OMB 300/53 Business Case: The Path to Green Scores, Part II

Green Light PhotoIn my first post about the OMB 300/53, I laid out the operational basics, the scoring, and important stakes behind managing the business case process.  It’s not easy to achieve an all green scorecard at the end of this process.  But, it is do-able, if you anticipate the challenges and have proactive strategies.

Having supported a customer to achieve all green scores across a complex investment portfolio for two consecutive years, I can share with you the strategies we implemented together to achieve mission success.

Senior leaders must endorse and pay consistent attention to the case

Senior leaders need to commit early and often.  Without leaders setting expectations for performance and deliverables, such as frequent status updates, the chances of business case success drops dramatically. Caution leaders that without their commitment, final scores could be less than optimum—if not disappointing or damaging.  For example, having poor final scores or downward trending scores may bring unwanted circumstances such as loss of future funds, reduced current funding, increased undesirable oversight, reduced staff morale, and even investment termination.

Training must be a priority

Senior leadership also has a role here to recognize the link between certified and qualified PMs, high scores and useful business cases.  Untrained or inadequately trained PMs or SMEs might not empower others to complete the task, and often lead to a lack of overall confidence in the process. The obvious downside is lower quality business cases and yellow scores at best, and red at the worst. Therefore, the importance of formal and informal training is key to well-prepared business case managers, preparers and reviewers. 

Break down communication barriers

The OMB 300 process is largely calendar-driven, established by the timeline of the larger federal budgeting process. So align processes with OMB and agency milestones. Further, since many of the business cases are for major acquisition programs, integrating the OMB 300 process with event-driven enterprise acquisition processes and milestones is tantamount to ensuring a holistic agency view of the investment.  Sub-optimized integrated product teams (IPT) or not using an IPT can result in insufficient internal business processes, such as those that are stove-piped or ad-hoc. This can result in the proverbial “right hand of the organization unaware of what the left hand is doing.”

To facilitate clear communication, one option is to build an MS Sharepoint-based platform that offers the business case community a “touch base” portal. Populate it with points of contact, policy, procedures, schedules, and best practices. This single collaborative tool reduces disconnects, inefficiencies, inconsistent messages, and subsequent rework.

Document Lessons Learned Along the Way

We know what happens to those who don’t learn from their mistakes. Document lessons learned and funnel them into future planning. If not, the team can continue to plan using faulty assumptions and repeat mistakes unnecessarily.

Be ready for changes

OMB 300-related guidance and subsequent formats and tools change often, as do IT trends affecting strategies and policies. These changes can cause scrambling to assess and implement the evolving requirements. For example, a recent budget cycle saw a radical change in format to emphasize the year-round importance of the business case.  Specifically, the case is now divided into two parts. Part A (named Budget Justification) is to be submitted annually and part B (Execution and Operation) submitted monthly, which serves as a baseline for reporting execution and can help answer the question of what happens after the annual submission.

Collaborate (even Co-locate) across teams

See the business case as the intersection of program, business and specific category (e.g., technology, construction, healthcare) management expertise. Therefore, assemble a core team composed of people skilled in these areas. Empowered and engaged IPT members make for speedier, transparent decisions that are communicated across the organization, resulting in tighter integration and quicker information flows.

Green scores mean money saved, goals met

Never stop transforming and fine-tuning the business cases process so you achieve these benefits:

  • Greater organizational effectiveness
  • Alignment of investments with mission and goals
  • Savings in cost and time
  • Preservation of capital
  • Deeper relationships among stakeholders, including oversight groups
  • A proven and replicable model
  • Enhanced morale and esprit de corps.

Read how TSA achieved the highest-scoring DHS portfolio and an all green ranking. Check out my article “Getting to Green: One Team’s Journey to an All-Green Portfolio,” published in the June 2012 issue of Contract Management magazine. I’d like to hear about your experiences and suggestions for a smooth business case process.

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