When Did the Business Case Become Passé?

Do all product managers in your company use the same template when creating a business case for innovation investment? Do you even have a consistent business case process for making investment decisions? When these processes are inconsistent among product managers or business units, flawed investment decisionmaking is the result. Reasons are cloudy regarding what and how to innovate vs. companies that have a tight business rationale for their go-to-market processes and proper decisionmaking authority ingrained in the culture.

In agile environments, business case rationale is often forgotten or is shunned, as if it’s uncool. However, a development process (like agile) is not a business process. And when the business case is shunned or deprioritized because those responsible are “too busy,” the result is lack of alignment between product, marketing and sales, as well as confusion around the direction of the go-to-market strategy.

Fortunately, we see a growing trend in b-to-b companies toward the creation of cross-functional standards to ensure that business case information flowing upward to decisionmakers is consistent and of high quality, enabling informed decisions. Organizations have improved the quality of their innovation pipelines by reducing the competitive nature of business cases and judging them on their own merits.

Here is my advice (toward making the business case cool again):

  • Pay greater attention to procuring, synthesizing and communicating market-driven, fact-based insights in the discovery stage of the innovation process to create greater downstream effectiveness in market planning, launch, and channel and sales enablement programs.
  • Set a standard to determine when upgrades and version releases must return to an executive council for approval vs. when these decisions may be made by independent business units or product managers.
  • Start taking a more precise approach to business cases, product requirements documents and market requirements documents. If you don’t already use these deliverables, adopt them to drive offering design, marketing and sales enablement programs, and content across the innovation lifecycle.

About the Author

Marisa Kopec is Vice President and Group Director, Go-to-Market, at SiriusDecisions. She leads SiriusDecisions’ Portfolio Marketing, Strategic Communications, and Product Management services. Follow Marisa on Twitter @Marisa_Kopec


2 Comments

  • Geoffrey Anderson, 22nd February 2013 at 10:11 am

    Reply

    Great post. There have been some product management blog posts that have implied that the business case is dead, and good riddance. I argued vociferously that this was bad, and you have perfectly captured the reasons i was grasping for.

    As the world goes agile, and as the agility allows mid course corrections, having a strong business case, with stakeholder buy in, revisited periodically to ensure its accuracy is crucial to avoid the post mortem “blame game” that is all to common.

  • Marisa Kopec, 22nd February 2013 at 11:52 am

    Reply

    Thank you Geoffrey. I actually wrote this blog in response to those product management blog posts you referenced. At SiriusDecisions, we spend our days observing best practices and failings in b-to-b organizations. We cannot stress enough the need for a strong and consistent business case rationale and gating of those decisions/governance as part of the innovation and go to market process. While it is hard and a lot of work, it’s just necessary for investment decisions to be made that are the right bets for the company.


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