BANG Forum - Business Analyst Networking Group - Feb. 18, 2021

BANG Forum - Business Analyst Networking Group - Feb. 18, 2021

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All right today I'm excited to introduce we've  got Rebecca craven speaking with us today   she is from enterprise information services   within the department of administrative services  in the project portfolio performance group   and she's going to talk to us today about business  case development I hope that you read her bio in   the newsletter if not it's on the screen for you  and you can speed read that right now I'm not   gonna read it to you but I will introduce Rebecca  and hand it off to her for her presentation   all right Rebecca go ahead thanks Tim so  full disclosure I am one of those people that   does not have power internet so I have migrated  to a different location and am without most of my   usual accoutrement to help me do these kinds of  things so this will be a fun experience for all   of us I think but thanks for that introduction  and let me go ahead and get my slides up here Okay and then Tim and folks that are  moderating because I only have one   screen now I won't be able to necessarily  see comments or questions in the chat   so if you could just let me know if  anything comes up that would be fantastic   so hi my name is Rebecca craven and I'm here  to talk about the business case process today   I'm excited to be with you all and this  is one of my favorite things to talk about   so I am looking forward to this session today  as Tim mentioned there is a bio that went out   about me these things are always super  uncomfortable but just real briefly I'm   a senior i.t. portfolio manager here at the state  of Oregon but I'm also a PhD candidate in public   affairs and policy and as part of that I teach  in the masters of political science and masters   of public administration programs at Portland  state university and one of the things I teach is   the process of creating business cases as a usable  skill for our students to take out into the world   so I spend my time on business cases with the  state of Oregon and then i go and do my second job   teaching about them later as well so you can  find me at both state of Oregon and at Portland   state university within the Hatfield school  of government and anyone who's ever thought   about getting additional degrees either at  the graduate level or undergraduate level in   public administration or political science please  hit me up I would love to talk to you about it so today we're going to go through some of the  sort of basics of setting up business cases there   is a lot to talk about with business cases and  it's I don't think possible for anyone to get   through everything in a session like this  so I'm going to kind of lay the groundwork   and I'll include a little prompt later for  you all to ask bang to bring back some folks   to talk about specific methods for analyzing  alternatives and getting through the sort of   meat of the analysis part of business cases  but today we're going to talk about what a   business case is and what it isn't and hint  it's more of a process than about the artifact   itself we're going to talk about structuring  the business case i think that it's the most   important part of the business case but really  setting up that context and framing the problem   and opportunity that you're looking at as well as  developing consption assumptions and constraints   to structure the alternatives and the analysis  that you'll go through as part of the business   case process and then just real briefly we'll  get into some of the thoughts around choosing   alternatives and choosing evaluation criteria  and again leaving the details and the fun   stuff with the evaluation to later sessions  that your bang moderators can set up for you so real quick a disclaimer because I do work  for enterprise information services and we do   a lot of business cases with different agencies  in the state this session represents my research   thoughts and opinions and this is not the secret  trick to get your business case through stage   gate oversight on the first try or anything like  that this is really about learning opportunity for   the process and and what a business case really is  more so than a cheat sheet for oversight so if you   are working on business cases for it investments  within the state of Oregon in particular   please just consult with your senior  i.t portfolio manager and assigned   oversight analyst to go through the details  of what's required for your business case so what is a business case a business case is  not something someone simply sits down and writes   a business case is really a process and it's a  process to identify and make a decision about   a course of action that an organization is  going to take to bring about our desired   outcome or set of benefits so a business  case is not just about the document itself   it's really about taking that process from  start to finish and and going with it to really   understand what the organization is trying to  do and ensure that a good decision is being made   on behalf of the organization so one does not  simply sit down and write a business case   I plan to talk about my first business case here  but I think a a little bit more pressing example   has come up in the last couple days but really the  point of business cases are to help make strategic   decisions effectively and while I think a lot  of us think about business cases in the formal   written sense I'm sure a lot of us have had to  produce business cases for specific decisions   in our organizations really most of us are kind  of conducting many business cases all the time   so while my first business case was interesting  i think more relevant today is a decision that   I made to actually be here so i think like a lot  of us i lost power and was sitting in a very cold   house with some very cold housemates and we were  faced with the decision about whether or not we   wanted to stay and wait out the power outage or  try and find alternative places to go and stay   so you know it's it's the same kind of idea where  we have a set of assumptions and constraints you   know we're constrained by covid we're constrained  by you know travel restrictions having to work and   needing internet we had some assumptions about how  reliable the five to ten days we were quoted was   and we had some assumptions about  who might be willing to take us in   you know whether hotels would be available and  willing to take animals or you know there would   be people in our personal lives that would  be willing to take us in and really that   kind of decision making process figuring  out what the background is setting up that   thought process around what our actual constraints  are and figuring out what our few options are and   weighing those against each other that is the  epitome of a business case so many of us do this   all the time without necessarily thinking of it  as a business case because we're not documenting   it formally and that's i think a really key  part of business cases is that they're not this   thing that you do once and and hopefully don't  have to do you know again they're this process   by which you make decisions and strategically  consider alternatives weighing apples to apples   to figure out what the best course of action is  so these are not unusual things in our personal   lives and our professional lives it's a little bit  more unusual to have the formal written version of   those that many of us have to produce as part of  our jobs so real briefly my first business case   was deciding whether or not to purchase more  office technology in the form of copiers or   get interns to use our existing technology  on a more full-time basis and surprised we   went with interns because I was working with a  relatively technology adverse firm that decided   that people were what they were interested in  investing in more than additional technology   but the point of this again is that we  make business cases and business decisions   all the time and there are there are differences  between the formal and informal processes   but the impetus behind them is the same  looking at a situation coming up with   alternatives evaluating them and making  a recommendation and a plan to go forward so here's the only slide I have I promise that's  a giant block of text because i know how people   feel about that and I'm one of those too but  the pma pmi guide to business analysis i think   gives a fairly expansive definition of what a  business case is and what a business case does   essentially the important parts I think  I've highlighted here it's really about   establishing the validity of the benefits  that are going to be delivered by something   it's establishing whether an organization is wise  to pursue addressing a problem or opportunity   it looks at the root causes and  the contributors to the potential   success of that opportunity or problem and it  establishes objectives that especially those   that will go forward and be put into a charter  when we're talking about formal business cases   and the final result especially for  formal business cases is to make sure that   the analysis and the value proposition is being  clearly communicated to the stakeholders and   especially most importantly the decision makers  who are going to take that business case and and   decide whether a decision is going to go forward  or the decision is going to go forward or not   so business cases serve a lot of purposes  within organizations and they you know   have a a pretty strong relationship to project  management in particular but they also have a a   really important part in sort of documenting the  impetus behind a decision and the values that an   organization has that led to certain decisions  either being made or certain alternatives being   considered or not considered so there are more  benefits to doing a business case than just   supporting a project being chartered there are  additional things that help structure and provide   a little bit of a identity to organizations  as well when looking through artifacts so   many things that a business case does I highly  recommend the pmi guide to business analysis   for looking at business cases in terms of how  they're structured and what the purposes of them   are especially because of the tie-ins to project  management there but again it's not just about   chartering projects it's about documenting  good decision making within an organization and these slides will be distributed afterwards so so a few things about what a  business case is and is not   a business case is persuasive through analysis  rather than persuasive through rhetoric so   this is a key thing i think for a lot of people  to realize that you know this is why a business   analyst is often helping with a business case  the persuasive pieces of a business case are the   facts that are documented and the modeling that  is done to systematically evaluate alternatives   not the persuasive rhetoric that we see  in you know a lot of political arenas   you know in sales pitches things like that I'm not  looking to persuade you with my words and telling   you that something is the best thing since sliced  bread I'm looking to tell you that I've identified   and systematically examined a set of alternatives  and this one is the best one in these categories   of performance so it's really about persuasion  through analysis rather than rhetoric this is not   the time to bust out the thesaurus and and use all  of the you know super persuasive and politically   charged words this is the time to really dig  deep and do a lot of data collection and analysis business cases are objective rather than  subjective and there are little stars here   because especially my master's students kind  of lose it a little bit when I say that they're   objective and not subjective you know there's  a hint of subjectivity in everything right   but the idea here is that we are looking to  to identify a set of criteria a set of facts   and use those to do the analysis  rather than collecting opinions systematically and providing you know an  opinion of what each alternative would   entail and which one is preferable so we're  looking for objectivity in business cases   a business case is the documentation of a process  to arrive at a recommendation it's not just a   document that retroactively discusses a decision  that's already been made this is probably the   biggest misconception and the thing that I see  the most in dealing with business cases is that   we're looking we're we're assigning  people to go back and retroactively   document a decision that they weren't a  part of and that has already been made   so the point of the business case is to arrive at  a recommendation yes but you also want to document   how you got there what assumptions and constraints  were identified which alternatives were considered   and the common understanding of  the background that was reached   to understand what exactly the problem or  opportunity was that was being addressed a business case is also a systematic  review of each alternative   it is not just focused on the preferred course  of action or the single course of action   that's recommended so that's that's a key  point as well you want to make sure that   you are really considering each alternative  to show that you've done the due diligence   and that the decision that that would be made  based on the recommendation in the business   case is the best decision with the known  information at the time for the organization and then lastly there is a tendency to equate  business cases with cost-benefit analyses   cost-benefit analysis is a great tool and  most business cases make some sort of use   of cost-benefit analysis but cost-benefit  analysis is not the only tool and it is   definitely not the only thing that is needed for  a business case so cost benefit analysis really   requires the monetization of both the costs of  a course of action and the benefits that will   be reached by that course of action and with  business cases especially in the public sector   there are all different types of data and  measurements that are used in business cases some   things that we look at are not easily quantifiable  and they're certainly not easily monetized   you know especially if we're talking about  things that may result in loss of life it's very   difficult to monetize those things in a way that  reflects most government agency values and things   like that so you want to make sure that you're  being inclusive of all data and measurement types   and not just looking to do a cost benefit analysis  that may miss some of the nuance that is necessary   to make the decision so additionally there  are many things that a lot of people think are   substitutes for business cases and you know  depending on the organization and the purpose of   the business case some of these things may suffice  but a business case is really a specific type of   decision making process and the documentation  that comes out of that decision making process   so while case studies pilots white papers position  statements sales pitches opinion pieces are   all great they are not business cases they are  they are typically voicing support for a single   course of action not systematically  identifying alternatives and measuring the   expected values out of those and they are  looking to persuade that a single point of   a single set of actions is the best set of  actions rather than starting with a problem   and systematically identifying alternatives so you  know again a lot of these things are great and a   lot of them can be used in place of business  cases depending on what your organization is   looking to accomplish with a business case  but they are not in fact business cases so again a business case is about the process  to create a business case not just the document   itself I can't tell you how many times  I've seen folks skip straight to the end   and and try to sit down and write a business  case without doing any of the intermediary steps   to create a business case for a decision that's  already been made that's that's more akin to a   policy position statement or a position statement  or a white paper rather than a business case   so with business cases we're  really looking to take those steps   to go through the process and document  the process in the business case as you go there are a lot of tools and suggestions  out there about what a business case   process looks like I think one of the easiest  ones that i have found to follow that's also   conveniently one of the shortest I know  how we all like quick and to the point   documentation but Harvard business review press  is developing a business case it's a short read   for you state employees it's available on  o'reilly through the state library and it walks   through basically these seven steps ialter them  slightly but that's that's basically what this is   and really it starts with defining the problem  and opportunity figuring out what exactly your   problem is that you're trying to solve or  the opportunity that's been presented to your   organization from their identifying alternatives  that will address that problem or opportunity   gathering data and estimating time frames they  focus a lot on time frames in developing a   business case some other organizations might focus  on you know the specific budget that's allocated   but either way you know you'll you'll want to  gather data and and estimate the critical pieces   that are required to make a decision there's  analyzing the alternatives and making the choice   based on that analysis so again the whole  until step five here we have not made a choice   we don't know which alternative we're going with  necessarily we're open to the possibilities that   arise from our analysis and then from there  getting into some of the details that would   lead to the actual taking of the action based  on the recommendation so creating a plan for   implementation and communicating the business  case so it's it's at the end there that we start   with the actual formal business case document  there's lots of documentation in the meantime   but if you're sitting down to write a formal  business case as the first step you're kind of   starting from the end and really it's about having  those conversations getting that process together   so that you can make a informed strategic  decision within your organization so that said there are elements of a formal  business case and this is another resource that   I recommend leveraging business analysis for  project success by Vicki James has some great   information around business cases as well but like  we mentioned not all business cases are formal   business cases they all contain some element  of these pieces though so you know when i was   making a decision about whether I would stay home  in my you know cold powerless house or or move   somewhere else I considered several alternatives  came up the recommendation and we came up with   an implementation approach as well which was move  as soon as possible but these elements are always   there even if they're not formally documented in  a written business case so you know your business   need and rationale otherwise known as your  problem or opportunity that that all kind of comes   together your alternatives that are considered  and the evaluation of those alternatives   your recommendation and that's a that's a key  point as well you have to actually recommend   something in your business case that's that's the  point so you know if your business case leaves   the recommendation up to the reader we've kind  of missed the last step there and then the   implementation approach and evaluation measures  or how the effectiveness of the solution will be   measured so these these are more about the success  criteria that are going to go into your program   or project and and how the data from the business  case gets translated there so really important   again you need the actual consideration  of the alternatives for each alternative   this isn't a case where you can pick one and  then do the risk assessment and cost benefit   analysis and figure out you know the deliverables  of that alternative this is a requirement for each   alternative that's being considered this is the  way that you know that you are truly comparing   alternatives on the on all of the criteria that  are important to the organization and laying out   the justification for the recommendation that  you'll make at the end of the business case so one of the fun questions and discussions we  have a lot is when is a documented business case   needed and believe it or not even though I work  for EIS and deal with business cases all the time   the answer is not always there are times when it  definitely makes sense to document a business case   and times when it probably doesn't so on the  definitely side of things any super complex   decision making process where there are lots of  steps lots of stakeholders many different criteria   many different alternatives you know if if  there is a truly complex process that leads to a   decision that would be hard for someone to come in  and understand based on you know just observation   or or dealing with the agency or organization  that's when you want to start documenting the   business case and the process by which you got  to the decision that was made by the organization   I think that complexity is different for  each organization some things that are   really complex for some organizations  may be routine decisions for others   so there is a bit of you know it depends here with  what constitutes a complex decision-making process   wicked problems are another place where it makes  sense to document business cases wicked problems   are those where there is no clear solution  and there are lots of stakeholders with   varying and often different needs or  or levels of benefit received from   various alternatives and in most wicked problems  someone will end up suffering some sort of harm   as a result so when making those decisions and  thinking through the alternatives a business case   and the process to create a business case can  be really helpful to ensure that stakeholders   are involved and that the assumptions made  about various levels of stakeholder engagement   awareness and level of harm that is potentially  going to result from addressing the problem   is really important to kind of have that  accountability and be able to look back   and see where maybe some of those  assumptions or constraints were off novel decisions if an organization is  making a decision for the very first time   maybe you know the decision to digitize a a formal  formerly paper based process and you know buying a   first enterprise software system or something like  that those kinds of novel decisions that haven't   been made before are also great potential business  cases where there's a benefit to the organization   to documenting the process again by which they  arrive at a recommendation and make a decision   and can potentially use that to to inform  other decision making processes in the future   and then this one is my favorite documenting  wisdom or intuition based decisions and   preventing shiny objects so very often we  have decision makers that intuitively know   what the right answer is and that can be based on  a lot of things including you know years of wisdom   education experience all kinds of things  but getting to a point where we can start   sharing that kind of wisdom through the  documentation of their decision-making process   helps make that available to others as well so  it's about knowledge sharing in those cases and   making sure that the knowledge that these folks  have is accessible and in a lot of cases where   intuition does not yield the expected results  that come from a decision maybe we can look   back at some of those assumptions and constraints  that were presed to be there that didn't bear out and then shiny objects we've all been there  where someone goes to a conference or you know   meets with the sales rep and sees the next best  great thing that they have to have with no real   understanding of you know what it will do for  the organization how it fits in why it would   be important so this is really about preventing  the shiny object from distracting from what the   organization actually needs and what the  organization would actually benefit from   so we're preventing the window shopping from  turning into reality without a great understanding   of how the organization can actually make use of  those things you probably don't want to document a   formal business case when you're in an emergency  if you stop to document a formal business case   when the building's on fire that's probably  not the best time you know there are a lot of   different scenarios that can bear out in terms of  emergencies some that require immediate action and   if you're if you need to act immediately it's not  the time to document a business case that doesn't   mean that there won't be some sort of business  case conducted though you know very often teams   get together and triage emergencies and do a sort  of informal business case type process where you   know everyone lays out their assumptions about  what the situation is and proposes ideas for how   to address it and a recommendation ends up being  made that's that is the business case process   so documenting formal business cases in  emergencies probably not but emergencies   often do have a sort of informal business case  process that's observable amongst responding teams   and then routine business decisions again  these are going to depend on the organization   you know a decision to close early for schools  is probably different than a decision to close   early for a restaurant the restaurant probably  makes that decision on a fairly regular basis   so it's going to depend on what your organization  is but routine business decisions definitely   don't necessarily need a documented  business case every time a decision is made again the key thing here is it depends on the  organization so you know something that's novel   for one is going to be routine for another or  vice versa something that needs an immediate   response or has some discretion for how long  the agency takes to respond to it you know those   are those are going to depend by the individual  organizations and what their characteristics are   smaller organizations probably are going to you  know not spend a million dollars on on purchases   or projects on a regular basis whereas very  large organizations probably do that routinely   so there are all kinds of different  you know ways that you can slice   that pie in terms of which decisions require  business cases and which don't but the key is to   understand the organization and know what makes  sense for the organization to document formally so let me stop there real quick and just ask  if there are any questions or anything anyone   wants to talk about we're going to get into  some examples in the next couple sections   this was just about laying out the sort of  definitional what is a business case and   how does it play into organizations and and  what's you know kind of the background there all right folks just been quiet  throw your questions in there come on   come on and it's okay if  there are any I'm gonna ask   you guys to start thinking up some creative  stuff in the next couple slides here so okay so structuring the business case this is  in my mind this is the most important part of   the whole thing because you have to have  that foundation to be able to create the   shared understanding and make the argent that your  alternatives are the best alternatives to consider   before you can actually get into  recommending a specific course of action   and Rebecca we did good question okay sure  when he's asking is there an expected length   of a business case ooh that is that is a hard  question so you know the professor and me says   as long as you need to make the point that you are  trying to make there isn't an expected length of a   business case they're going to vary depending on  what the type of decision is how well known the   process is to the organization that is making  the decision and and really you know what kind of   background and level of detail is needed to to  really make the case for what the problem is   and what the various alternatives are to to solve  it the closest i could get to a recommendation in   terms of length would be a nber of alternatives  the most that I've seen recommended and that you   know based on a lot of the sort of social  science decision making science that's out   there would be six at the at the maxim beyond  that is a little bit cognitively difficult   for most people to actually keep straight so so  I can't give you a page limit but I would say you   know no more than six alternatives is is generally  what I recommend and what I have seen recommended okay so structuring the case setting the  stage for the problem and opportunity the background information in a business case is  critical and it's one of the things that I see   skipped a lot we delve right into what the problem  or opportunity is without really setting the stage   and creating a common understanding of of  what the environment is that we're working in   so background information in a business case helps  the business analyst or whoever is writing the   business case to confirm a common understanding  with the intended audience of the business case   including the decision maker that is the ultimate  receiver of the business case it also helps to   select appropriate framing for the problem and  opportunity and also to identify alternatives   so when we're talking about background  information what we're really talking about   is the understanding of what the organization is  the environment or context that the organization   is within and then who the decision makers are  so you know your environment and context includes   a lot of things like you know if you're a  public sector organization what laws and   statutes are you subject to you know what key  partners do you have where do you fit in the   you know federal state local hierarchy in terms  of the organization we you know want to understand   what the history of the organization is  how decisions have been made in the past   where the organization's  really at in its life cycle   and then for decision makers it's it's really  critical to know what drives decision makers what   their positions are what their you know key areas  of focus are if you're giving a you know business   case to a cio versus a cfo you may you know have  different areas of emphasis that are important   there's typically a reason that someone is  the or some position is the decision maker   and understanding what that position is and how it  fits into the organization is is really important   so with with these things we're looking to kind of  document the pieces of the organization's history   and and current existence the environment and  context and the aspects of the decision makers   and their positions that are critical for  the decision that is going to be made as a   result of the business case it doesn't have  to be you know the full history of you know   the state of Oregon if you're a state agency  for example but if you're you know talking   about let's say healthcare exchanges would  probably be important to have some of that   history that's related to that kind of work  included in the background of the business case and most critical oh yes go ahead sorry  to interrupt you there but we've got a   couple more questions in the chat you want  to handle them now yes absolutely all right   Jennifer's asking is a business  case done before a charter   so typically no yes sorry a business case is  done before a charter and informs that charter   so hopefully your recommendation at the end of  your business case is the thing that will be the   impetus for chartering a project to carry out that  recommendation so business case before charter   all right and then the other one Dan is  asking in your experience what have you   seen from organizations in identifying problems  or opportunities that lead to a business case   and a second question what step precedes define  the problem opportunity and third part as a   risk analyst can a risk assessment serve as  a means to identify problems or opportunities   so want me to restate the first part so the yes  yes i do okay so in your experience what have you   seen from organizations in identifying problems  opportunities that lead to a business case there are a lot of different pieces that lead to   identifying problems or  opportunities for a business case there are a lot of things that come out of  especially audits assessments and reports   if you're talking you know public sector  especially people get audited have reports   issued about their performance or you know  certain parts of the organization's structure   all the time so a lot of those will lead to  identifications of problems or opportunities   stakeholders and the extent to which stakeholders  are engaged in the governance of organizations   or consulted through you know opinion surveys  and you know exit interviews those kinds of   things I've I've seen a lot of problem  statements especially come out of those   you know stakeholders are much more likely to be  vocal when there's a problem rather than you know   an opportunity so I see a lot of  business cases come out of those   and then there are mandates too I think there  are a lot of you know I think with the change   in the federal administration we'll see a lot of  business cases come out of new federal mandates   I would expect the same thing if there's a change  in governor in as a result of the 2022 election   for state agencies so you know i think that there  are a lot of different ways to have problems   especially surface the opportunities are a lot  more dependent on decision makers and stakeholders   you know expressing interest or in some cases  seeing something work in some other part of   their lives or their professional experience  and wondering if the same thing could be   possible for the organization that  they're working within but honestly   in my experience problems drive a lot more  business cases than opportunities seem to okay and the second part what step  proceeds to find the problem opportunity   so it's in what I've seen is is very similar  to kind of what I just answered I guess   where there's some sort of inflection point or  trigger to spark the interest of either a decision   maker or an organization as a whole to address  something so you know a report a news story   seeing something and you know just wondering  if something could be done better pain points   survey results those kinds of things are what  typically precedes the define the problem piece   of the business case process I think because  really that defined the problem is digging in   and and figuring out exactly what the scope of  that problem is and where where the business   decision is to be made so I think it's it's  kind of that whatever that spark is that   that leads to the understanding that maybe there's  something here worth investigating and evaluating cool and the third part you partially answered  already but maybe you could get a little bit   more specific for us as a risk analyst can a risk  assessment serve as a means to identify problems   or opportunities yes oh gosh yes if we could  do more risk assessments i would ask for risk   assessments on so many things but risk assessments  are great because they identify specific problems   that are known to be causing risk to the  organization or or potentially be exploitable   by those that we don't want to exploit them so  i think that that is a great a great trigger   for the investigation that comes with a business  case and the process to create a business case because there is nothing better than  having a documented and known risk   to start evaluating alternatives to  address that risk I think so yes risks   risk assessments are fantastic and  I think that they're great sort of   early parts of a business case you know often will  involve that sort of risk assessment there's also   a a portion of the evaluation of alternatives  that involves considering risk you know in most   cases it's not feasible to do a risk assessment in  the same way that we would do for something that   already exists but to the extent that those  same kinds of practices and principles can   be applied to hypothetical alternatives I  would definitely encourage people to consider   discussing discussing business cases with risk  risk professionals to look at the ability to   better evaluate the risk component of the  alternatives that are being considered awesome thank you great great questions I  love it so yeah and you know speaking of risk   assessments that would be a great part of both  the organization and then also the environment   and context in which organizations sit as part  of that background you know if if there are news   stories or professional associations where  people are talking about risk assessments on   organizations similar to yours that have  had findings that need to be addressed   considering the same kind of thing for  your organization would make sense too   the key the star players of the background are the  organization's mission vision and values you know   most organizations have defined in particular  mission statements and vision statements for   the organization a little bit less common but  getting there are our values and value statements   considering those when looking at the background  of the organization is really important because   those will help identify what the pieces of the  organization's mission are that may be part of   what is being addressed by the business case and  may also help steer towards certain alternatives   or courses of action to consider the key thing  with this is especially for those that are   new to organizations or have never you  know written a business case before   again this is not about writing the full history  of your organization from the you know the day   the idea of the organization was conceived it's  about making sure that you have a good grasp on   what the organization does how it functions and  and what it values so that you can use that to   better structure your business case  so you know iencourage people to do a   lot of research and ask a lot of questions  and it doesn't all make it into the final   formal documentation but it's valuable to have as  knowledge as you go into the process of helping   you know structure the decision-making process  that will occur as part of the business case defining the problem is critical so if you don't  define the problem in a way that is mutually   agreed to or define a problem in a way that you  know is unclear and leads to ambiguity amongst   your stakeholders and decision decision makers  you're not going to have the outcome of the   business case process that you're hoping for if  people think that you know if half the people   think that you're talking about one thing and  really you're talking about another that that   input is not going to be as valuable and not going  to lead you to the kind of certainty that you'll   want to have to make that recommendation with  confidence so defining the problem is critical   if you define the problem well it's half  solved you know classic saying especially in   social sciences and then you know it's not a  presentation without a grpy cat graphic but you   want to make sure especially when you're talking  about organizations and those that are looking to   address problems that everyone understands  what the problem is that's being addressed   if the glass is half empty or half full it doesn't  matter if the problem was that no one had a mug   so grpy cat with some wisdom there but the key  point here is that you know you want to make   sure that there is some consistency and some  mutual understanding of what the problem is   that's being addressed same thing with opportunity  if you're you're phrasing your problem and as an   opportunity instead that everyone understands and  is on the same page about what that opportunity is so you want people to be together in terms of understanding what  is happening and what is being considered   but there is some discretion here as the business  case author as well in terms of where you steer   people towards and how you document the problem  so in social science we call this framing and   basically framing is choosing what's important  and not including the things that are not you   know there's the tendency to over frame and you  know really just include the pieces of information   that are most critical it's important to get  get a full picture and give a full picture of   of the problem and the  environment in which it exists   but ultimately you're choosing how to say what  the problem is and the way in which it is said so this may be as simple as you know taking a  problem and phrasing it in a common language   that you see in the vision and values of the  organization it may be specifically speaking   to the mission statement a problem you know  with service delivery isn't just a problem   with service delivery it's a problem with service  delivery because we're not meeting our mission   it's important to consider what's impactful to  stakeholders so you know when we're talking about   certain types of decisions especially around  sensitive populations you want to make sure that   you're considering what the stakeholders will  find impactful and not offensive and and will   help them understand what it is that we're  saying the problem actually is you know i think   in terms of you know recent examples of this a lot  of the discussions around reopening after covid   or during coven are are part of this right  where there are discussions that are being   had about reopening and where people have  chosen to focus and what they've chosen   to focus on is really dependent on what  their values are and what they find to be   most impactful maybe focusing on schools  is more impactful than focusing on gyms   you know maybe focusing on economic livelihoods is  more important than focusing on social impacts or   vice versa but it's about phrasing those problems  facing phrasing those those opportunities in ways   that are impactful and have the ability to convey  the importance of the problem to the organization   if you're really having the stretch to figure  out how to make people think that something is   important there's always the possibility that  it is either on the more routine side of the   decision making process for an organization maybe  it doesn't need a business case because of that   or it's always possible that there are just  more pressing and bigger priorities happening   so you know there's only so much you can do with  framing before you get into the you know kind of   dicey side of business cases and and trying to  influence through you know careful word choice so   be aware of that but also you know make sure that  you're speaking the language of the organization   and the language of the stakeholders that  you're trying to impact and and understand   and then like I mentioned with the you  know the cio versus the cfo understand   what concerns your decision makers most if we're  you know talking information security versus   you know costs focusing on one of those things  over the other may have a bigger impact and may   help your stakeholders and decision makers  understand the decision that is going to be asked   of them as a result of your business case as well so framing choosing how to say things   and also you know leaving out the parts  that are not important to understand and all of that all that background all  of that framing leads us to the problem   or opportunity statement I've seen this called  a couple of other things in various texts and   business analysis documentation guides but  essentially this is the crux of the business case   second maybe only to the final recommendation   really it's about identifying specifically  what the problem is that is going to be solved   or at least addressed through the recommendation  that is made after the alternatives are identified   and I can't I can't overstate the criticality  of this enough it's it is important to be clear   concise and you know have as much specificity as  you can in the problem and opportunity statement   to prevent thinking that they're having folks  think that there are different problems being   addressed or solved by the single business  case that isn't to say that these can't   be long especially if there is a specific you  know problem that has a lot of different pieces   a lot of different effects and a lot of different  impacts as long as you're clear about what the   problem is and how it works to the detriment of  the organization that's that's what we're looking   for here same thing to be said for opportunities  and how they can benefit the organization   opportunity statements are a little bit more  difficult because they are by nature a little   bit more hypothetical so there may not be known  data points in the same way that there are with   problem statements but we're looking for as much  clarity and specificity as you can get in terms of   what the expected effects of the opportunity  are and what the impact of the outcomes   from those effects would be so each problem or  opportunity statement has the same basic structure   there is a problem of whatever the problem is  that has the effect of specific you know known   effects of that problem and those known effects  have the impact of creating certain outcomes   that result so i have an example down here and  we'll kind of use this example going forward too   for the next couple pieces but you know iwork with  an organization that does a lot of contracting   with local governments to place students in paid  internships and those internships can be hard to   come by so as an example of a problem statement  we have here the organization does not have many   contracts with local governments to place students  in paid internships and has only placed 10 percent   of these positions in the last three graduating  cohorts nearly 60 percent of graduating students   said this impacted the quality of their education  and exit interviews so in this case the problem   is that we don't have contracts to place students  and paid internships and the effect is that only   10 percent of students get paid internships  and our outcome here is that we have a   majority of students saying that their quality  of education was impacted I'm assuming negatively   as a result of that so it can be that that simple  you know creating a argent that connects the   specific effect to the specific impact this is  not the time to describe the preferred alternative   I've seen many many business cases where the  problem is that they don't the organization   does not have this the specific gadget or  software that they want so the effect is that   they can't use that software and the impact  is that they still don't have that software   obviously the alternative is going to be that  it's going to be selected is to get that software   this is this is not the time to make the argent  for the preferable preferred alternative that's   for your analysis to speak to and you to then use  your analysis to make that recommendation if you   set your problem or opportunity statement up that  way you preclude all the other alternatives and   your analysis doesn't make sense so really  this is about focusing on the organization   being completely alternative agnostic and you know  trying to create a concise and clear statement of   what the problem is the specific effects of  that problem and the impacts that that has on   the organization and again this is where framing  comes in you know framing something as a problem   or as an opportunity is you know your first choice  in terms of framing so you know some organizations   respond more quickly to problems than they  do to opportunities some decision makers   are looking to alleviate problems before  they're looking to exploit opportunities   so you know there's your first framing  opportunity but you know again choosing   which data points to focus on choosing which  outcomes to focus on if you can't focus on   them all that's a framing choice and and really  speaking to your stakeholders and decision makers   there is is important and ensuring that  you're capturing what's most important to them Rebecca yes go ahead this is probably  a good spot for this question   can you talk about the role of a sponsor during  the development of a business case yes that's   Brittany with the great questions as always all  of these questions have been great the role of   the sponsor is critical they're not technically  a sponsor yet per se because there's nothing to   sponsor but as a as a potential future sponsor  the you know the business analyst or whoever   is writing the business case is not going to be  able to sit in a room and do this by themselves   the role of the sponsor the role of the decision  makers is really to help guide the definition   of the problem and opportunity statement and  focus in on on what exactly it is that they're   looking to address without necessarily saying  that they're looking for a business case that   will support the thing that they want to do and  have their heart set on so there's a there's a   really important role for structuring here for the  sponsor and you know those those folks if anything   bear the responsibility and accountability for the  quality of the business case because they you know   are the ones that are setting the tone for what  the the business case will ultimately speak to and   are also providing the key information that will  help structure the alternatives they're kind of   the subject matter experts if you will at this  point in the the business case game because they   they are the ones who know the organization  and know what their you know decision-making   processes are going to be what's important to  them and can help make those kinds of connections   for the business analyst who who may not have  that information without consulting with them okay so yes this is where the sponsor and  the business analysts kind of get together   and if there are other decision makers  and stakeholders helping them define   the problem and opportunity as well is really  important so that everyone's on the same page in terms of assumptions and constraints this is  the other piece that comes out of the background   so it is really important to know what is  constraining your organization what the   limitations are and how how those may impact the  alternatives that you can evaluate as well as the   alternatives that will be selected same thing  with assumptions although assumptions are often   are often made at the at different levels within  this case as well so for constraints constraints   are limiting factors that affect the execution  of a project program portfolio or process   so things like you know the budget  process if you're a public organization   things like you know your scope of service   if you operate jurisdictionally your jurisdiction  is a constraint you probably can't go outside your   jurisdiction there are things like that that  are known constraints that you can identify in terms of assumptions assumptions are factors  that are considered to be true real or certain   without proof or demonstration so we we make a  lot of assumptions about how people respond to   certain efforts how stakeholders think or feel  absent the ability to collect information from   them about that and also you know as as we model  the different alternatives and think about how   they'll play out as part of the analysis we make  assumptions at the alternative level as well   so you know it's important  to consider alternatives   the assumptions for alternatives additionally  but not solely there should be assumptions that   you can make based on the background information  that you've gathered about what the problem is and   how the organization has positioned itself to be  able to respond to it there are also dependencies   that are external factors to the effort that  impact success so you know things like if you're   if you're looking to have the legislature do  something for a an organization you know you're   kind of dependent on the legislature meeting  right now which you know with covid and the   ice storm we just had there's a dependency there  and some uncertainty there so you may need to to   make that a little bit clearer in your business  case as well if there are dependencies like that as an example so going back to my my organization  that doesn't have enough internships for students   one assumption that I would make in that business  case to address that problem is that there are   students available to fill openings for work-based  learning opportunities if that there are students   who are interested in these internships you know  i think the that's a fairly decent assumption   because you know 60 of students are saying in  their exit interviews that they thought their   education quality was affected by that but that's  still an assumption we don't know for sure that   all 60 would have been interested and actually  filled an internship position if it was available   so you know I think it's a safe assumption to  make but it's definitely an assumption still   by contrast the constraint would be that by by  university rule the maxim contract length that can   be entered into within a student for an internship  is a year from a fall semester or fall quarter   through a smer quarter so we can't do anything  about that that is the that is the the rule   and as far as the dependency goes you  know there's all kinds of purchasing   and processes going on because of  covid so you know there are university   procedures and processes in  place to get some remote work   software and capabilities stood up so the ability  of students to do remote based internships   is going to be dependent on the outcome of  that that project and what is procured there so that kind of shows what an assumption versus a  constraint is and throws in a dependency just for   fun but that's that's kind of what we're looking  for in terms of you know level specificity and   and looking at constraints and assumptions  at the overarching business case level there's also like I said alternative level  assumptions so assumptions that you make   about the alternatives and how they'll function  as you go through and create your alternatives   so here if I have an alternative that requires  creating a cooperative agreement with other   universities to have an internship program maybe  an assumption would be that that cooperative   agreement will yield equal contracting  opportunities for all parties involved   so we won't have to worry about fighting for  internships with the cooperative partners it   would be a cooperative that ensures everyone gets  equal opportunity for internships assumption that   you know asses quite a bit I think but would be  valid for that particular alternative in this case so once you have your your problem framed  and you have your assumptions and constraints   at that sort of overarching business case level  and you have buy-in on what those are and your you   know stakeholders are in agreement that that is  the problem to be solved your your decision makers   and organizational assets are agreeing that yes  those constraints are are real and constrain our   ability to act and everyone kind of agrees  that yes these assumptions seem reasonable   based on what we know based on our history based  on the organization's you know past experiences   then we get into the alternatives analysis  piece and really I'm just going to talk about   alternatives identification because there  are so many different ways to identify or to   evaluate alternatives many different tools and  techniques that can be used and you know this is   this is not a sufficient for in this length to  get into all of them because there are so many   but individual ones i would suggest you  know pursuing as you as you find interested   so identifying alternatives consider there are an  infinite nber of ways to respond to any problem   if you just think about you know trying to answer  the question of what should i do this evening   there are infinite nbers of possibilities  even if you just consider you know different   shows on netflix right that's that's  a whole bunch of them so you know   how do you choose among infinite possibilities  which alternatives do you choose to consider   this is where your your background and your  assumptions and constraints come into play   because you're not just using them to you know  to to structure your problem statement you're   using them to also identify different ways  that are feasible for you to respond to your   your problem so assumptions and constraints  provide boundaries in social science we have   this thing called bounded rationality where  the idea is that there are so many different   there are so many different ways to respond to  things and so many different pieces of information   that we as you know rational han beings as  much as we can research and understand and   know will never have perfect information  to make the perfect decision so you know   your assumptions and constraints help create  a boundary around which parts of the infinite   universe you're going to consider as potential  ways to respond to your problem or opportunity and your problem or opportunity statement then  helps you identify within that sort of you know   boundary based on your assumptions and constraints  a smaller subset that actually respond directly to   the problem the impacts and the effects  that you identified as part of your   problem or opportunity statement so  you know you're looking to use those   and have those be actual pieces that can be  used to structure your analysis more closely   and and hone in on those alternatives that make  the most sense to pursue so like I mentioned as   a response to another question earlier the most  I've ever seen recommended for alternatives to   to actually evaluate is six most business cases  have between three and five that I've seen   three is probably as low as I would go and one  of those is is almost always the status quo   so you know you're talking about a a fairly small  subset of the infinite universe but it should be a   subset that you've successfully made the argent  for being the most relevant subset based on the   information you provided to this point in the  business case and the information you validated   with your stakeholders and decision decision  makers to this point in the business case the other thing that is a possibility and  I've seen used very well is the alternatives   identified but not considered category where you  know because of some past history or because you   know an organization's tried it before or there's  you know a political there's no political appetite   for a certain type of alternative we can identify  those as things that we know are out there we know   exist but we're not going to fully explore with  a full alternatives analysis for each of those   so you know that's that is a possibility as  well the worst thing that can happen with   an alternatives analysis is going through the  process of creating and you know fully evaluating   your you know three to six alternatives and  then having you know a key stakeholder or   a decision maker go well what about this  one over here why didn't we consider that   so the key here is to try and avoid that  by making the case that those are the   you know three to six alternatives that that that  are the most relevant to address the problem or   opportunity and then also ensuring that you are  aware that other alternatives may exist out there   and have some sort of reasoning  based in that background information   or assumptions and constraints for why  those are not included in the full analysis so if we go back to my example of not having  enough internships here I've identified four   alternatives the first being the status quo  keep everything as it is and just accept that   you know we'll only place ten  percent of students in internships   and then three alternatives that are new hiring  additional staff to recruit new organizations   for internship placements entering into a  cooperative agreement with other universities   or setting up a new program for  simulated real world learning experiences   so you know all of those kind of have some way  of addressing the problem that you know students   don't feel like they got the quality out of their  education by not having a real world internship   in very different ways so there this is where  the creativity comes in this is where it's   really important to engage stakeholders you  never know who's gonna have that you know   brilliant spark that's in that little part of  the universe that fits within your boundaries but   could be a critical part of structuring your  business case and and making you know a really   great recommendation that hasn't been considered  yet and then in terms of alternatives identified   but not considered you know in this case asking  the legislature for permission to privatize and   asking the legislature for permission  to enter into contracts with nonprofits   since both of those consider or require  asking the legislature to do something   that's you know ou

2021-03-03 19:58

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