Without the Business Case You Will Lose Your Way


Outside of its basic intent of outlining “the why” of an investment, the business case must also be seen as a defined vow that should be referred to accordingly for sensible and insightful guidance during the project.

And without its continuous consultation, the project carries the highly probable risk of starting for the right reasons but getting breathtakingly lost along the way – like a soaring percentage of marriages.

(Don’t shoot the messengers. We are also participants in this marvelous improbability called life, wherein the pernicious effects of social forces such as industrialization have brought the institution of marriage to the brink of collapse – either that or Tinder).

At a grand altar a couple recites their marriage vows. The solemn promises that encapsulates their desires, intentions and ambitions as a team, and implicitly justifies the investment in their endeavor. They trust they've made the right choice. Rightfully so, given both have done their due diligence: meticulously analyzed the anticipated benefits (no more blind dates arranged by mom), considered all options (other suitors and lifestyles), estimated the costs (staggering with each child in college), determined the precise timelines (until death or forever, whichever comes first), and even defined the key risks (parents-in-law). “I do” – the final proclamation marking the launch of the lovebird’s inalienable desire to bring mind-blowing joy to each other’s lives. Their plan is set, so the coast is clear. Not entirely.

Often overlooked is the necessary ongoing relationship with the business case, a state which acts as a safeguard to help ensure that whenever adjustments are made anywhere (human resources, funding, equipment, transportation, facilities, etc.) it is done so to bring about the expected benefits. So, will upgrading from the cozy apartment in the heart of the city to the house in the suburbs contribute to achieving the benefits? What about voluntarily increasing your workload to go from the Prius to the Tesla? Is one, two or more kids than planned really the merrier? Who knows, right? Well, you should – on all the aforementioned questions and the like. Otherwise, disorientation awaits your project.

Fast forward a few years; now rampant within our beloved imaginary couple’s relationship are ad hominem attacks, superficial judgments, apathetic dinners, wandering eyes, and frequent bans to the couch. As a consequence, they find very little consolation in their picturesque home, high-end car, well-rounded children and exotic holidays (once proud achievements now deemed an anchor). How did they get here?

Well, veering off course is a near certainty on projects. Sometimes it manifests due to negligence such as scope creep. Other times it is by design in the form of an official change request (CR), which ironically tends to cause the most harm. This is due to the common misperception that a comprehensive assessment has taken place, which stems from there typically being a formal process behind a CR. The gap lies in the fact that on many occasions change requests are judged in isolation with a total disregard for the business case. It only takes one significant CR to be assessed in that manner to cause irreconcilable volatility. More obscured but just as catastrophic are the so-called minor CR’s that accumulate to a tipping point whereby they can just as easily undermine the justification and expected benefits of the project.

Irrespective of why the original plan requires alteration, never allow the business case to become a disregarded relic. Which means always having it handy whilst addressing the typical questions of any deviation, such as what are the new risks and assumptions? Are the remaining provisions sufficient? How does this impact the timelines? Which of course all leads to answering the towering question: Are the wedding vows still wanted, viable, achievable and worth the continued investment?

For you romantics, unfortunately, the answer may be no. Referring back to the business case may reveal that the project should end given that there is no longer sound reasoning to proceed. Therefore, divorce is actually the best choice for everyone involved in the project. It may not seem ideal at first but it is a much more preferable outcome than to continually hemorrhage time and money on a soul tainting too-big-to-fail marriage (read: project) that has all parties involved drowning in a morass of crippling stress for months or years without end. There is no artifact at the disposal of the project team and steering committee that is better suited to ward off such a grim predicament than the business case. Like a marriage vow, the more you refer to it the more thorough your decision making will be, thus increasing the odds of living happily ever after. The End.