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Chapter 3. Preparing a business case

This chapter will help you pull your analysis together into a convincing argument, or business case, for your project. We define a business case as a well-reasoned argument designed to convince an audience of the benefits of an IT investment, while educating them about the changes, costs, and risks that will be part of the effort. The goal of your business case is to inform key players about your initiative and convince them to support it in some specific ways.

First we outline the essential components of any business case, illustrating them from our experience with one project that aimed to improve the way a state agency supports the financial health of local governments. In the next chapter, we offer some guidance about venues and methods for presenting a business case.

How to make smart IT choices

A complete business case is a package of information, analysis, and recommendations. It includes a plain language statement of the problem to be solved, with key data to illustrate its public policy significance, as well as its severity and complexity. It also identifies customers and other stakeholders and how they are affected by the problem. The case clearly states assumptions, estimates, and other weaknesses in your underlying data. It presents the options available to the decision maker, comparing features, costs and benefits, and stakeholder impacts for each option. The case concludes with a recommended course of action and a justification that presents its strengths and weaknesses.

The business case package includes a variety of presentations, both oral and written, with supporting media such as handouts, slides, or demonstrations. Your business case distills weeks or months of work. You need to be armed with all the data, but you will also need to present your findings and recommendations in a cogent, convincing, and interesting way. The best analysis can be entirely misunderstood if the presentation is disorganized, overly technical, or too mired in detail. Decide what the key points are and build your presentation around them. You can always add detail in response to questions.