Delivering your Business Case

Posted by michaelk on Sep 9th, 2008
Sep 9

There are many steps in putting together a solid, quality business case for IT projects like scope, criteria, align, etc. but the single most important one in "selling" the case is story-telling.


I have presented more than my fair share of business cases and I can attest that this is by far the most important.  This step exists because of incorrect communication of the business case findings and rationale account for almost 20 percent of all the reasons why business cases fail.  If you can’t communicate your plan it will cover up the quality and relevance of the all the research and analysis that you and your team put into it.


I want to take a minute to share the tasks that are related to this last and final step in building a solid, quality business case for your IT projects.




#1:  Build graphics and narratives

At the core of a business case, the worth is not in the mass of numbers.  Your business case’s value always springs from the quality of the guided conversation it stimulates about the shape of the future.  I can tell you from first hand experience, conversations move people to action.  The data in your business case is merely the backdrop, albeit an important one.


The words, diagrams, and drawings that you present in the report must spark conversations that reflect an accurate understanding of the findings and rationale.  Here are some tips that I have used to do this:

  • Confirm who the audience is.  I always make, and so should you, to know the name, rank and serial numbers of my audience members.  My final reports are always written to known individuals, not to "To Whom it May Concern" types.
  •  Speak the audience’s language.  Speak the language of business or that of the decision makers you are presenting to.  Forget the all the technical jargon, it won’t do you any good at this level.
  • Help the data to talk.  What I’m talking about here is using charts to show proportions, trends, etc.  I use text to draw attention to important findings within the data and charts.  One additional thing to do is use what I call concept visuals.  This is where I take a page from Dan Roam and use drawings to illustrate key points.
  • Use succinct, vivid text.  Nothing drives me more crazy than watching a presenter write a long sentence when just a few words would suffice.  Take this to heart folks.  People that are going to be in your presentation are very busy people and probably have a very short attention span.  Use small potent words to help drive your point home.


#2:  Tell the ROI story


Graphs and charts are great, but not really enough and will still under-communicate unless you tell the story.  ROI storytelling is about relating people-oriented tales that illustrate a key theme, finding, or message of your business case.  Don’t go crazy here, but use this carefully.  The best times that I have found to apply the ROI story is;

  • When a key, somewhat complex, point needs to be clearly understood
  • When a key point needs to be believed and,
  • When a key point needs to be easily remembered


I have learned the hard way folks, don’t use a story when describing technically-oriented features or functions.  The best ROI story is the one which resonates with the decision makers.  It usually is the kind of story that deals with the enterprise as well as its customers, suppliers, and investors.  I have used customer stories that I have found in client marketing material along with some tidbits of information I pick up during assessment interviews with employees.


I’m going to close with some helpful hints. 

  1. Be clear on the purpose and duration of the presentation.  The purpose and duration drive everything else in the preparation and delivery of the presentation.
  2. Use charts and diagrams liberallyI would say that 90% of the key data communicated should be via graphics and drawings and backed up by the numbers.
  3. Allow plenty of time for questions. 
  4. Be ready for challenges and animosity from the audience.  Your conclusions, findings, rationale, data validity, and sources are all fair game to your audience.  Prepare your self and anticipate this.  Your meeting will be more successful if you do.  On the topic of animosity let me say this.  Business cases are bound to stir up controversy.  Be professional and speak to the antagonist with respect.  Respond directly to them and then try to move on.  If they persist offer to take the discussion offline.
  5. Get feedback.  This is my favorite thing especially if you can have this presentation before presenting your final report.  This should give you time to sharpen the final written report.


As I stated in my first post here.  Preparation is the key to success.  In every expedition I’ve been on, we spend months preparing.  The same goes for important presentations as well, it could save your professional credibility.


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Learning through Observation

Posted by Hilari Weinstein on Sep 3rd, 2008
Sep 3

Eleanor Roosevelt once suggested, "Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself."

We can also learn from others’ excellence-when they get it right.

Did you catch any of the Democratic National Convention?  Political conventions are great opportunities to observe a number of speakers with dramatically different approaches and styles. 

Like his politics or not, Barack Obama is a talented and charismatic speaker.  For educational purposes, I recommend you take a peek at Obama’s recent DNC speech.  The link is below.  Not only was it extemely well written, but his delivery was exceptional.  It was an oratorical knockout-absolutely on-target.

In particular, pay attention to

  • how he uses pacing and his voice to take the listener to

  • many levels within his speech

  • variation of intensity

  • the use of stories

  • shifting from "me" focus to "you"

  • memorable themes

View the speech at:

What did you learn from viewing Obama’s speech?  Email me at

Also, I encourage you to watch the upcoming Republican Convention to observe and learn what engages you and what doesn’t in the various speeches delivered.

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Well first, let me say thanks for the warm welcome Barry, and in the immortal words of one of my heroes, Dean Martin, "how’d all these people get in my room?" 


Well as my bio states, I spent most of the 90′s hidden away in the deepest darkest recesses of the largest mountains in the world.  My experiences over those seven years have formed how I approach business and consulting.  One of the biggest lessons I have learned, and carry with me today, is to prepare properly.  For an expedition the size of Annapurna, it took months of planning and logistics work.  Speaking in public and/or presenting to C-level executives for client corporations requires significant planning as well.


As with climbing any major mountain, you need to learn everything you can about the route, weather, etc.  Tha same goes for speaking.  You have to learn everything you can about your audience.  I spend hours pouring over research about a client’s industry and company.  By doing this I make sure that I speak to the issues and challenges they face everyday.


Now one of the things that I was taught by some of my mentors in IT early on was to make a strong opening and closing and to just memorize that part.  I can’t find a way to compare that to alpine climbing, but suffice it to say, I make sure that I have some great facts and figures memorized about my clients industry and company, maybe some IT initiatives I’ve been able to uncover in my research.  This will really blow your audience away when you can jump right in and speak intelligently about their industry and/or company.


As I have learned over the years climbing and life in general, if you visualize yourself doing something it makes it easier to achieve your goals.  I used to visualize myself reaching the summit of mountains.  I still had to endure many hardships (freezing temperatures, snow, ice, avalanches, etc) to reach a summit, but visualizing myself standing on top helped push me forward when it took everything I had to just put one foot in front of the other.  I take that same approach before I begin any presentation.  I visualize my success and getting a great positive response from my audience.  If you follow this little piece of advice it will go a long way in calming those nerves and mentally setting yourself up for success.


The last thing I want to close out my first post with is to give you two words:  Passion and Enthusiasm.  I am passionate about the technology I have made a career out of; Citrix.  I share my passion and enthusiasm for business and technology everyday I’m in meetings with clients and prospective clients.  I share this passion and enthusiasm with groups that I speak in front of.    People feed off of these two emotions.  If you exude enthusiasm for your topic your audience picks up on that and it carries the rest of the way through the presentation.  These two emotions will help you create success.


I am looking forward to contributing to this site and sharing my alpine climbing experiences and how they help me everyday in my career.



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Another New Blogger at

Posted by Barry Flanagan on Aug 11th, 2008
Aug 11


Recently I posted a call for new bloggers here at Hilari Weinstein was the first to answer the call. I am very pleased to announce I have a second victim blogger for the site. :)



Michael Keen is our newest blogger.


Michael Keen is the Director and Senior Solutions Architect in the Enterprise Architecture group at Alliance Technologies in Des Moines, Iowa.  He is an innovative, results-oriented architect and executive with over a ten years of experience using technology to reach business objectives and eliminate barriers to business growth.

Before his career in IT, Michael was a professional alpine climber.  He spent over seven years in the highest peaks of the world and was the deputy expedition leader for an expedition to the South Face of Annapurna in 1999.  He has learned what it takes to prepare oneself for large challenges and has taken those experiences and translated them into his successful career in IT.

Today, Michael spends most his time speaking in front of C-level executives and other business groups around the U.S. on the how to integrate IT and business.  He brings his experience in strategy and execution from alpine climbing to the world of strategic IT automation and execution using dynamic IT concepts and the Citrix Delivery Center products.



I am very pleased that Michael is joining the team here at Michael has a wide variety of experience in technology and blogs a great deal about the lessons he learns each day in the field. The technology experience and his extensive moutain climbing background make Michael a very interesting person to know.



I am looking forward to seeing Michael’s cotnributions to the site.


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Speaking lessons learned from the NFL Hall Of Fame inductees…

Posted by Hilari Weinstein on Aug 7th, 2008
Aug 7

Yesterday I was meeting with a client , Ron, who mentioned that he recently watched the NFL Hall of Fame induction.   Each of the inductees was asked to speak.  Most had a piece of paper with their speech written out word for word.  Some read directly from the page which wasn’t very effective or memorable.  One fellow had notes written down but forgot his glasses and could not read what was written so from the podium, he asked to borrow someone else’s glasses. 



My client remembered the Maya Angelou quote I always use, "People will forget what you said, they will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel."



Ron did not remember a word from most of the inductees.  The ones who were memorable, may not have had perfect verbal fluency but really connected with the audience and spoke from the heart.  Are you too attached to your content? Or do you connect and speak from the heart?  It is ideal to have a good balance of a strong message and engaging delivery.


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