Presenting a case for change – how to get people to read your business case

One of the biggest challenges of writing a business case is getting people to read it.

You’ve poured your heart and soul into the business case document. It is full of several weeks’ worth of meticulously researched and beautifully presented information.

But it is lengthy, somewhat boring, and quite often the business stakeholders already know the outcome (because you have done a brilliant job of socialising your work in progress). Or they’re just too busy to pay proper attention to this vital tome of information.

The stakeholders just want to see adequate justification for change.

There are two things you can do to make weeks of hard work worthwhile. But firstly, give up on the idea of getting people to read the whole document.

Focus instead on writing one very outstanding executive summary and then get up in front of your stakeholders (the ones that make decisions and approve funds), and with all the confidence you can muster, present your case.

Get your facts together and write a compelling case for change

Here’s another tip. Don’t call it an executive summary. Change the title to something like “A Case for Change”.

It sounds better and focusses the attention of the audience on the purpose of your business case. People that make decisions and approve funds on a daily basis read a lot of executive summaries. Make it a little interesting.

The case for change section of your business case will be the very first thing your approvers and funders will read, after the title page. So make sure you grab their attention by telling them: “You must change, this is why, and this is what’s in it for you.”

Well, don’t actually write those words, but use words that express that message.

This is how you write your case for change. In this order, or whatever order you think is most effective for your case, write uncomplicated and clearly written sentences and summary tables that express the following:

  • Purpose of the business case and some background information (1 paragraph)
  • The problem and associated risks with the current situation (using real examples)
  • Options analysed and key findings (keep this very brief, use bullet points)
  • Recommendation (include what the approvers and funders need to do)
  • The financial and other benefits of the recommendation
  • The basis on which the benefits were identified and/or calculated (if financial)
  • Estimated costs to undertake the recommendation
  • Shortcomings or limitations of the recommended approach

Tell them: “You must change, this is why, and this is what’s in it for you”

You also need to tell them how this change must occur. But that’s a given. The considerations that you have put into analysing various options for change, and ensuring that the recommended option is best for the organisation, has made the decision on the “approach to be taken” as easy as possible for the approvers and funders.

The real selling point will be on why change must occur and what the real benefits will be for the business.

For instance, there needs to be a very good reason for the approvers and funders to reject a promise of saving a million dollars a year on productions costs (with savings realised after 2 years).

So put your case for change section from the business case document into a slide show presentation. Add some diagrams and summary tables to express your message and, with confidence and clarity, present your case in person.

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Weeks of analysis is now worthwhile, bringing your business case to the point of its real purpose.

To communicate with clarity and simplicity to the business a justification for change.

You’ve done the hard work for them by making the decision as easy as possible to make. And the detailed analysis that is often ignored provides the critical supporting evidence for that decision.

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