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Some time in your IT career you will be ask by the senior leadership team to review someone else business case. If you provide some constructive feedback and it improves the business case you will be a hero, it you don’t pay much attention and say “its fine” but it is not your career can be in serious trouble. Most IT professionals will regularly be working on business cases for larger scale projects, it is so often neglected and not enough proper time is set aside. Many organisations later regret it and according to latest statistics 72% of IT projects don’t come in on time or budget thus not meeting the expectations of the business case. Here are some general questions that are recommended to help evaluate the business case

When you review a business case immerse yourself into the writer’s point of view. Try and understand in detail what are the underlying motives and hidden objectives.

What is the objective of the proposal?

So what if the work didn’t happen?

Does it align with the overall business objectives and 3 year corporate strategy?

When you answer these questions you might encounter several challenges. Is the objective clear and does the author understand the issues at hand. Very often problems are not fully understood and this leads to the solution trying to address the effects not the cause. As a technologists I have seen way too many businesses looking to technology for an answer, so they invest more money on IT without fixing the real business issues first.

Is the business case balanced and does it show viable alternatives. It is always prudent to show several options but then recommended one with the biggest bang for the buck. Far too often I see business cases with poor alternative options because they are hell bent on going with the recommendation. Sometimes there is an obvious journey, but often challenge the writer and think about other potential journeys to deliver the goals.

Costs and benefits is often the section that every senior leader immediately focuses on and it gets the most scrutiny. The business case should present to you a comparative analysis of the plus and delta’s, cost and benefits of each of the alternatives. Remember to address both the non-economic benefits and costs (qualitative, capacity) and economic benefits and costs. There are well established methods of economic analysis that need to be followed. There are actually rules that need to be followed. The advice is to learn the most commonly used methods of financial analysis, such as Payback, IRR and NPV and be able to identify issues.

The next section to carefully review is the assumptions and data source. To judge whether the case is reasonable, you must be able to judge whether the assumptions are reasonable. As such, they should be clearly identified. Secondly, you want to know where the supporting data has come from. Is it up to date and from credible sources?

For most IT business cases the costs were derived from implementation plans. This will typically show resource requirements and the project schedule. Go into the detail of the plan. Is it realistic? Have enough resources been set aside both from the business and IT side? Furthermore, too many business cases do not address how the benefits will be realised, who is responsible for it and at what points along the timeline will it be done.

This is not meant to be a step by step guide, however if you look out for most of these points you are on the right track to evaluating the business case with a critical eye and hopefully any major issues will be captured and resolved before final sign-off. 

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