Tag Archives: Math

The case for a business case

"I think we should start a circus."

One of my projects over the past few weeks has been to create a business case for a “bad idea,” something we have no chance of ever doing.  I am pretty sure that if I worked in a small business, I would have simply concluded instantly, “We are not doing that.  It is not worth it, what else ya got?” 

My colleagues and our leadership happen to love the business case.  It has provided the basis for objective discussion about this bad idea.  It seems that there has been reluctance to just call it what it is, because of concern about the origin of this bad idea.  Ah, the big company life!  Although this bad idea is new to me, it is one that has been discussed off and on since 2009.  The business case is based on many assumptions and the analysis is not that complex, yet they love it and I am getting the credit.  I will present the business case to an “officer” of the company next week.  An officer of the company is a big deal, so I will rehearse and prepare with the objective of getting a cease and desist order.  Not what I am usually going for. 

Business Case Recipe

  • Describe the problem to solve.  Answer the question; “How will things be different if we solve this problem?”
  • Use a four or five year time frame
  • Create an excel column for each year
  • Create four proposals with different levels of risk and estimated cost of implementation
  • List out all assumptions
  • Cite any references
  • Use Excel to calculate the net present value of the four options
  • Make a recommendation for one of the four proposals
  • Outline an implementation action plan and timeline

Basic Math

Not good enough. Hope this is not as surprise, but just a basic knowledge of math is not good enough for marketing managers. We have to be able to do more than work a calculator. I was reminded of this two times in the last week.

– I caught an engineer presenting an average of averages. “Caught” is not the right word. I was not trying to catch anyone, but I could not let it go either. So as politely as I could I asked for the calculation to be redone with a weighted average. It was a winner all around, because the revised calculations made the engineer’s proposition even more compelling.
– Due to some changes on who does what (imagine that) I was asked to come up to speed quickly on an excel file. The file was created over the last 12 months and is very well organized and the notes are better than expected. Still, I had to internalize what is happening in this excel file, including lookups and logic statements. Basic math skills would not have cut it.

I suggest that marketers need a knowledge of statistics, databases, logic, accounting and excel to truly succeed.

I love the people part of marketing, but my experience includes a fairly intense analytical numbers dimension as well. Given my process / analytical social style, this is fine with me.

Now for the cold water. At the end of this school year, I could not keep up with my 10th grader’s math assignments on polynomial factoring. For this engineer turned marketer, who was always able to help my older daughter (now 24) with her math homework, let’s just say it hurt real bad.

Why didn’t I google this in May?

One of my friends who was trying to help me feel better explained that 10th grade is the new grad school.