Six whining business cases arguments that are not compelling

Further to our discussion of business cases, I have seen too many busines cases that contain arguments that are simply not compelling. They seem compelling to the author because the author is too self-absorbed to see things from the perspective of their target audience. Usually this boils down to whining.

The following arguments seldom work:

  • “Because we ought to”. “Because it is the right thing to do”. So are a thousand other things you aren't doing right now. Why this one?
  • “Because it is better”. You got by last year, why can't you get by next year? "Better" actually works but only once you link it to one of the other arguments listed elsewhere: you look better to the clients you want to attract; you have to get better to meet the quality standards of the new contract.
  • “Because I think we should”: “it is my recommendation”, “I strongly urge”, “it is evident to those at the coal-face that”… If your opinion mattered so much it would be your decision. Put another way, your 5000 colleagues are doing it this way and you want to do it that way. On the balance of probabilities…
  • “Because I need it to do my job”. Either you are not doing your job now or you are managing with what you have now.
  • “Because it will improve staff morale”. This will get lots of affirmative lip-service but unless poor morale is actually costing or risking something forget it. If there is an underlying cost or risk, address that instead of whingeing. My favourite poster: "sackings will continue until morale improves". Or a great slogan for ITIL projects: "if you can't change the people, change the people". So don't go banging on about morale - they just might do something about it.
  • “Because everyone else is”. This can actually work, especially if the decision-makers have been reading about it in McKinsey Quarterly or CIO or ComputerWorld or the Economist or Time. (Once it is in USA Today or Readers Digest it is probably time to move on). But it works as part of the persuasive language (to be discussed in a future blog). You include lots of the usual drek from Gartner to make them feel good about the decision - but it is not an argument. It is not part of the case itself. On its own it will not do - it is just supporting evidence.

They do not work because they have no value to the organisation or the decision-maker. Maybe you haven't noticed yet, but in business what matters to you matters only to you.

Put another way: if the multi-{million/billion} dollar corporation with {hundreds|thousands|tens-of-thousands} of employees thinks differently to you, which is more likely to have to change: the corporation or you?

This self-absorbed, self-important, prima donna view of the world is especially prevalent among technology geeks, who think the world is too stupid to understand what they are arguing. On technical issues this is often true. On business issues it seldom is. Deciding where to spend money is a business issue.

So argue from the organisations perspective, not your own.

Parts of this post are an extract from an ITSMWatch article by the ITSkeptic ITIL Business Case 101


Sad but true

Sadly “Because everybody else is doing it” is one of the most effective business cases out there.

There are some un-stated business cases out there as well:

“Hopefully doing this will deflect attention from what we really need to be doing without us having to admit what a b****s up we’ve made in the past”

“If we are lucky the consultants will say what we are all too scared to say”

“Of course I know this isn’t going to work but at least I can say I tried”

I guess that in an ideal world a business case would actually come from the business, not from IT.

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