Monday, July 21, 2014

Business case -- the case for communication

I picked this up from an email blast from Mike Clayton entitled  "It isn't all logic". He's writing about business communications in general, and that's fine, but as PM's the business case is often the first business document we address.

So, think of brother Mike's comments in the context of the business case you're about to write.

Mike says:

We might think we use data and reason to make our decisions at work, but on most occasions, we'd be fooling ourselves. Never under-estimate the impact of the intangible, the informal, and the downright irrational.

Who are you? 
Before we consciously process an argument, we unconsciously assess the person who is making it. So always ensure you make some reference to your credentials early on: why should I trust what you are advocating? The elements to consider include: your experience, expertise and knowledge; you background, honesty and integrity; and understanding f the issues and how they affect me.

 What do I care? 
 Psychologists are divided. Some say we make our decisions based almost entirely on emotional factors. Others say we make our decisions based entirely on emotional factors, and use the logic of an argument to justify our decision to ourselves. Either way, you have to show me why it matters and appeal to my sense of justice, fairness, compassion, outrage, fear or some other emotion.

 What's in it for me? 
 When you get around to the facts, this will be the question I most want answered. So you need to look at your proposal from my point of view and give me the answer to 'why?' Put this in early - almost as soon as you have laid out your credentials. You are not writing a novel, so I'll want you to get to the point quickly; not keep me in suspense.

 Keep it simple
 Fewer reasons are better than more reasons. Lots of reasons are worst of all. The more reasons you give, the more I suspect you lack confidence because each is weak. Pick your best and give me one, two, or three reasons; no more.

Keep your language simple too
No one buys from someone they don't understand (except some rich people when they buy technology). All of the costs.  Three benefits or fewer, but but give me all of the costs, risks and down-sides of your proposal. If not, I will have a reason to blame you later, if the decision I made to agree with you turns out to be wrong.

 Anticipate my objections
 Take all of the wind from my sails by listing any concern a decision maker might have and addressing them all, on-by-one.

 Make it compelling The average business case is dull to the limit of endurance. You are not writing a novel, but you do want o be read. Use a straightforward structure that flows logically from one section to the next, answering questions in a sensible sequence with well-chosen evidence and examples.

Craft your language with care and keep it short and sweet.

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