Setting up the business case for a program is usually considered as a mandatory, complicated and time-consuming step; a must-do. Once the budget is secured and the program is launched, the financial justification ends up in a drawer. However, not everyone realizes this is the key tool to showcase the success of the program.
The business case serves multiple purposes
In theory, everybody understands the need for monitoring benefits along the road. It makes sense that if something goes wrong or not as planned (which is usually the case), the original business case needs to be reviewed. In practice, everybody is happy if, at the end of the program, milestones are met and the budget is not exceeded big time. The true success of a program depends also on realizing what was promised in the business case. By tracking benefits on a regular basis, progress can be measured which can be used in communication.
The underlying reason this hardly ever happens, is that ownership of the business case is scattered across different stakeholders, and they all have a different purpose; usually their own.
For project management, the business case is the hurdle to pass in order to secure the budget before the real fun can start. For finance, the business case is the truth to financially control the project, track costs and assure CAPEX/OPEX rules are applied correctly. For line management, projects are often just another thing on their plate to manage and to staff their scarce resources on.
Being the end customer of the program and responsible for realizing the expected benefits once the solution is implemented, line management has the biggest interest in the program’s success. With time elapsing and new insights arriving, there can be a gap between the original business case and what the program is actually working on. To make sure that the program will successfully impact the business, an overarching value creation mindset is needed.
Appoint a Value Officer to embed ownership of value creation
As value is depending on so many stakeholders, first and for most, ownership of value creation is needed. Whether the right person for this role is the finance manager, a portfolio manager in IT or a manager in the PMO office depends on the type of project, and the type and size of the organization. The Value Officer owns the value process and ensures every stakeholder plays the right role in the set up of the business case and challenges assumptions. Another responsibility is to collect and aggregate the data to monitor progress on benefits realization. The Value Officer re-assesses the business case in case of delays or scope changes, and communicates the findings periodically to all stakeholders, stimulating them to take action. Benefits management means knowing what value is, measuring that it is created and letting everyone know about it!