important means for getting the project off the ground, don’t make the mistake of treating the business case as little more than an administrative formality that gets shelved once you’ve obtained approval and buy-in. Take the time to do it right in the first place and include time in your project plan to periodically revalidate and update the key assumptions as your project progresses. This will keep your business case up-to-date and provide you with much more than a sales tool.  

Follow me on Twitter @sstamp_ue.  Find my other UpperEdge blogs and follow UpperEdge on Twitter and LinkedIn. 

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