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Last updated on 12/21/23

Create an Initial Business Case for Transformation

In the previous two chapters, you’ve learned about the BCG three-part transformation framework, and how to think about the various types of internal stakeholders you need to convince to win support for your strategic plan.

This chapter will illustrate how to create a compelling business case that balances the different stakeholder agendas, so you can get the green light to get started.

As you can see from the stakeholder analysis outlined, when putting the business case together, you will need to include the benefit of a successful transformation. Then, contrast it with the cost of doing nothing, to provide a benchmark illustrating that the investment of time and resources will be worthwhile and provide a return on investment.

Develop Six Key Ingredients in Your Business Case

Your business case should include the following:

  1. Strategic case - why the project is necessary.

  2. Options - an overview of what solutions you have considered, including do nothing.

  3. Benefits- an assessment of what will be gained financially and otherwise (including any unavoidable negative impacts). Don’t forget to include those quick wins here.

  4. Investment - the total costs (including resource costs) to fund the project.

  5. Risk - what could go wrong, how it could be mitigated, and what impact it would have on the business case.

  6. Timescales - a timed project plan outlining the outputs to be achieved, including when the benefits will be realized.

Use Compelling, Clear, and Concise Language for Persuasion

As you consider how to prepare (and later present) your business, bear in mind why you are preparing it. The purpose of a business case is communication - and, to some degree, persuasion. So be sure to use the style of language that your intended audience will respond to and understand. Make it compelling, clear, and concise. 

The language should be clear, and the key points set out plainly in an executive summary at the start of the presentation or document.

A good business case should also be able to withstand scrutiny. With this in mind, avoid hyperbole or easily challenged sales claims that undermine your case.

Your audience - the stakeholders from the previous chapter - will be a combination of mobilizers, talkers, and blockers, so each of them needs to be able to relate to it - and, depending on their nature, each will be looking at the business case from a different starting point. Be sure that you’ve considered this as you write the case.

Check Out How the Case Could Have Been Made at the Blue Cross

🐕 In our Tap Dogs example, Jane secured the support of Phil (the Go-Getter) to put together much of the detail within the case, including the timescales. Elaine’s input helped with the strategic case structure and benefits analysis.

Clearly showing the risks in the business case helped reassure the Blockers, Pete and Sara, that the project had been properly thought through. Thanks to the assessment of the options, the finalized business case showed the difference in impact on the organization between agreeing to launch the project and doing nothing.

One final benefit of the business case creation was that, if well constructed, it could provide the starting point for a more formalized project plan so you can get started on the value you promised!

Integrate the Experience of Others in Your Business Case

You should take comfort in the fact that however innovative your digital transformation plan is, you are not the first person - or the first organization - to embark on this kind of trail.

There is no shortage of analysis to help you avoid making unnecessary mistakes and for building in proven success factors that have been shown to grease the skids for transformation success.

McKinsey logo
McKinsey conducted a study in 2018 on factors for success in a digital transformation project - a great place to start for ideas!

McKinsey conducted a global survey in 2018 that identified two different aspects that characterize successful transformations:

  • Combining a wide scope of changes in one project.

  • Taking the time to look at the human element.

Aim for a Wide Breadth of Scope

Digital transformations tend to be broad in scope. Of the 11 technologies McKinsey asked about, on average, organizations conducting such projects were using four of them. Even more, the most successful organizations tended to deploy more - particularly sophisticated technologies such as AI, IoT, and advanced neural machine learning techniques.

So the choice of technologies to include in your roadmap is important - and ambition also plays a role. A half-hearted approach to a digital transformation is less likely to be successful than one which grasps the opportunities of multiple new technologies to create transformation in your organization.

Integrate People

Digital might be about technology, but transformation is about people - it’s how you motivate them and the teams they form in your organization, to change the mindset - and the organization’s operating model.

The second aspect that McKinsey’s survey identified shines the spotlight on the human factors in a transformation project. The most compelling of these factors include the following:

  • First, and most convincingly, is a leadership factor. If the management team has established a clear change story, the digital transformation project is over three times more likely to succeed. Keeping up a sense of urgency around the project is also influential.

  • Second, making digital tools available to employees and partners - to help them in their day-to-day work and to improve the flow of information-can double the odds of success.

  • Third, fostering a culture where new ideas are welcomed, embraced, and actively promoted by the leadership team helps significantly.

Check Out the Full List of the 21 Keys to Success According to McKinsey

Here is the full list of 21 keys to success from the McKinsey survey. I’d encourage you to look at them and consider how you can take advantage of these lessons in creating - and implementing - your digital transformation roadmap.

Out of 83 practices that were tested in the survey,  the following best explain the success of an organization’s digital transformation:


Implement digital tools to make information more accessible across the organization.


Engage initiative leaders (leaders of either digital or non-digital initiatives that are part of the transformation) to support the transformation.


Modify standard operating procedures to include new digital technologies. 


Establish a clear change story (description of and case for the changes being made) for the digital transformation. 


Add one or more people who are familiar or very familiar with digital technologies to the top team.


Leaders engaged in transformation-specific roles encourage employees to challenge old ways of working (processes and procedures).


Senior managers encourage employees to challenge old ways of working (processes and procedures).


Redefine individuals’ roles and responsibilities so they align with the transformation’s goals. 


Provide employees with opportunities to generate ideas of where digitization might support the business. 


Establish one or more practices related to new ways of working (such as continuous learning, open, physical, and virtual work environments, and role mobility).


Engage employees in integrator roles (employees who translate and integrate new digital methods and processes into existing ways of working to help connect traditional and digital parts of the business) to support the transformation.


Implement digital self-serve technology for employees’ and business partners’ use.


Engage the leader of a program-management office or transformation office (full-time leader of the team or office dedicated to transformation-related activities) to support the transformation.


Leaders in transformation-specific roles get more involved in developing the digital transformation’s initiatives than they were in past change efforts.


Leaders in transformation-specific roles encourage their employees to experiment with new ideas (such as rapid prototyping and allowing employees to learn from their failures).


Senior managers get more involved in digital initiatives than they were in past change efforts. 


Leaders in transformation-specific roles ensure collaboration between their units and others across the organization when employees are working on transformation initiatives.


Senior managers ensure collaboration between their units and others across the organization.


Engage technology-innovation managers (managers with specialized technical skills who lead work on digital innovations, such as development of new digital products or services) to support the transformation. 


Senior managers encourage their employees to experiment with new ideas. 


Senior managers foster a sense of urgency within their units for making the transformation’s changes.

Let's Recap!

  • Your business case should include a strategic case, assessment of options and benefits, details of investment, analysis of risk, and timescales for the project.

  • Be compelling, concise, and clear in your presentation of the business case - and prepared to withstand scrutiny.

  • Along with breadth of scope (or ambition), the main human success factors include good leadership, the use of the best digital tools across the organization, and fostering a culture where new ideas are welcomed and promoted by the leadership team.

After creating a business case, comes some hard work: proving your project is working! In the next chapter, we'll look at how you can use data for this.

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