The lowdown on business case tools

Business case tools help agencies adhere to a variety of regulations for justifying and tracking IT projects. They range from simple case builders and OMB Exhibit 300 submission tools, to business intelligence and portfolio management suites, with lots of overlap in between.

Many of these tools integrate with software you may already be running, such as enterprise resource planning software. And some are very specifically tailored to help you comply with measures such as FISMA, the Government Performance and Results Act, and the President's Management Agenda.

But often these tools are only as good as the people who use them. In that spirit, software makers offer this helpful advice:
  • Understand the reasoning behind each business case. 'Software can only take you so far,' DeMaio says. 'If you don't do the business case itself, you can digitize a lousy plan.'

  • Keep it simple. Buy-in inevitably requires getting top executives to understand and support the business case. 'I tend to suggest simple programs rather than complex,' DeMaio says. 'You're always going to have a vendor trying to up-sell you.'

  • Focus on the big picture. 'Look for a tool that brings everything together,' advises Amy Vaccari, director of PMO services at Metier. 'Look at it holistically,' from beginning to end.

  • 'Start small,' recommends Jonathan Becher, chief executive officer and president of Pilot Software. 'Don't think you need to solve all your agency's problems on Day One. Think of it as a rollout over time.'

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