Do you think a business case is required for a prospective product release?

In very few companies what to develop in the next product release is decided based on gut feel (as demonstrated in the Dilbert below).

Business Case - Dilbert

In most companies there is some methodology or process, which is followed while making decision on prospective product release and some even require a formal business case. There are various business case templates available on the internet, which can be used to capture the required information to build a formal business case. The considerations, which need to be factored while developing a business case for a prospective product release, can be subjective though and some of them are highlighted in the picture below.

Business CaseFigure: Prospective Product Release – Business Case Considerations

In our opinion, the most important component of the business case should address following questions in high level introductory section

  1. What features are we trying to implement?
  2. Why are we trying to implement these features?
  3. When do we want these features to be implemented?
  4. What will it do for the company?
  5. How will it benefit customers (current or potential)?

We also believe that while it is important for Product Managers to be able to drive the product as per their knowledge, business sense and gut feel, it is equally important for them to communicate their thought process to various product stakeholders to obtain their buy-in so as to reduce the business risk of prospective release. Every company is different but we feel following stakeholders must be part of Business Case review

  1. Marketing
  2. Engineering
  3. Presales
  4. Support

While above stakeholders can provide validations from the company point of view we also believe that Product Managers or Product Owners should try to validate the business case from external stakeholders such as Customers (current or potential), Partners or System Integrators etc. Such validated business case will provide solid confidence to the internal stakeholders, who are supposed to opine on the go ahead of the prospective product release.

In our opinion, the most important part (which is most often missed out or not taken seriously) of the business case is the ‘’success criteria’’ for the prospective release. We believe that success criteria must be mandated and should list out what benefit the Product Manager or Product Owner believes, company will obtain and in what timeframe because of implementing the prospective product release. Examples of such criteria could be expected growth in revenue, improvement in competitive position; expected reduction in implementation costs, or improved proposal compliance etc. Identification of such success criteria coupled with monitoring of attainment of the success criteria post release, will provide meaningful background information for making business case decisions in future.

Of course, this is what we think with respect to business case requirements for a prospective product release. What about you?

As a Product Manager, do you even have to create a business case? If yes, what information do you put in the business case for a prospective product release?