CFO Business Case

Build a Winning Business Case your CFO will Approve – Part I

By Ernie Humphrey, CTP

Creating and communicating an effective business case is just as much an art as it is a science. But, how do you craft one to convince your CFO? We are going to share how you can accomplish this task in a two-part blog series.  

In today’s series, we will focus on how to construct the five pillars of a solid business case. These are the foundational elements you need to be prepared with to create a compelling and waterproof case to your CFO. The five pillars are as follows: 

  1. The Problem Statement – CFOs will want to understand the full scope of the problem. What are the exact issues you are trying to address in making the case for the investment of company assets, the consequences of not addressing them, and the urgency in addressing them? 
  2. The Lay of the Land – Define the root cause(s) for your CFO. Identify potholes in your company’s landscape which define the need for investing your company’s resources to fill them. Detail inherent barriers that may cause delays in terms of people, process and technology. 
  3. Potential Solutions – Notice the plural. You need to offer more than one option to address your issues so your CFO and others you are “winning over” feel as if they have a real say in the company’s investment. Provide High-level description of each option with the relative costs and benefits associated. Or, depending on your audience, a simple matrix will suffice. 
  4. Cost-Benefit Analysis – It is critical that you accurately define and quantify the costs and benefits of an investment. You must have clearly defensible methodologies for estimating both costs and benefits including all assumptions and how they drive your numbers. Includeall costs that you will incur in making and managing an investment. If you do not do your homework, someone will find a valid reason to torpedo your business case and you will not win approval for your investment proposal.
  5. Executive Summary – The executive summary was not listed first even though it is the opening for a formal business case. You need to have all your ducks in a row before you can craft a compelling executive summary. This is where you set the table for success—or failure—for your proposed project. A poorly written executive summary will keep any project from getting off the ground. A concise summary of issues, why they need to be addressed, and how you propose to address them will show that you have done your homework setting the stage for the “buy-in” and support you will need to win approval for your proposal.

Delivering an effective business case is a skill that will pay dividends in your career. Very few, if any, investment proposals win approval without a persuasive delivery of the business case constructed to justify it. A poor project proposal presentation equals rejection. 

In Part II available here, we will explore the final five steps to construct a winning business case your CFO will approve.

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