This post will cover the reasons why the sponsor, project manager and others do not want to have a signed-off business case. Understanding this is very useful if you have the responsibility of ensuring that each project has an agreed business case.
It is quite common that sponsors, senior management, project managers, etc do not want to be held to account. The nature of a business case means that the purpose, costs and benefits need to be clearly articulated. Adding these items, especially the benefits, means that the key aspects can be base lined and tracked. So if you are a sponsor and you state you want an investment of £100m and in return you will deliver £150m of benefits, these numbers can be captured and tracked.
The business case serves as a contract between the sponsor and the organisation (with an independent body such as the PMO tracking progress and holding the sponsor to account). So if the costs start to increase and the benefits reduce, the sponsor will be asked to justify the variance. This can be a stressful position for the sponsor, especially if they have deliberately been ambitious with the costs, benefits and time scales (some sponsors still do this to gain approval of a business case).
The business case forces the rationale for the project to be clearly articulated. Therefore, if the purpose is unclear and does not align to strategy (including representing a pet project), the business case process will expose this. The sponsor will not be happy as they know it will open the proposal to scrutiny by their peers and a high probability that it will be rejected.
Linked to this is that the sponsor does not really have a clear idea what they want to do or, how they are going to solve a problem. In this case writing a business case will prove very difficult. Meaning that the case will be weak and will not represent them in a good light.
The sponsor may have a good proposal (a “no brainer”) and can clearly see the benefit to the organisation. In this instance the sponsor will not understand why the project cannot just start – “why do I need a business case as we all can see the benefits are obvious”.
The sponsor will see the need for going through the business case process as time consuming, delaying the benefits and bureaucratic. While the desire to start is for the good reasons, following the process does help ensure that the idea is thought through, issues identified leading to a higher probability of positive outcome. Conducting the analysis may result in risks and challenges being identified that does not make the business cases quite as compelling.
A sponsor will not want to produce a business case as it will mean they will:
- Need to clearly articulate the project including costs and benefits taking time and effort
- Reduce the opportunity of pet projects
- Hold them to account to deliver against their promise