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  • Writer's pictureJohn Lowry

Business Case Development - A New Mindset

Updated: Aug 4, 2023

Milvio D, ICT project Portfolio Leader, Strategy Implementation Institute Professional, Better Business Cases Practitioner and Managing Benefits Practitioner, posted the following checklist on Linkedin.

"The Victorian Government has developed this great investment decision makers checklist that any sponsoring organisation and accountable officer should answer before fully funding any capital investment in programmes or projects.

The Investment Decision-Maker’s Checklist is a set of 16 Questions that focuses on the 4 key elements of problem, response and solution.

Every programme and project board should use this against regular highlight reporting.

These questions can be asked, in part or in their entirety, at various stages in the decision process to test the robustness of programme and project delivery of organisational investment objectives and key KPI's.

Remember the purpose of a decision point in any management stage is to independently assess if the initiative should continue, discontinue or vary the scope of implementation against return on investment and impact to benefits realisation".

Why will it end up in the Checklist Graveyard?

This is an excellent checklist for developing a business case - just like we've been offering for the past 40 + years. I'm thinking of the public works procedures manuals I've seen over the years. All excellent process oriented volumes, collated with intellectual rigour.

So why don't we do it?

Reading three new influential books together, "How Big Things Get Done" (Flyvberg), "Influence is your Superpower" (Chance) (suggested on LinkedIn), and "Systemology" (Jenyns) offer a wonderful insight into what influences decision-making and how to produce more consistent results.

It turns out that emotion influences almost all decisions more than analytical analysis. Flyvberg touches on this as "psychology". The other inhibitor to good decision-making, particularly in public works, is politics (Flyvberg).

Everyone wants the shiny new stadium - it makes us feel good, politicians can be seen to care, designers & builders want the work. The game is to get momentum so that the job must go on, even though budgets and timing are out of control.

Olympic Games have one of the worst records of failing to meet budgets, partly because they have an unmovable deadline. IT projects have an even worse record of success, partly driven by enthusiasm to get to market quickly and by the old notion that the work cannot be scoped and is, by its nature, unable to be predicted.

Why let facts get in the way?

To make use of the above analysis, an organisation needs to identify the "detail" person who is turned on by research of this type, to assemble the data and undertake the analysis, to go forward to decision makers.(Systemology). Of course this can, and has (from personal experience) resulted in the game of "shoot the messenger" if the answer does not align with the political and psychological interests of the decision makers.

A good deal of education to improve decision-making culture is required. This must prioritise personal, financial and other corporate benefits for taking such a course.

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