This post is part of an ongoing series on the Tantus business case methodology, written by Dave McGarva (firstname.lastname@example.org). This is part 3 of 9. The next instalment will be posted in May 2015.
To benefit from the business case methodology, a rigorous, objective, and honest attitude is required during its creation. To do otherwise is to risk making a poor investment. We have developed a 10-step process to guide our clients through the business case process, which includes a comprehensive options analysis. This ensures that our clients are equipped with sufficient information to make decisions that maximize the value of their investment. This post covers our first 2 steps in detail. Watch for our next post for the next step.
Step 1: Define the Problem
Step 1 includes a review of the organization and its industry. The review includes a concise description of the business problem or decision. It also includes a description of the opportunity that exists to solve or answer the problem or decision in question.
This step also includes an in depth analysis of the organization’s current state, including all relevant systems, processes or services that could be impacted by the business case. The analysis is developed through information gathered at the initial project meeting and a scan of background material.
Business problems or questions need to be explored from different perspectives. One way to accomplish this is to approach the problem or question from the perspective of each stakeholder, as well as the funders or decision-making body. This allows for a more thorough understanding of the business problem.
If you don’t have a full understanding of the problem, extra time and effort are an inevitable result. Correctly defining the problem is critical.
We were tasked with assessing the need for a real-time information system for a local organization.
The organization focused on expensive technological updates to improve communication, as this seemed the most obvious (and direct) issue. When we looked at the issue, we took a bigger picture perspective, and applied a business context the client had not initially considered.
Our perspective analyzed business processes, staffing, and the organization’s governance structure. By identifying these larger components, it soon became evident that the organization’s issues were not strictly technical, and simply implementing improved technology would not have solved the issue on its own.
Step 2: Describe the Project
The project description is an exercise in scoping a project and determining what information will be included in the final business case. It includes a high level description of the project, what the objectives of the project are, what information is considered in scope, the anticipated outcomes and a categorical breakdown of stakeholders, with identified business requirements.
It is important to identify key objectives for the project. This process breaks a complex problem or project into smaller, more manageable sections. The process of developing specific objectives also allows for the development of a wider range of potential solutions in Step 5.
If scope is not properly identified, the project is at risk. Identifying scope will focus the business case and solution development. This ensures that the project does not become so broadly focused that it becomes unmanageable.
Sometimes we need to scope the project, because the problem or issue isn’t what we think it is.
Recently, a client wanted to conduct a business case studying the best options for increasing their manufacturing capacity by investing in a new facility. Because they wanted to improve capacity it appeared that what they needed was a bigger, better, and larger facility.
But upon further inspection, it wasn’t the facility that needed fixing. The actual process to manufacture the products needed to be reviewed, and the facility had little to do with it.
As a result, the analysis led to a number of potential alternatives outside of building a new facility – a costly venture that would have slowed the company’s future development.
Coming soon – Step 3 – Test Alignment with Strategy