It seems that the easiness of visa approval is inversely correlated to the number of non-genuine visa applications. The higher the latter, the tougher it gets. Over the last 2 years, L1 has got tougher to get because, for too many years, there have been too many cases where there was no intention or possibility to build an L1 compliant business. This has translated into USCIS looking increasingly further into the visa application and assess further whether there is scope for a business to have an L1 applicant.
To this end, the business plan has become a key component of the L1 visa application. Gone are the days when the applicant could write anything in this document and get approved regardless of the content written. This document has now to include specific answers to critical questions to build a case for an L1 visa application.
Overall, the L1 visa is still a valid visa option but USCIS expects the company housing the L1 applicant to have that capability to effectively do so. If there is too much uncertainty around that key point at the time the application is sent out, USCIS is likely to issue a request for further evidence.