For how long have project pundits been exhorting companies to write better business cases or even any business cases? People have anguished over the lack of rigor in the setting out of benefits from projects. Deplored the lack of benefits management, and doubted the veracity and value of business cases.
Cost-benefit analyses were dusted off in the 1950s in the USA to provide a basis for evaluating publicly funded projects. In the main, this cannot wash their face financially – not if you just count the pennies. Of course, the argument goes; there are things of value that cannot be assessed directly in cash. So the business of finding ways of monetarising utility and other values came into being, as did the flock of economists and other nay-sayers challenging the validity of these approaches.
It’s not that there aren’t a plethora of approaches to use. Most, one has to say, aren’t very well thought through. However, does it matter when they are not used to any good purpose?
So, having exhausted myself – again – trying to work with yet another Board to sort out how to prioritise the projects in their portfolio, based on some rational basis, like greatest benefit, best bang-for-the-buck, or something, I was reminded of the saying about asking the wrong question. “You are going about this all wrong”, it seemed to say. “This isn’t the right question to ask these people.”