The point of entry (PoE) phase is a brief, low-resource effort to decide at which point a business case should be started or entered. It is not about identifying solutions or making a case for next steps.
PoE starts when a problem or opportunity is identified that potentially could be addressed by a new investment.
Problem owners apply critical thinking, explore existing work, consider the context and scale of the problem/opportunity and seek input from an investor, or investors, where this could help to get alignment.
Initial views are documented in a brief memo or file note that outlines the potential problem/opportunity and possible outcomes, and agreed with a NZ Transport Agency investment advisor. The memo also includes a recommendation about where the business case should start, if at all.
A note about opportunities…
Problems and opportunities can be thought of as opposite sides of the same coin; problems can help to identify opportunities, and describing an opportunity is a great way of showing what an investment could deliver.
What is the purpose of point of entry?
The purpose of PoE is to:
- develop an initial view of the importance and status of a potential problem/opportunity
- understand the likely issues well enough to be able to make informed decisions on how to progress.
Benefits of the PoE phase to the organisation include ensuring that the organisation is prioritising its business case work to match resources and work programmes. And, by considering the context and scale of the problem/opportunity and identifying relevant work that has already been done, it makes sure there is no double-up of effort.
Starting the conversation
PoE conversations are often a response to the environment. For example:
- something entirely new (an emerging issue) is identified through monitoring, customer feedback or another source
- a council or other stakeholder identifies a service level agreement (SLA) isn’t being fulfilled, or an existing activity isn’t delivering value for money
- a review of documents, such as activity management plans (AMPs), by local government reveals that an investment might be required
- a need for investment is indicated in a national, regional or local strategic plan or policy.
Exploring the issue may be as simple as a single conversation between likely problem owners. If it’s a more complex issue, it may involve discussions with investors and stakeholders who have been identified for early engagement.
Start talking with a Transport Agency investment advisor at an early stage – you will need to agree your recommendation for PoE with them later.
Asking the right questions
- Approach the issue openly, rather than with an output or solution in mind. Make a genuine enquiry, and keep asking the question, ‘Do we continue?’ If so, ask, ‘Where do we start?’
- Has there already been work done that answers the questions required in a strategic case or programme business case?
- Think about colleagues and stakeholders who may have established relationships or existing knowledge of the problem/opportunity. Can you leverage off these?
- Test any assumptions about the potential problem/opportunity that may have been made beforehand. Do they really stack up? Is there supporting evidence? Check facts versus ‘conventional wisdom’ that may have evolved over time.
- Do you understand the rationale for why you are proceeding through the Business Case Approach (BCA)?
Developing your understanding
- Focus on understanding the potential problem/opportunity. Think about how you would build it into a strategic case, if that was the next step.
- Review any existing documents or related work, including records of discussions with or about stakeholders.
- Start outlining the potential problem/opportunity that has triggered the PoE phase, and how responding to it meets the direction and/or priorities of your organisation.
- Don’t assume an investment must happen – your initial assessment may indicate that the potential problem/opportunity identified doesn’t warrant further investigation at this time.
- Consider the risk, scale and complexity of the potential problem/opportunity, and the possible outcomes, in terms of fit-for-purpose effort required.
- If it looks likely that a strategic case is the next step, think about using investment logic mapping (ILM), which puts the emphasis on gaining a clear understanding of the problem/opportunity, its consequences and the desired benefits before looking at possible solutions.
Find out more about investment logic mapping
Completing the memo
The PoE memo or file note’s purpose is to provide a high-level description of the problem/opportunity and likely outcomes, and a recommendation about where the business case should formally start, if at all. It is the result of your conversations with stakeholders, enquiries about existing documents or work, and the critical thinking you have applied.
Having a documented memo also means you can explain your thinking to decision makers later on.
- Keep in mind the BCA principles when describing the potential problem/opportunity and possible outcomes:
- Use simple concepts and plain language so that the intention driving the investment is clear.
- Show that the level of effort and cost required to develop a business case is proportionate to the complexity and risk of the potential problem/opportunity and the likely scale of the proposed investment.
- Express the potential problem/opportunity and possible outcomes clearly, using as few words as possible. Keep it short and simple – a maximum of 300 words. Think three medium-size paragraphs or half an A4 page. A good approach is to think about how you would introduce the problem as a 30-second pitch, then write it down.
- Outline how the proposed investment aligns with strategic direction, including local, regional and national strategies.
- Include details about any previous work, including council plans or strategies that answer the 16 investment questions required at each phase.
Find out more about the investment questions
Recommend the entry point, based on your view of what the fit-for-purpose effort would be:
- do nothing – no further action
- go to the strategic case or later phases
- no further action for now, but monitor with the possibility of inclusion in future planning
- go straight to a single-stage business case.
If you recommend that the PoE should be a later phase of the BCA, the note needs to show how the 16 investment decision questions have been answered.
Read more about the business case phases
Planning any subsequent BCA development
If your recommendation is for the business case to progress, some planning is required for the proposed business case phase. Outline how you intend to progress. You could include:
- the author
- the project manager
- any stakeholder workshops required
- a workshop facilitator, including whether they need to be an ILM facilitator
- stakeholders who have been identified as key influencers or knowledge holders who should be invited to the workshop(s)
- observers who will attend the workshop(s) but not participate
- an indicative timeline and budget for developing any subsequent business case phase.
Approving and recording the memo
- You will need formal agreement with your recommendation from the Transport Agency.
- You also need to follow any internal approval procedures that apply within your organisation, as continuing beyond PoE will mean committing time and resources.
- Ensure the memo is recorded where it can be retrieved for future reference, especially if the recommendation at this stage is to do nothing. It may save a problem owner time later if the same or a similar problem arises.
- PoE file notes can be uploaded to Transport Investment Online (TIO), as a supporting document in the ‘Activities’ section.
Access TIO (external link)
What happens next?
Your organisation makes a decision about whether to advance the business case process based on the recommendation you have agreed.
If the decision is to do nothing or do nothing for now, no further action is required. Make sure the memo or file note is filed where it can be retrieved easily for future reference. Also, communicate with key stakeholders about the reason for the decision.
Read the ‘Point of entry: relationship management’ information sheet [PDF, 72 KB]
Read more about engagement and relationship management
Funding the point of entry phase
The PoE phase is funded by the problem owner’s organisation.
Completed PoE memo or file note, agreed with the Transport Agency.
Tools and templates
Note that this template is for guidance only, and should be adapted as necessary. It provides prompts to help you/your organisation develop a brief document that is fit for purpose for the PoE phase.
Online learning modules have been developed by the Transport Agency, and are available to our partner organisations. To request access to the modules, email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, title, organisation and manager’s name.
The point of entry course includes:
- Point of entry essentials
- Introducing the point of entry
- Make it real.
Go to the point of entry learning modules (external link)
To open the course, click the link above and then click ‘enrol’. You will be prompted to enter your log in. Once you have logged in, you should be taken directly to the course. You can also find it by going to the catalogue and searching for ‘point of entry’.
These information sheets are designed to accompany the learning modules.
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