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How to Get Buy-In on the Value of the Business Case

By Chris Poole and Lyttleton Shurland

You don’t have work in the federal budget field to know that agencies are closely reviewing every budget line item to see where they can streamline to reduce costs. It is vital that government Program Managers (PMs) understand the importance of building and reporting on sound business cases for their investments – the OMB300 process. If they do not, they risk having some of their funding pulled, or worse, having their program eliminated altogether.

How do you instill the importance? In last week’s blog in our series on Capital Planning and Investment Control (CPIC), we looked at the “Three Cs” of CPIC success. This time we offer a few suggestions on getting buy-in from stakeholders.

Meet Early: It is important to have a pre OMB300 kick-off meeting with the stakeholders in your organization. Stakeholders need to have a clear understanding of the changes and expectations the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has from year to year. OMB has been asking for more information to show cost savings due to moving to the cloud or through data center consolidation. Addressing this early will assist in facilitating the overall process.

Explain Why it Matters: In another post we explained how Capital Planning and Investment Control (CPIC) helps agencies “see the forest for the trees.” Many stakeholders are not familiar with the OMB 300 process and often brush it off as another data call. Explain that by maintaining detailed business cases, agencies are actually measuring program health and getting clarity on the success of their investments. In times of austerity, this helps guide agencies to make the best short- and long-term decisions.

Lay Out a Plan for Success: It is imperative the component makes a strong business case by completing the entire report and updating all related documentation. The days of “checking the box” or submitting last year’s numbers are quickly coming to an end. Create a timeline and carefully calculate the resources you will need to update the business cases. Tell stakeholders exactly what information you will need and when, then stick to plan.

Measure Progress Against Your Plan: Just as the investments are tracking actual performance against goals and plans laid out in your business case, you should also use metrics to gauge how well stakeholders have bought into the CPIC process. For example, some potential metrics could be outcome-focused (preferably), such as improvement of the scores for business cases from initial delivery to final delivery, or from one year to the next. Other potential metrics could be output or input based, such as tracking the attendance or level of involvement (action items assigned and completed) of stakeholders at key CPIC and OMB E300 meetings, such as regularly scheduled Integrated Project Team (IPT) and Senior Leadership Team (SLT) meetings.

In summary, times are changing because of the country’s fiscal concerns. Agencies that don’t take more ownership of their OMB 300s risk a lot more scrutiny than in years prior. Getting the buy-in from OMB 300 stakeholders will help improve the quality and strength of the business case. Program managers everywhere will be held accountable to a higher standard going forward and having complete, compliant and compelling business cases will lead to greater success in planning, budgeting, acquiring, maintaining, and justifying the investment.

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