Product Talk #10 “Turning Ideas into Business Cases” – Starting a Business Case

This is the third in our series of posts on our Product Talk 10, “Turning Ideas into Business cases”. During this section of the talk, our three panelists discussed the key elements in a Business Case and issues gathering information for the business case.
For Kees Kwakernaak, the key elements from a Banking perspective are primarily financial:

  • Customer Numbers
  • Estimated Revenue
  • Margin
  • Risk Factors
  • Roles and Responsibilities once you have the Product

For Jen Armstrong, the Business Case needs to answer questions about the Product:

  • Why
  • When
  • What
  • Who for
  • How

The ‘How’ is an important question as often resourcing is forgotten in building a Business Case. Nick Muldoon concurred – about 90% of ideas at Atlassian are pushed back due to resourcing availability.

A lively discussion occurred amongst participants when Nick Coster raised the common problem of the Business requesting initial estimates for the time and resources required to build a Business Case, including initial ballpark figures for the product before the Business Case has even started. Melissa Osborne pointed out that, in Software, it’s easy to get initial estimates for upgrades to existing products, for new innovative products, the question of whether the functionality can actually be done will need to be addressed in the Business Case before figures can be gleaned.

Damian Fawkner pointed out that you can at least break the product down into chunks of knowns and unknowns, adding initial estimate figures for the known elements and advising the unknown areas. Risk Registers and Risk Maps can aid in this process – especially Risk Maps, which make it easy for Business to visualise the unknown elements.
Ultimately, the ease with which figures can be gleaned depends on the organisation’s culture and alignment to the business strategy.

As Damian Fawkner highlighted, there’s a big difference between Atlassian’s ‘20% time’ (where engineers can spend 20% of their time on developing new ideas they’re passionate about) and the common experience of engineers asking for the project code before providing figures.