X

Advice and Information for Finance Professionals

How to Present a Winning Business Case

Guest Author

By Jim Maholic, Oracle

This post is the eleventh in a series of articles excerpted and adapted from my award-winning and Amazon Top 10 book, Business Cases that Mean Business (details on the book below). 

 

This series is focused on building business cases for transformational cloud ERP initiatives by aligning projected future capabilities to core business drivers. We’re in the middle of unpacking the four components of a successful business case, which are:

  • Hypothesis
  • Evidence
  • Analysis
  • Recommendation

Having done the first three phases of a successful business case, it’s time to present your recommendation to your executives or capital request approval committee.

Package, practice, and present 

Having done all the necessary evidence gathering and data analysis, it’s time to put your presentation together and make your formal recommendation to your approval board.

It’s important to package your business case in the form of a story. Not everyone on the approval board knows the complete story. This is your opportunity to provide a uniform perspective on your proposal, from hypothesis to recommendation. Use this opportunity to be thorough and compelling.

A complete business case recommendation contains various elements, usually packaged as a series of PowerPoint slides. The most common elements listed below would be presented on individual PowerPoint slides:

AGENDA TOPIC

EXPLANATION

Executive Summary

Explained in previous post, “How to Create a Compelling Executive Summary for Cloud ERP” (link)

Statement of Business Issues

Explained in previous post, “3 Key Questions that Your Business Case for Cloud ERP Must Answer” (link)

Approach Employed

How did you gather the data to confirm your hypothesis? This is explained the previous post, “Gathering Evidence for a Winning ERP Business Case” (link)

Participants

Who was included in your discovery sessions? Executives often want to confirm that you gathered information from the people they trust for such information.

Key Quotes

Optional. If you captured any good quotes during your discovery sessions, include them on this slide. Such quotes add confirming evidence to your story. For example, if a participant says, “We don’t know how much we spend across the company on office supplies” or “We use Excel when we should be able to get the data directly from the system,” these can help support your recommendation.

Evidence Supporting Your Hypothesis

Optional. If, during your discovery, you observed any processes that were particularly inefficient, or you noted that multiple systems were used to complete simple processes, document those observations on this slide.  This is optional only because physically observing such evidence does not happen with every discovery activity.  If you did observe some specific inefficiency, then you would include the slide.  

External Comparative Evidence

Optional. Were you able to gather any evidence from industry sources or noteworthy benchmarking services (such as Gartner or Forrester) that, when compared to your company’s operational performance, confirm that your company underperforms against these benchmarks? If so, document those metrics on this slide. For example, maybe the industry average for closing the financial books in your industry is 3 days and your company currently takes 7 days to perform the same task. 

Assumptions and Risks

It is important to state what assumptions you are making in order to achieve your goals of being on time and on budget. Such assumptions as, “Company cash reserves are sufficient to ride out the current recession” are always beneficial. Without listing common assumptions, you are communicating that you will achieve your goals without regard to potential disruptions.

Cost and Benefit Considerations

This would be your spreadsheet showing the anticipated costs and anticipated benefits over time, commonly shown in yearly columns. For example, you might have five columns, each depicting years 1 through 5 of your projections. In each year you would show the anticipated cash outlay and anticipated financial benefits for that year.

Alternatives Considered 

Executives frequently want to ensure that due diligence was conducted. To that end, you should present the alternatives that you considered. Those alternatives could include doing nothing, choosing a competitive solution or choosing to invest the money to modify your existing environment.

Implementation Timeline

Much like the cost and benefit considerations above, this will lay out the activities across a 3- or 5-year horizon. This slide would include when certain activities are scheduled to occur and when certain milestones will be evaluated.

Resource Requirements

Again, as above, you would list what resources you need and when you need them throughout your project timeline. How many consultants with which skills do you need and when do you need them? When do you need additional cloud resources? 

Recommendation

Finally, specify exactly what you want the executives to do. For example, you may be asking the executives to approve the project, enter formal contract negotiations with Oracle and assign an internal project sponsor to begin project preparations.

 

Your presentation deck may also include numerous additional supporting slides that you would place in the appendix for possible future use or discussions.

Be crisp and concise

It’s vital to review and edit the initial draft of your business case to make it as crisp and concise as possible. Busy executives do not usually sit through long, protracted presentations of seemingly endless slides (which some have humorously titled “Death by PowerPoint”). Your presentation must be focused and succinct. A general rule of thumb is that you should allow three to five minutes for each slide. Using that rule, if you are allotted sixty minutes, you should have no more than twenty slides in the main body of your presentation.

After you’ve created and edited your presentation deck, you must invest the time to practice your presentation with a competent yet friendly audience. Ask colleagues to pretend to be the approval board, challenge your assumptions and argue with your recommendation. Such tension in a practice setting can truly prepare you for your presentation to an executive approval committee. After you’ve conducted a mock presentation, give yourself enough time to refine your presentation based on feedback from your practice rounds.

This post is the eleventh in a series of twelve articles excerpted and adapted from my award-winning and Amazon Top 10 book, Business Cases that Mean Business.

Developing a business case is simply the identification, calculation and communication of the value of your proposed capital expenditure. Creating a sound business case should not be intimidating. You simply must approach the development of a business case with discipline and ample planning. This series of articles will give you an overview of the creation of a successful business case. If you wish to explore this topic deeper, or just jump ahead right away, check out my book.

Join the discussion

Comments ( 1 )
  • Ognen Borozanov Thursday, April 9, 2020
    Good to see that the 'Business Case' topic gets the attention it deserves. Much more than simple ROI/TCO, it is about telling a compelling story linking business issues with technology solutions. Oracle Insight - Defining Value for 15y+...
Please enter your name.Please provide a valid email address.Please enter a comment.CAPTCHA challenge response provided was incorrect. Please try again.