HBR Guide to Building Your Business Case

Tell a compelling story. Identify stakeholders. Analyze risk and return.

Raymond Sheen, Amy Gallo

Publisher: Harvard Business School, 2015, 149 pages

ISBN: 978-1-63369-002-8

Keywords: Business Plan

Last modified: Dec. 21, 2023, 9:13 a.m.

Get your idea off the ground.

You've got a great idea that will increase revenue or boost productivity — but how do you get the buy-in you need to make it happen? By building a business case that clearly shows your idea's value. That's not always easy: Maybe you're not sure what kind of data your stakeholders will trust. Or perhaps you're intimidated by number crunching.

The HBR Guide to Building Your Business Case, written by project management expert Raymond Sheen, gives you the guidance and tools you need to make a strong case. You'll learn how to:

  • Spell out the business need for your idea
  • Align your case with strategic goals
  • Build the right team to shape and test your idea
  • Calculate the return on investment
  • Analyze risks and opportunities
  • Present your case to stakeholders
  • Introduction: Success is enabling a wise decision
  • Section 1: Prepare
    1. Know the Basics of Making a Case
      You're telling a story about how to meet a business need.
    2. Learn How Your Company Evaluates Cases
      Seek counsel from those who know what will fly
  • Section 2: Get to Know Your Audience
    1. Figure Out Who's Calling the Shots
      Who really has the authority to give your project the green light?
    2. Understand Your Audience's Objectives
      Find out what your stakeholders care about
  • Section 3: Build the Case
    1. Clarify the Need
      What pain are you trying to alleviate? What opportunity are you pursuing?
    2. Build a Cross-Functional Team
      You need multiple perspectives to find the right solution
    3. Consider Alternatives
      The tough part is ruling out options
    4. Think Through the "How" at a High Level
      Pave the way for realistic estimates
  • Section 4: Crunch the Numbers
    1. Estimate Costs and Benefits
      Peg them to categories in your company's P&L
    2. Calculate ROI
      Spreadsheets make it fairly  painless
    3. Account for Risks
      Weight the "what ifs"
  • Section 5: Present Your Case and Move Forward
    1. Prepare Your Documents
      Summarize your story and support it with data
    2. Shop Your Case Around
      Drum up support before decision time
    3. Are You Ready to Present?
      Use this brief checklist to make sure you've covered all the bases
    4. Make Your Pitch
      Appeal directly to decision makers
    5. Get to a Decision
      "Yes" is meaningless unless stakeholders commit resources
    6. What Next?
      Get started, even if it means heading back to the drawing board
  • Appendix A: Avoid Common Mistakes
  • Appendix B: How to Give a Killer Presentation
    by Chris Anderson, Ted Curator


HBR Guide to Building Your Business Case

Reviewed by Roland Buresund

Good ******* (7 out of 10)

Last modified: Jan. 24, 2024, 12:46 a.m.

This is a book, not only about creating a business case, but also about why, and how to win approval.

Good reading for those who needs its.


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