Stage 5: Analyse results
Many business cases suffer from optimism bias; a tendency to exaggerate project benefits. Give your business case a ‘reality check’ by looking at the costs and benefits of one or more comparators; ‘stress test’ the tool by developing scenarios where things go differently from what you anticipate; and ask colleagues to challenge the assumptions in the analysis. Share the results with trusted colleagues who can take a critical view of the data to ensure your results stand up to scrutiny and be objective so that your commitment doesn’t cloud your judgement.
Distributional impacts are also important. The benefits may outweigh the costs overall but the business case needs to take into account any adverse impacts on particular groups.
Stage 6: Present the business case
Once you have gathered the evidence, you need to consider how the data will influence key decision makers. Are you making the case to the Local Strategic Partnership, senior officers, colleagues, Councillors, local communities, or the media? This will influence whether you need to go into detail about the financial values, stress intangible democratic or social benefits or use quotes and illustrations. It is also worth thinking about how the evidence fits into a broader story or narrative.
When making the business case for engagement it is useful to know what the costs and benefits of alternative activities would be. This enables you to work out the ‘opportunity costs’ that is what the alternative uses of those resources could have been. This could be doing nothing at all or using other methods. In some cases, due to legal duties or other requirements, doing nothing is not an option, so you need to identify a comparator, such as using a different method of engagement, and cost it out using a separate calculation form to work out comparators.
Looking at a comparator area provides a useful way of highlighting success. For example, a regeneration engagement project might be seen as a failure if it fails to increase employment in real terms. However if employment fell in other areas but remained stable in the area with engagement the business case would indicate that the engagement was a success.
Do nothing: This incurs no direct monetary costs, but there may be negative impacts in the form of increased costs or decreased income as a result of inaction. In many cases this can only be measured by looking at cases from elsewhere or by making rough estimates.
Status quo: Your engagement project may be replacing or running alongside an existing activity which you can gather costs and benefits data about.
Alternative engagement methods: You may want to assess or measure the costs and benefits of using a different engagement approach. For example, if you are moving from collecting survey data to holding community planning meetings to make decisions about the provision of outdoor recreation space in a neighbourhood you could collect data for the survey method and directly evaluate it against the projected costs for making decisions through face to face meetings.
Alternative means of achieving the benefits: It may be useful to cost an alternative means of achieving the desired outcome. For example if the benefit is around increased awareness what would be the cost of achieving this with conventional marketing?