Valid research and good writing are essential components of an effective business case. However, creating a document that is easy to read and professional looking can help to ensure that your business case is read.
GOOD BUSINESS CASE DESIGN
he layout and design of your business-case document can help you get your case approved.
Valid research and good writing are essential components of an effective business case. However, creating a document that is easy to read and professional looking can help to ensure that your business case is read.
A well-presented business case has a better chance of succeeding.
It impresses the decision makers and demonstrates your team's professionalism.
A well-presented business case can help you avoid some common pitfalls, such as
Some business cases contain generic content that fails to focus on the specific business problem and solution. If your business case fails to offer a compelling value proposition, it will be rejected.
lack of structure
Too often, business cases are used as "information dumps," with no persuasive structure or order to the content. This makes it difficult for the reader to find the relevant information.
lack of impact
If the key points of a business case are buried beneath verbosity or jargon, with no visual or cognitive cues to interest the reader, the business case may not be fully read or understood.
poor spelling and grammar
A business case is instantly discredited by such "credibility killers" as misspellings and random capitalization, grammar and punctuation errors, and inconsistent formatting.
Amanda, a senior executive in the Imagenie software company, has just read a business case proposing a new middleware installation. She is unimpressed with the case as it was presented to her.
"The proposal didn't appear to meet any of our current business needs. I just couldn't see how middleware would add value to the company's operation at this time."
Lack of structure
"There was a lot of information in the business case, but it didn't seem to be very organized or coherent. For example, I found it hard to see the relevance of a lot of the technical information."
Lack of impact
"I tried to identify the main points of the case, but it was difficult. If it had been a little shorter and a little more clearly written, I might have had some hope."
Poor spelling and grammar
"I spotted several punctuation and spelling errors in the document. It even spelled 'middleware' incorrectly! Frankly, it didn't inspire a lot of confidence."
Business Case for Imagenie
Summary of business case for middlewear tier
Electronic interactions are increasingly, an integral part of the daily functioning of the enterprise and its members. Middlewear, a layer of shared network software and information systems) is an integral part of managing access to and use of critical networked services. To receive the maximum advantage from a shared middlewear infrastructure, an institution-wide committment is needed. All directory-enabled application development and deployment should be coordinated to realize the potential.
An enterprise directory is the essential starting point in a middlewear deployment. The enterprise directory supports applications as simple as online white pages to those as complex as a Public Key Infrastructure (PKI). A middlewear infrastructure, like the network itself, is a strategic resoruce that can be levereged into multiple services across the institution. Middlewear, especially enterprise Lightweight Directory Access Protocol or LDAP-accessible directories, is on its way to becoming a standard element of an enterprise's IT infrastructure, just as TCP/ip. Increasing numbers of off-the-shelf applications are designed to integrate with standard middlewear, making its implementation a valuable investment for the organization in traditional return-on-investment (ROI) terms. In addition, several new types of inter-institutional applications using middlewear are being developed and tested, chiefly under the ospices of the Internet2 Middlewear Initiative, examples of such applications include:
White pages: A service that offers searching capability for discovering contact information for people in the organization.
Yellow pages: A service that offers searching capability for discovering contact information for departments in the organization.
Enterprise-calendar authentication, customization, and personalization
Mail box access, customization, and personalization: Specific LDAP-integrated mail systems offer a number of features. For example, constituents can pick their preferred access methods. They can also specify a vacation message and subsequent forwarding, and folder sharing. Additionally, technical administrators can set characteristics such as mailbox quotas for users.
Authenticated email relaying: With an LDAP-integrated mail system, relays can be used by authenticated users, regardless of their location on the Internet.
Email routing: Some email transport systems can use LDAP to lookup per-recipient attributes to determine precisely how an email is to be processed, effectively making the enterprise directory into an organization-wide "aliases" file. This allows email addresses to reflect how recipients (or the organization) would prefer their address to be published, rather than being limited to containing specific email routing information.
Secure discussion groups: Some groupware products can integrate with an LDAP directory for authentication and determination of roles for interacting with closed discussion groups. These roles include who can read, post to, and administrate a given group.
Web authentication, and authorization.
Desktop and computer cluster authentication, authorization, customization, and personalization.
Synchronization of disparate directories
Self-serve network registration
Remote and wireless access authentication, authorization, and customization.
Authenticated, proxy access to remote licensed databases.
Automated and self-serve account management
Storage and distribution of digital certificates, public keys, and certificate management information.
Distributed administration of ad hoc groups for messaging and authorization
Portal authentication, customization, and personalization.
Shell account authentication and authorization.
Application server authentication and authorization.
The benefits of a middlewear deployment are enhanced security through better control of accounts and authorization, improved productivity of both users and service providers and larger operational economies of scale. It is important to consider the capital and operational costs to fully understand the impact this type of project can have within an enterprise network. Studies indicate that there is a short-run return on investment in addition to the foundation provided for long-term, strategic initiatives.
Amanda, like many corporate decision makers, requires certain things from a business case.
She needs to be able to read it easily, to identify the relevant information quickly, and to have confidence in the authority of the business case.
Good layout and design can ensure legibility, coherence, and authoritative communication of the most important information where it counts.
When laying out the pages of your business case, you should ensure that there is sufficient white space on your pages - both in line spacing and page margins.
It's best to use single-line spacing within paragraphs, and double-line spacing between paragraphs and before headings.
You should leave a margin of one and one-quarter inches on the left-hand side of the page, to allow for binding. The margins on all other sides of the page should be one inch wide, to provide a frame for the content.
You should use the following elements to help make the text on each page more legible:
Paragraphsshould be as short as possible for legibility. Paragraphs should deal with only one main point.
You should use a special format for headings, to set each topic and section apart. Use boldface, underlining, increased font size, or a combination of all of these.
Where possible, you should use bullet points to present information concisely. This eliminates the need to use full sentences, thus saving space.
It's important to choose an easy-to-read, business-like typeface for your business case. Document-design experts recommend usingserif for text and serif or sans-seriffor headings.
Research suggests that serif typefaces are more legible than sans-serif for large blocks of text, whereas sans-serif typefaces are more suitable for headings.
The point size of your typeface is also important. You should choose 10-point or 11-point type for all body copy, and 12-point or 14-point type for section headings and subheadings.
If your typeface is smaller than 10 points, your document may be difficult to read.
Sam, a regional manager for a clothing retail company, is writing a business case for the creation of a new records-management system.
He has created a draft of the business case to show how he wants the document to be laid out.
Layout for Sam's Business Case
Business case for a new records-management system
Situational assessment/problem statement
The current records system cannot meet retrieval requirements for speed and comprehensiveness. The current system regularly fails to ensure that all records relating to an issue have been retrieved for HR or legal purposes. Valuable staff time is lost searching for records that are either registered but lost, or not registered and difficult to find. This has obvious business implications. In addition, the company is unable to meet minimum legal obligations with regard to freedom of information.
To improve the records-management system, the department proposes a comprehensive solution, which will comprise the development of a functional search facility, merged with the existing one; new procedures for filing and tracking employee information through an integrated document and records-management system; assessment, selection and purchase of upgraded software; conversion of an estimated 10,000 current and 15,000 legacy records; and development of a records disposal authority, disposal guidelines and an implementation plan. These changes could be implemented in a phased approach, enabling change to be managed at a pace that can be accommodated by the organization. Some aspects of the project, such as disposal implementation, will initially have little effect on the current operations of the department since we would implement it first in secondary storage.
Cost and benefit analysis
The costs of the project will be further quantified with the letting of requests for Expressions of Interest, to include estimated time frames and costs. The purchasing of a software license for a records-management system and the development of the tools to support its operation are standard operating requirements of any organization, as is training staff to use the new tools and system. As the implementation progresses there will be a need for discrete projects to migrate data to the central system, to convert legacy data, and to update user metadata which is significantly out of date and affects the ability to track records accurately. The productivity benefits of better retrieval and control over records will be realized in the medium term, and will flow through to areas such as the appeals system, with improved workflow and better access to information. Further costings will be required at implementation, but research suggests that the costs of initial purchase and installation will be at a level expected for a department of this size.
|Stage||Resource estimates||Time estimates|
|Development of search facility||Project manager
|Integration of documents and records||Project manager
|Software upgrade||Project manager
|Record conversion||Project manager
Contractors x 3
Contractors x 3
In developing this solution, it is assumed that the upcoming tender for a new outsourcing IT support contract is due in September, that a period of disruption may result if there is a change in supplier, that any major system changes as a result of this project will take place from now to December, that any technical changes will wait until after the new contract is finalized, and that the current company guidelines on outsourcing will remain unchanged.
The future growth of the company has implications for its legal and HR processes, and it is in the company's interests to ensure that its records-management facility is up to future challenges. At present we do not have a system that meets the company's needs adequately. As such, there is an urgent need for an improved system of maintaining and retrieving records, so that the company can cope with the business and legal demands of an expanded workforce. Our study has strongly indicated that the proposed project is operationally, technically, and financially feasible, and offers distinct business benefits to the company. We therefore recommend that this project be approved and initiated without undue delay.
Sam has incorporated plenty of white space in the margins and between headings and text.
He has used consistent formatting, using different styles for main headings and subheadings. His punctuation and spelling are correct.
He could improve readability by breaking up the "Solution description" and "Cost and benefit analysis" paragraphs into shorter ones. He could also use bullet lists to break up the text where possible.
You should bind your business case in a durable, high-quality cover. For the most professional-looking result, you should choose a black, blue, or burgundy cover.
The front cover should display
- the name of the business case
- the date
- optionally, the authors of the business case
Layout for Marsha's Business Case
Business case for a usability drive within the company
This is a business case for usability in an organization. It is based on academic research, industrial research, case studies, consulting experience, and common knowledge found in the usability community.
Product usability is achieved or improved by first understanding users' needs (i.e., their actual goals, the challenges and limitations they face, the unique or unexpected ways in which they use the product, etc.). These needs are determined by collecting data on actual representative users' interactions with products. The data is both objective (i.e., based on actual performance) and subjective (i.e., based on user's impressions and preferences) and includes measurements such as task time, errors, learning rate, satisfaction, cognitive load, level of frustration, and so forth. Once users' needs and challenges are clearly defined, this information can be used by engineers and designers to guide critical decisions toward meeting users' needs.
RESEARCH REPORTS: Usability professionals are able to generate an incredible amount of useful data. This data is then analyzed and research reports are subsequently generated to meet specific corporate objectives. Presentations would be provided to business units as requested.
Internal consultation and Training: Members of the usability lab can work with employees from other business units to develop effective customer-centered business plans, products, and services. For example, information about customer habits can be delivered to product teams to help them better address business needs.
Sales and Marketing Assistance: Since the usability team will have intimate knowledge of customers' concerns, more effective sales presentations can be developed and marketing materials can be enhanced to better reflect customer needs. Laboratory walkthroughs would be possible to show current and potential customers our commitment to improving our products. Marketing studies, e.g., focus groups, could be conducted during laboratory downtime (i.e., the space could be used for other research).
ACTING AS CUSTOMER ADVOCATES In design sessions and during planning, the focus of work is often internal and it is often product focused. Usability professionals, armed with data, can work as customer advocates. From a relatively neutral third-person perspective, usability professionals are able to provide the voice of the customer.
Interface design: While not being designers exactly, usability professionals are able to suggest unique, customer-driven designs. For example, based on research and data, a usability lab can enhance the designs generated by the product designers. Once again, the idea is to help build the customers into the product design cycle to improve the usability and effectiveness of the machine.
Theoretical research and Knowledge transfer A usability laboratory can provide designers with theoretical information related to human psychology, marketing, market strategy, sociology, and culture. As part of its research activities, a usability professional can collect and understand information for everything from how humans make buying decisions to how they perceive quality. Information on how humans think as individuals and groups related to our products and services would be provided. Training would be an important part of this activity as well.
Development of Corporate Design Standards: A key idea in usability is consistency for the sake of simplicity and ease of use. A usability lab is able to produce standards on everything from web interface design to machine software displays to keyboard placement on surface mount machines.
To obtain a longer term, strategic benefit, a usability laboratory is necessary to augment other usability activities. For example, field studies, questionnaires, pen and paper evaluations, videotaping, task analysis, cognitive modeling, and so forth would all be done in conjunction with a usability laboratory. Ongoing costs include salaries, travel, reimbursing participants for their participation, and office supplies. However, it is generally reported that payback occurs in relatively short time (i.e., 3-6 months of operation). Usability pays for itself many, many times over.
Costs to be considered include
- observation of users and machines
- floor space, for administration, testing, and observation
- rooms to store paperwork, recording devices, and other such equipment
- a video camera, digital camera, microphones, laptops, and other equipment directly related to testing
- depending on the scope of the laboratory, desks, chairs, and other office equipment
While the benefits of usability are numerous, there are some risks to consider. First, if the data from research is not applied or if it is not applied appropriately, it will waste resources. Second, usability cannot cure core business problems and it should not be perceived as the answer to all problems. Finally, developers and designers may not accept usability. Cultural barriers may exist that reduce the benefits outlined above.
Conclusions and recommendations
The primary objective of any corporation is to produce income and profits for stakeholders, including investors, management, employees, and of course, customers. By taking advantage of usability principles and techniques, companies can increase revenues and profit margins while minimizing costs. The return on investment for all stakeholders is high based on all available research and reports. We therefore recommend that this project be approved and initiated
Marsha is writing a business case for the initiation of a usability drive in her organization. She asks you to take a look at the layout she is proposing to use in her business case.
Which of these can be said of Marsha's business case?
- The key information of the business case stands out
- It contains persuasive information about the potential value of a usability drive
- Spelling and capitalization are consistent
- It does not use jargon or technical terms
Because Marsha's business case does not contain a problem statement, it is unclear what the core value proposal is.
Marsha's business case offers persuasive information about the value of usability in general. However, it fails to focus on the specific business problem and solution.
Marsha's use of capitalization in listing the business case's deliverables is erratic and potentially confusing.
Marsha's case is written in plain English, and can be easily understood by readers who may be unfamiliar with usability.
2. It contains persuasive information about the potential value of a usability drive
4. It does not use jargon or technical terms
Which of these layout rules does Marsha observe in her business case design?
- Include sufficient white space
- Keep paragraphs as short as possible for legibility
- Use bullet points
- Use a suitable typeface for the body of the document
Marsha's document contains wide margins and sufficient line spacing between paragraphs.
Marsha's paragraphs are too long and therefore difficult to read.
The business case has one bullet list. However, there is some content that should be in bullet points, but is not.
The business case uses a sans-serif typeface, which should be used only for headings.
1. Include sufficient white space
3. Use bullet points
How could Marsha improve the legibility of her business case?
- By making the margins smaller
- By using more bullet points
- By formatting heading styles so they are consistent and correspond to the information hierarchy
- By binding the business case
- By changing the typeface
Reducing the amount of white space in the document can make the text more difficult to read.
For example, the information under the "Costs" and "Project description" headings would be clearer if arranged in bullet points.
For example, the subheadings under "Deliverables" should be consistent and in a smaller size than the main headings.
Binding the business case does not improve legibility, although it does make the case look more professional.
Using a serif typeface for the main text of the business case may improve legibility.
2. By using more bullet points
3. By formatting heading styles so they are consistent and correspond to the information hierarchy
5. By changing the typeface
It's important to use the right layout, typeface, and cover for your business case. A well-designed and professional-looking business case creates a positive impression and tells company decision makers that you have done your homework.
Correct use of white space, paragraphs, formatting, and typeface in your business case makes the content easier to read and helps draw attention to the important points.
Binding your business case in a good-quality cover enhances the professional look of the document.
Evaluating Your Documentation Skills
Take a look at a document that you or someone in your team has written recently. Evaluate it using the following criteria:
- Is the content focused on the subject?
- Does the document have a discernible structure?
- Is the key information easy to locate?
- Is the language clear and easily understood?
- Is information presented concisely or verbosely?
- Does the document use jargon or obscure terms?
- Are there errors in spelling, punctuation, or grammar?
- Is the formatting consistent throughout the document?
I have been teaching and training agents, team leaders, supervisors, managers and admins of call centers and other businesses in BPO related fields. This series, comes as a result of that experience. I have more than 4,000 modules that I plan on sharing here. This is # 007-14