Writing a compelling business case – the MARCH approach

MARCH business caseWhen writing a business case, put yourself in the shoes of your reader (as you should do with all documents). Think through the decisions they will make as they consider your business case.

Remember the acronym MARCH to make sure you’ve included important content.
(This will help you march forward with your business case – daggy but memorable.)

The way a business thinks when considering a significant investment is similar to the way we all, as individuals, do. So I’ll use the example of buying a new kitchen for your home to illustrate the ideas.

M – must have or might be nice

Make sure you explain why the business should invest in what you are proposing.

Must have

Your solution might address a genuine business need or problem; current or emerging. That is, without it, the business will experience some amount of pain.

If my kitchen is broken – appliances not working, shelving falling down, etc – a new kitchen is a need.

Might be nice

It might be possible for the business to continue functioning without your solution, but your solution will make things ‘nicer’ in some way. It may be an opportunity to save money, reduce complexity, prepare for the future.

If my kitchen is not broken – it can still be used to prepare meals – but it is looking tired and worn; more efficient appliances will save money; a better design will make working in it easier; a modern appearance will please me and impress my friends.

A – affordable

The business must be able to afford the solution.

There are some absolutes around affordability, but also some perceptions. The cost must be perceived to be commensurate with the problem being solved or the opportunity provided.

If cost is likely to be an issue, you may need to explain how the business could afford your proposal. (Car dealers often express new car prices as ‘only $12.87 per week’.)

If a new kitchen will cost $500,000, I absolutely cannot afford it no matter how good it is or what benefits it will deliver. If it will cost $50,000, I can likely afford it, but with pain. If it’s only $5,000, I’m very interested.

R – right

Is the solution you are proposing the right way to solve the problem or deliver the opportunity? Is it the best option available?

Consider different products, but also consider fundamental changes to the way things are now.

Best = value, and value is measured by comparing the cost against the benefit. Examine the cost/benefit ratio of different options. There are different ways of doing this – return on investment, payback period, discounted cash flows and the like. Your organisation will have a preferred method.

There are a number of different kitchen suppliers. We’ve considered many of them, and XYZ offers the most suitable solution at the best price. We also considered converting the kitchen into a games room and eating out at every meal, but rejected this option due to health concerns.

C – choice, is this the best direction

Is this the best thing to invest in now?

Your proposal may be competing against a number of other unrelated ideas. There are always a number of things a business could invest in – is your idea the best thing to do now?

Yes, a new kitchen would be great, and the one from XYZ is the best one available. But the roof is leaking. We need to fix that before buying a kitchen.

H – how will it work

How will the solution be implemented?

What are proposing? When will it happen? What will be the impact on the business? What are the risks and how will they be managed? Who will be involved?

Provide clear answers to give the reader confidence you can deliver what you say you can.

The plans for the new kitchen are attached. We can start next month and you won’t have a kitchen for a week. We have three suppliers of ovens to manage supply problems. We’ve engaged expert trades people that have a track record of excellence.

All the MARCH framework items must be in your business case, although you can change the order in which they are presented to best meet your readers’ needs.