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.

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