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One Page Business Case

What MBA student hasn’t written a 20-page business case analyzing their favorite company, product or service? The business case has long been used (and abused) in business to analyze new product concepts and opportunities.

The problem? Writing a long and meticulous business case can take weeks (or even months), only to see the entire effort shot down by a hallway “go/kill” conversation. Surely, there must be a better way to communicate new concepts and make decisions than wasting 15 or 20 costly pages.

We’ve created just such a tool. It’s the One-Page Business Case (OPBC) —a concise document that quickly and concisely sells or kills a new product or service concept, saving valuable writing and reading time for all parties involved.

What Is It?

Think of the One-Page Business Case as an Executive Summary for any new product, service or market opportunity. It includes all significant information and variables necessary to communicate the concept for sound decision-making. At the same time, restricting the effort to one page doesn’t mean you should resort to shallow thinking. On the contrary, creating an effective OPBC requires a great deal of thought—from the questions being answered to the support information included. You must do your homework well before developing the final proposal to make your case.

Why Does It Work?

Three reasons:

1. It will be read. Who has time to read a 20-page business case? Maybe business students, but not anyone in the real world. The OPBC gets read because it’s brief and powerful.

2. It focuses on what’s most important. With only one page to work with, you’ll quickly find that the best information and reasoning rises to the top. One good tip: avoid “laundry lists” detailing why the concept will be successful.

3. It supports great decisions. Because more business cases can be reviewed faster, efforts can be focused on those with the highest merit. Many OPBCs don’t make it past the first review, because their validity (or lack thereof) is readily apparent.

When is it Best Used?

The OPBC is ideal for at least two scenarios:

1. As a filtering tool. The OPBC quickly provides all details necessary to make a go/no-go decision on a new product concept, helping filter good ideas from bad ones fast. Small teams can develop multiple business cases and make intelligent trade-off decisions based on concise, but complete, information. If a concept is compelling, you can quickly move it to the next level of thinking and information requirements.

2. As a communication tool. The OPBC is an excellent tool for all levels of management to share the big picture and create a common framework for new projects that have already received a “go.” Your engineering team, sales team and others will have a quick summary of the product, strategy and go-to-market plan on a single, easy-to-read page.

What Should be included?

The OPBC answers most of a typical business plan’s questions, the most important of which are:

1. What is the opportunity? What problem is being solved?

2. Why is this concept unique?

3. Who are the target customers? How many exist?

4. What is the strategy (Four Ps, Go to market, etc.)?

5. How do we validate this concept?

6. What are the financials?

7. Can we do this?

8. What are the next steps?

While you should try to address all these topics in the OPBC, at times you may need more room to explain the concept, provide competitive information, add sketches, or anything else you feel is necessary. That’s OK. The goal is a concise, readable document that’s focused and will get read.

Who Writes It?

The OPBC can be written by anyone with reasonable business sense—including management or team members in sales, engineering or customer service. Ideally, each will have a lead author, usually from engineering, product management or business development, who requests and receives input from sales, marketing, research, and other sources. The OPBC can also be authored by anyone who wants to quickly flush out an idea before sharing it with others. One company we work with uses a modified version as their idea suggestion input form to be certain the submitter has fully explored the idea.

Who Reads It?

The OPBC should be read by executives, project teams, and other decision-makers. If your company has an innovation team, the OPBC provides a summary for reviewing new ideas. We use it as a way to evaluate and compare new product opportunities in markets that are new to a company, providing a complete perspective for rapid decisions leading to further exploration.

When NOT to Use the OPBC

While the OPBC is a powerful tool, it’s not for everyone or every company. If you have a culture of patience and detail, a traditional 10-page business case—with various options, detailed risk assessment and supporting appendices—may be the right solution. However, companies such as these should ask themselves how much of the business case is actually used, and if their time can be more efficient developing more concise cases.

In Summary

The OPBC can help your team quickly get on the same page for new products and ideas. To download the OPBC template, along with a sample completed business case, click here, or the link below.

About the Author:

Dorian Simpson is Managing Director of Planning Innovations Group, a leading product innovation training and consulting group. He can be reached via his website at www.planninginnovations.com.




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