Why a Business Case for Change
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
Conclusions and Recommendations:
Clearly articulates the "ask" (resources, funding, authorization,
Builds confidence that your solution solves the situation
Value of the Business Case for Change
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
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
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:
- Prosci's site licenses are a great solution for building change
management capabilities and competencies throughout your
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Prosci's world-leading research and methodologies to fit your
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Change management certification
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Change Management Toolkit ($389) - hardcopy 3-ring binder presenting
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References and books:
Best Practices in Change Management benchmarking report
($289 / quantity discounts available) - journal-style report
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Change Management: the people side of change ($18.95 /
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ADKAR: a model for
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right resources to support your change management activities.