Kim Maes, Steven De Haes, Ph.D., and Wim Van Grembergen, Ph.D.
By talking with some chief information officers, business sponsors and project managers in empirical research, we determined that most people in contemporary organizations know what a business case signifies. They have a rather good idea what should be included when developing such an investment document, and most of them understand its purpose. Moreover, they acknowledge that a business case may play an essential role in the decision making and ultimate benefits realization of the IT-enabled investment. Not surprisingly, it was found that a very large proportion of European companies develop some kind of a business case today.
However, many of these people could not give an adequate answer to how they were using such a business case after the investment was finally approved. Most of the business cases gathered dust on someone’s shelf or hard disk, and the realization of investment benefits was not tracked after the official launch of the end products and services. The practice of using a business case is characterized by the so-called knowing-doing gap. Organizations understand the importance of using a business case throughout the entire investment life cycle, but very few organizations are acting upon this important insight.
The advice coming out of our expert and case research is straightforward. First, organizations should start by clearly articulating what the investment is about and what it should realize. Second, developing and using a business case is not a solitary activity, and relevant stakeholders should be closely involved throughout the entire process of business case use. Finally, the maintenance of the business case during investment implementation requires an equal amount of attention in order to cope with escalations or capitalize on new, interesting opportunities. It should be noted that performing these kinds of business case practices will not be an easy task, say the experts, yet their effectiveness with regard to well-founded investment decision-making and investment success will be high.