When creating and pitching business cases, even experienced presenters can fall victim to a few common mistakes.

Here are the five most frequent mistakes managers make when pitching their business cases, and easy ways for you to avoid them.

Mistake #1: Failing to address strategic goals

If a project has an impressive ROI, it’s easy to assume the project’s benefits speak for themselves. This often happens with IT initiatives. Say, for example, you want to implement an enterprise content management system to store information and automate associated business processes. You’ll likely build your case around the fact that the system will pay off in six months—but that’s not what stakeholders are looking for.

When you are building your case, be sure to demonstrate that you’re meeting a clear business need that aligns with stakeholders’ goals. Is your organization seeking to generate revenue? Increase customer satisfaction? Avoid hiring additional staff? Whatever goals your stakeholders have, show how your project aligns with them—and how it can help them achieve their goals while you achieve yours.

Mistake #2: Ignoring other departments

In the excitement of working on your initiative, it’s far too easy to forget how your idea affects other departments. How will it benefit them? What will they need to do to make sure your project gets off the ground? What new work will they have once the new system is in place? Include this information in your case—stakeholders will want to see it.

When you’re developing your case, it helps to include experts whose departments will be affected by your idea. Share drafts of estimated costs and benefits with them and ask if you’ve been accurate in your estimates of your project’s effects on their teams. Ask if you’ve accounted for training costs, transition costs and timing. Getting their buy-in is key to your project’s ultimate success.

Mistake #3: Forgetting transition costs and timing

Some managers forget to factor in what it takes to make the switch to a new system. Have you included the costs of new hardware? Migration? Training? What will happen to your old system, if you have one?

Even if you feel the new system is likely to be adopted swiftly, stakeholders need a handle on transition costs before they can decide whether to give the green light to your project. Even if you can’t give them exact figures, include rough estimates based on similar projects. This shows stakeholders that you’ve considered all the angles and helps you gain their confidence.

Mistake #4: Glossing over risks

The easiest way to poke holes in a business case is to ask “What if?” It can be difficult to spot risks on your own, so ask someone to help you. As you’re building your case, ask that person to challenge the assumptions you’ve come up with. You can also try these questions to spur ideas:

  1. What if someone else developed the project plan? What would the project look like if IT took the lead? What about HR? Marketing?
  2. What if things were different? What if you had twice or half the time to complete the project? What if you had an unlimited budget? What if you did it yourself?
  3. What if we did nothing? Don’t forget to consider the consequences of inaction.

Encourage your team to think like your stakeholders and raise the concerns they are likely to have. Does your CTO insist on developing every project in-house because he believes vendors don’t deliver? Does your CFO believe that every project will run over budget, no matter what? Does your COO distrust technology because she believes “people do it best”? Think about what objections your approval committee is likely to have so you are prepared for them. Even better, ask stakeholders ahead of time .

Mistake #5: Using jargon

In your slides and script, be sure to use clear, understandable language so you won’t end up with an audience full of “listeners” checking their email. Technical folks may know what you mean by “PGCM,” but business department heads may not. And if they can’t understand what you’re saying, you’re in trouble.

To avoid this problem, ask colleagues from other departments to listen to your presentation and let you know any terms you should define or eliminate. Remember, being direct, clear and straightforward always wins the day! (Here are five more tips to give your greatest presentation ever.)

Get the complete guide to building a successful business case with the Document Management Software Justification Toolkit.

Justification Toolkit

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