5 Best Practices: Developing an Executive Business Case Presentation for Business Transformation
By Betsy Burton
Best Practices: Developing & Presenting an Executive Business Case for Business Transformation
I recently wrote a blog covering the “4 Necessary Steps to Successfully Start a Business Transformation Effort”. As a follow-on question, a client asked me how you create a presentation that can be used with senior executives to garner support for a business transformation effort.
Over my time as an analyst/advisor, I have had the opportunity to review and help many clients create business case justification presentations. In all of these presentations there are a few common best practices that have emerged.
Start With the Opportunity, Not the Problem
The best way to open up a presentation about business transformation or business architecture or almost any case study, is to start with the business opportunity and value. The advantage of doing this is that it gets your audience thinking about the positive opportunity facing your organization.
You can highlight the positive opportunity by highlighting key market trends, emerging technology enabled businesses, and introducing new product or service opportunities.
You can also accomplish this by highlighting some business optimization and cost savings. However, optimization and savings should be put within the context of broader business opportunities, not just tactical savings. This will garner more and longer-term support for your efforts.
The worst practice is to start a presentation with slides that introduce “the problem”.
The issue with starting a presentation out this way is that it is a bummer or downer on the entire presentation. Chances are, your senior executives know what the problems are, and starting out a presentation this way is just pouring salt on the wound.
Your executives are more interested in how you can help solve issues and – more importantly – create opportunities.
Keep It Short
It is critical that senior executive presentations are kept as short as possible (10-15 slides or 15 minutes).
You want to leave your audience asking for more, not bored with your presentation.
It is also critical to make sure that you stay on topic. Many IT professionals, in particular, want to show their executives how much they know. This is understandable since many in IT don’t get an opportunity to present to their executives very often.
This is a case, however, where leaving them wanting more is much more powerful.
Use Your Appendix
Following the best practice of keeping your presentation short, a great practice is to have an appendix with supporting materials.
For example, you could have material in the appendix that talks about the problems you are trying to solve, operational details, detailed budget requirements, staffing and resource needs as well as estimated economic impacts.
The key, however, is to leave this material in the appendix so you can pull it up if an executive asks you a specific question. You can also leave the appendix material as a leave behind so executives can look at it if they’re interested.
The critical issue is to develop material to support your business case and have it available but only bring it up as it’s specifically needed.
Highlight the Executives’ Hot Items
Make sure that you create a customized version of your presentation for each executive. Don’t try to use the same exact material for every single executive. Make sure that you understand the executive that you are presenting to at any time, and include their critical issues and interests.
In addition, a best practice is to know what metrics your executives are being measured based on and explain how this business case can help impact those metrics. Know what projects are hot on your executive’s mind, and, if possible, explain the relationship between this business case and their projects.
Include an “Ask” at the End
Make sure to have the last slide of your presentation be an “ask.” The worst thing you can do is leave a presentation with the audience hanging. An FYI (for-your-information) presentation is not valuable.
It is important that the target executive be given an action that you want them to do, so you garner and solidify their support.
An action could be simply to have them introduce you to another executive. It could be to fund a pilot project. It could be to get their approval to initiate a project. And, at least, an action should be an agreement to a specific follow-up meeting.
Whatever you do, make sure that your executive is being asked to engage with the business case.
A great closer is to ask the executive if the meeting was valuable. That way you are getting their verbal interest. And, if they respond that the meeting was not valuable, it opens the door to directly addressing their concerns.
I have found that the vast majority of business case presentations start out with the problem, ramble on with no action or vision, and leave the executive without any need to act or support. The concept of an “elevator speech” should apply to making a business case.
From many IT people the advice in this blog is almost the complete opposite for how they approach giving a presentation. But the best practices outlined here in this blog are critical when trying to support business transformation, opportunity, and optimization.
Keep your executive presentation for business transformation upbeat, actionable, relevant, and engaging.
This blog is a part of the Business Transformation blog series by Aragon Research’s VP of Research, Betsy Burton.
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