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Why a Business Case for Change Management


A business case captures the reasoning for initiating a project or task to convince a decision maker to take action. Usually a well-structured, formal document, the business case tells the story of an initiative - from beginning (what problem or situation triggered the initiative) to end (what benefit, value or return is expected). Business cases are typically written at the project or initiative level as a way to secure funding and commitment.

Can a business case for change management help you overcome common objections you might hear?

Can change management practitioners use the business case format as a way to secure funding and commitment for managing the people side of change? Can we, as a community, present the rationale and approach for change management in a new way - as a formal business case - to gain a better foothold with senior leaders and project leaders? This tutorial presents insights on using the business case as a tool to build buy-in for applying change management on a project.


Foundation of the Business Case for Change Management

Let's start with the definition - a business case captures the reasoning for initiating a project or task to convince a decision maker to take action. To build a business case for change management, you'll need to answer four key questions:

  • What is the project or task? A business case proposes a specific project or task. Your "project or task" is to apply a structured change management approach on a particular project or initiative.

  • What is the reasoning? A business case presents the reasoning and rationale for initiating the project or task. For the change management business case, the reasoning is that the ultimate benefit realization, value creation, and achievement of results and outcomes for the specific project or initiative are directly tied to managing the people side of change.

  • Who are we trying to convince? The audiences of a business case are the decision makers who can ultimately take action in terms of funding and support. For the change management business case, your likely audiences are senior leaders, project leaders and project managers.

  • What is the action we need? A business case often is used to secure a level of commitment and funding for the project or task. The action you need is 1) a commitment to apply change management on the project or initiative and 2) the resources and funding to apply change management.

While the business case is a common tool when relating to projects and initiatives, few change management practitioners have taken the step of translating the rationale and approach for change management into a formal business case. In a Prosci change management webinar conducted in December 2012, only 22% of attendees had written a formal business case for change management.


Sections of the Business Case

The business case tells the complete story of the proposed project or task. In Prosci's approach to a business case, there are eight sections. Below, each of the eight sections are presented as they apply to the business case for change management:

  • Executive Summary: Succinct and concise presentation of vital information. It summarizes your story. Your story for change management is: We are undertaking a major project that has a significant "people side" component. The proposal is to apply change management on the project so that intended project results and outcomes are achieved.

  • Situational Assessment and Problem Statement: Directly connects the results, outcomes, value and benefit realization of the project or the initiative to the people side of change. The Situational Assessment and Problem Statement does not directly mention change management, but instead shows dependencies.

  • Project Description: Presents the high-level description, scope, and objectives for the project or task, in this case it is the task of "applying change management." By concretely defining the "task" of applying change management, you give the reader confidence that you will effectively address the situation presented.

  • Solution Description: Summarizes your solution of "applying change management" and presents milestones, work streams and measurements for change management. By using artifacts familiar to project leaders - such as milestones and work streams - you make change management "real" and less fuzzy.

  • Cost-Benefit Analysis: Clearly presents the costs and anticipated benefits of applying change management. The benefits section is focused on the delivery of project results and outcomes, and can include both the benefits we get from applying change management and what can happen if we do not apply change management.

  • Implementation Timeline: Solidifies the structured approach and builds credibility by mapping change management milestones to existing project milestones such as kickoff and go live.

  • Critical Assumptions and Risk Assessment: Presents a SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) and dependencies for applying change management.

  • Conclusions and Recommendations: Clearly articulates the "ask" (resources, funding, authorization, support, etc.). Builds confidence that your solution solves the situation presented.


Value of the Business Case for Change Management

The business case is a powerful vehicle for presenting the rationale and approach for change management, because it helps to address some of the most common objections or challenges to change management. In the December 2012 webinar on the business case for change management, attendees commented on the most commonly faced challenges or objections to change management. The top responses from webinar attendees were:

Using a business case for change management directly addresses these common challenges and objections.

The business case shows what it really means to apply change management on a project
The Project Description and Solution Description sections of the business case for change management present, in concrete and real terms, what it means to apply change management on the project including a general description, scope, objectives, work streams and milestones.

The business case presents the value of change management
The Situational Assessment and Problem Statement section of the business case for change management directly connects the results and outcomes of the project to managing the people side of change. Without even mentioning change management, this section is an avenue for showing the dependency of benefit realization and value creation on the ultimate adoption and usage of the solution by impacted employees.

The business case shows the rigor and seriousness of change management
Using a business case in and of itself addresses the perception of change management as soft and fuzzy. By presenting your "people side of change" approach and rationale in a formal business case, you gain credibility and show that you are a serious player in the execution of the project.

The business case makes change management look familiar
A business case is familiar to project leaders and senior leaders. So are elements like scope, objectives, work streams and milestones. By telling the story of change management in a familiar format, managing the people side of change looks like what they are accustomed to seeing in the project space.



There are numerous ways to tell the story of change management. A business case is just one. But because of the formality, structure and familiarity, it can be a very effective tool for gaining support, commitment, authorization and funding for change management. Presenting a formal business case for change management to a project leaders or senior leader can earn you the credibility you need to make a difference on the project.








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Offerings for applying Prosci's change management methodologies:


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Methodology tools:

  • Change Management Toolkit ($389) - hardcopy 3-ring binder presenting the Prosci Change Management Methodology, includes templates, checklists and assessments for managing the people side of change (includes USB)
  • Change Management Pilot Pro 2012 ($489) - online tool including the Prosci Change Management Methodology, eLearning modules and downloadable templates, assessments, presentations and checklists
  • Change Management Guide for Managers and Supervisors ($209) - tools to help supervisors engage and coach their direct reports through change
  • PCT Analyzer ($149/$349) - web-based tool for collecting PCT Assessment data, analyzing results, identifying risks and developing action steps

References and books:

  • Best Practices in Change Management benchmarking report ($289 / quantity discounts available) - journal-style report with lessons learned and best practices from 650 participants, presented in an easy-to-use format - reads as a checklist of what to do and what not to do
  • Change Management: the people side of change ($18.95 / quantity discounts available) - a primer for anyone involved in organizational change that addresses why manage change, individual change management and organizational change management
  • ADKAR: a model for change ($18.95 / quantity discounts available) - the definitive work on the Prosci ADKAR® Model
  • Employee's Survival Guide to Change ($14.95 / quantity discounts available) - a handbook to help employees survive and thrive during change, answers frequently asked questions and empowers employees to take charge of change



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