Building a Business Case

Before Starting Any Project


Over the decades your author has been involved with thousands of SMB projects, representing business owners, buyers, sellers, advisors, and even some lending institutions. Amazingly, the more things changes; the more they stay the same!

A few facts to remember are that the parties change all the time. And no two deals/projects are exactly alike. Okay, you knew these–so there’s nothing new here.

But what you probably don’t know is that no matter how smart you think you are projects (over $1 million) will always go sideways–meaning either the funds will run out before completion or excessive scope creep will jeopardize or kill the project altogether. At best, if you are included in the project as an consulting advisor, at best there’s only a 50% what get’s done will resemble success.

And, if the change/project is scheduled for more than six months or is schedule for a total spend of $10 million, success drops to less than 30%.

Why do business changes (projects, deals, cases. etc.) have such an ugly track record? A few cynical veterans probably offered “because there are people involved.” This is only partially true. A better answer would be “because all parties involved are not professional change/project workers; or the project manager is incompetent or not conversant with the scope/schedule/budget or type of change.

But let’s back it to BEFORE the beginning. Any project pro will tell you that the changes with the best planning ultimately wind up having the greatest propensity for success. This makes sense. But the truth is that most projects do not start correctly. Are they doomed before the fact? In too many cases the answer is yes! There is a definite correlation between the amount of proper preparation and the project successful end.


Almost everyone knows that SCOPE must be determined before the first dollar is spent on any new project. And of course knowing how much will be spent is another vital statistic that must be agreed upon before venturing forth. And, naturally, a timeline is required with a fair degree of accuracy is required. Without the latter, would it be 10-men working 2,000 hours (a whole year each) –or– would it be 100-men working 6 months each?

Schedule is mandatory especially when there is an amount certain (budget) committed to the project.

Depending on need, e.g. whether the project is “mission critical,” there could be 200-workers feverishly working round-the-clock to accomplish the 45 day deadline!

Every change/project will be different and you can [absolutely must] run your own scenarios in collaboration with other project partners before initiating any major (complex) change.  Among other things, the principal (paying for the music) must articulate what would be the ultimate goal and objective of the project, i.e. what the “definition of success” would be. (No more and no less.)

This is where amateurs often get into trouble. Without a clear-and certain expression of success starting out, invariably, money & time will run out, and a satisfaction conclusion (aka success) will never happen. The “rules” are essential and must be understood by every person and stakeholder in/to the project. Who runs the project (head PM) and who creates the final WBS (word breakdown structure) are matters to “pre-decide.” What does this mean?

Scope determination should never be left to an unrepresented owner or insider. This is a matter for a project expert or business analyst familiar with the kind & size of project proposed.

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