Lets face it, you can’ get things done without getting someone’s approval, whether it is simply to go ahead with your idea or more importantly, to get the resources you need, whether people or budgets.
So if you want to get things done, implement new ideas, expand your department, develop a product, launch a campaign, hire a new resource or get new equipment or systems, you need to get your business case approved.
Often, your business case for the costs or resources is the only thing standing in your way, but you are competing with other departments and other managers for the same resources, so your business case had better be strong or you will come up short.
Here are 5 things you can do to get your business case approved before you even write it:
Understand the Decision Drivers
Whenever you're pitching a business case that somebody else will need to approve, you should know who exactly does the approving and what they base their approval decisions on.
If the decision is made by an individual, it's easier to establish their specific requirements for approval. If it's a committee or a team making a decision, you will have to find a common ground and also balance the differences between each individual decision drivers.
In the case of the CFO, their decision drivers will be largely financial, with some risk analysis thrown in. But how exactly do they make their financial decisions? What calculations do they do and what analysis today do in order to determine the financial viability of an initiative?
For a VP operations, their decision drivers may include financial but also resources, risks and impact on other responsibilities and activities they're responsible for.
Your head of human resources will have a different kind of decision drivers, such as the impact on existing staff, availability of resources, including timing and salary bands for staff who might be impacted.
Others, such as your IT department, security or risk management department and many others will have their own specific issues and decision drivers that you should understand and address in your business case.
It’s not just enough to have a great business case, you have to be credible. The need for credibility includes not only your track record of performance and deliverables, but also the credibility of the information and analysis you do to justify your business case.
So your business case needs to include not only the rationale for why the initiative should be approved, it should also include how it will be implemented successfully. You can compare to your track record, provide a concise and believable approach to implementation that help assure success for instance. Nominate or request a senior management representative to be the sponsor and driver of the initiative.
For business case credibility, do a thorough job of any analysis, comparisons, market research and show both the source and approach you've taken. Don't whitewash assumptions or issues that you know exist, instead, bring them forward and identify clearly how you will mitigate them. It's better to address in this way then leave questions in the minds of senior management who will read your business case.
Break down the Objections
Before you even submit your business case, you should be testing it with the decision-makers. Sit down with them individually and go over the key rationale, findings and proposed initiative.
Ask them to share their criticism and concerns with you so that you can address them. Depending on your relationship with these individuals, you could even ask them to provide some insight into their colleague’s likely reaction.
Take their input into consideration, Incorporated where possible into your business case and follow-up with those individuals before your business case is submitted to ensure the changes you made address their concerns and to let them know you've listened to them.
Finally, simply ask them the question. Will they support the business case when it's presented? If so, clearly are broken down there objections and gained a supporter. If not, you can either address changes that will gain their support or recognize that their objection is something to overcome through the support of other decision-makers.
Influence the Influencers
Sometimes, you are not able to get the attention of the actual decision-makers. If not, then identify who influences those decision-makers. Sometimes, it's an individual who reports to those decision-makers. Of course even if you are able to deal with the actual decision-makers, it never hurts to to also gain support from those who advise those decision-makers.
For instance, if your CFO relies on a specific individual to do cost-benefit analysis, meet with that individual to get there take on your business case. Get their insights, make changes in your analysis or perhaps even the way it presented based on their input and try to get their support.
Orchestrate the Pitch
Don’t leave your business case submission to chance. You should try to orchestrate how it's represented and how it's presented to the decision-makers. If possible, make a presentation to those decision-makers before they have a chance to read the proposal, so that you can prepare them with the key facts and even youth the opportunity to demonstrate that you have conferred with everybody, address their issues and have their support.
If you had discussions with the influencers as mentioned above, speak with them individually to remind them of their participation in helping to develop the final document and ask them if they can voice their support to the decision-makers.
After the presentation, if you're able to make one, and the submission of the business case to the decision-makers, follow-up with them one-on-one to gauge their reaction and support in this last and final step of approving the business case. If you sense a change in their support or additional concerns, take immediate actions to address them either with a revision or with the communication of the decision-makers.
Make the Business Case a Non-Event
Getting your business case approved is about much more than simply developing a solid business case and submitting it.
If you followed the steps above, by the time your business case gets to the point where an approval signature is required, you will have already paved the way for that signature.