When an Executive Management Team ask me to speak to them about how they can adopt portfolio management across their organisation, one of the first questions I ask is “Out of 10, How happy are you with the quality of your business cases, 10 being super happy”. 99% of the time the answer is 3 or 4, which is usually expressed to me with with a slightly embarrassed frown and lowering of the head (a bit like a guilty puppy).
My response is, “don’t worry, you’re not dissimilar to most other organizations – at least you know you’re a 3 or 4!”. The reason I always ask this is because it enables me to understand what other challenges will more than like exist and what I achieve quickly with the portfolio. For example, if people know they have low quality business cases for their projects it usually means that”
1) It’s going to be challenging (if not impossible) to create a quick picture that shows the overall return on investment (ROI) for the portfolio.
2) The project investment process probably isn’t defined and adding as much value as it could
3) The Executive decision-making and governance processes are probably not incorporated fully into the business case process
4) Projects are more than likely not prioritized (after all how can you prioritize effectively if you don’t know what the ROI is on your projects?)
5) Business areas such as HR, IT, Finance are probably not consulted as well as they should be in the business case sign off process – which means some of those depts may already feel that projects are thrown at them
6) A benefits eligibility guidance probably doesn’t exist, which means project managers are more than likely not defining benefits in a standard way.
7 ) In some cases (particularly in Finance and Government organizations), some projects may have used “cost avoidance savings” in the financial section of the business case, and then used that ‘perceived saving’ as the financial basis to invest in the project (which is WRONG!).
I’m zooming on business cases for this blog because I’ve just seen the APMG International newsletter about their Better Business Case certification, which launches 1st May. I cant go but I’m excited about this because having a good business case is the source for so many other fabulous things in the portfolio – in fact I would argue that it is one of the keys to success for any portfolio.
Here’s all the information you need about the Better Business Case launch and course. Get there if you can and let me know how it goes!