Lies, damn lies and business cases

Diagram for developing a business case

Business cases are a complete waste of time. You know that the numbers will be wrong and made to say whatever it takes to get sign-off. When being first-to-market really counts – business cases just slow you down.

Whilst we don’t believe this we’ve certainly seen this attitude in the past!

This diagram compares different approaches to developing business cases – which one do you take?

When you’ve been living and breathing your product for months, even years – you’re entirely bought into the value of its continued development. But while all babies are beautiful to their parents not all babies are beautiful.

The real value of a business case for a company is that it enforces discipline and structure around making investment decisions. The great opportunity for a product manager is that it allows time for a thorough and rigorous analysis of their product and its market with the full support of the rest of the business.

The value of this analysis is often at odds with other drivers. The product manager’s key motivation can be to make sure their product passes through the business case stage as smoothly as possible. The business rewards product managers that tell them about good investment ideas. This creates a problem in that what the business wants to hear and what the business needs to hear aren’t always the same thing.

Product managers know that only good investments get the green light but it’s equally important for the business to know that a particular idea is not a good investment.

Creating the right culture to produce an objective assessment during the business case is vital. This is often achieved through a healthy tension between an evangelizing product manager and a skeptical finance representative. But companies ought to be able to trust product management to provide an unbiased view of opportunities.

Does your business foster a culture in product management where an objective view is really rewarded? How many product managers have been recognized positively after producing a business case that shows that their product should be stopped?

See our infographic here for the topics to cover and the tools that can help.


Ian Lunn
Director, Product Focus


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