How to get your business case approved first time

Getting a decision is the culmination of the long process of preparing a business case

But it isn’t just about giving the decision-maker what they want but requires that you accurately read what they need and value, their interests and priorities and then make sure you present your report so that it addresses these critical success factors.

It is vital to understand what is essential to the decision-maker, before proceeding to present them your recommendation.

Here are some key principles on how to get the decisions you want.

  1. Don’t assume that your recommendation will automatically get approved. It is your responsibility to convince the decision-maker. It is a good strategy to test the water beforehand if possible, by consulting key influencers and advisers, ask their opinions and listen and making adjustments based on what you learn. It is particularly important to address the relevant funding criteria 
  2. Focus on what’s important and ignore the trivial and irrelevant. Don’t try and present everything you know about the proposal. As you have been working so closely it for so long you can lose perspective, so sift our the less important and keep to the vital few points.
  3. Effectively presenting the case so that is readily understood by decision-makers – they are often ‘lay professionals’, that is they know the strategic overview but not the technical details (that is what they employ you for!). Think about how you can limit time and effort they have to spend in understanding what the proposal is about.
  4. Promote the benefits and how they align with community expectations. Strategic alignment really means helping a decision-maker get what they want (or what is in their performance agreement with their political masters).
  5. Emphasise value for money, present the argument that the benefits exceed costs, that there is a positive return on investment. This may require supplementing a quantitative cost-benefit analysis with a qualitative assessment of some of the benefits that may be difficult to quantify in dollar terms.
  6. Outline why your proposal is a priority, such as how it competes with other projects for funding. This also means providing the argument that the proposal is affordable in the current funding environment.
  7. Demonstrate deliverability by outlining how your proposal will be implemented, how you have aligned the key partners, what you propose as performance measures and monitoring protocol and governance mechanisms.
  8. Show how risks will be managed and in particular that you have considered optimism bias (or over-optimistic estimates of benefits and under estimated real costs).

Success is getting your proposal approved the first time. This means doing your homework in preparing for a decision.

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