A business case is used to assess the value of potential projects and essentially sell them to key stakeholders within your organization.
Putting one together for the first time can be daunting, so we’ve created this blog to guide you through the process.
Why do you need a business case?
A business case is not to be confused with a business plan. It is used to provide justification for a project or task and evaluates the estimated costs, risks, benefits and potential delays. It is a method for evaluating potential projects against the criteria that project managers need to execute against, such as benefit realization and time constraints.
Completing a business case is essential for providing transparency around the resources needed and setting out clear goals. It also enables you to prioritize those potential projects that will provide the most value for your company – particularly useful if resources are stretched.
The Business Case Development Process
Before you start – do your research
Your business case will form the basis of a project if your idea is moved on to the next stage in the innovation lifecycle.
Before you put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard), you need to make sure that the idea you’re pitching is grounded in reality and addresses a need that aligns with your overall business strategy. If it doesn’t tick either of these boxes then there’s every chance it’s a non-starter.
Do some background research on your business, industry and any alternatives to your idea, and get some facts and figures handy to back up your case. Double-check the background logic of the potential project and the impact it could have on the business.
Get your implementation strategy together
Work out how your plan will be put in place:
- What resources will you need (not just money – but time as well)?
- What are the potential risks and how will you mitigate them?
- How will your project achieve its objectives?
- What will the milestones in the project be?
- Who will be responsible for getting the project past each stage?
Compile your recommendations and submit them for approval
Create your business case documents (see below). Then you’re ready to submit your case for approval – this may be by presenting it to a board in person or by using business case software. Be ready to defend your recommendations and, if using the latter, make sure you have a good overall summary with attachments for those who would like to view details in-depth.
The Components of a Business Case
The elements you're required to include in your business case may depend on your organization’s in-house processes, but most include the following:
- A brief overview of each area of your business case, known as an ‘executive summary’
- The project objectives and how they fulfil business need
- An outline of the project plan
- The project scope - all the tasks and deliverables that will be executed as part of the project
- The background information around the business case, including the problem it will solve and who the key stakeholders in the business are
- The projected benefits of the project (including non-monetary benefits) and its success criteria
- The cost and potential risks of completing the project, including how they will be mitigated
- The implementation strategy
When you’re putting together your business case, take your time and ensure it aligns with real-world problems and business objectives. You’ll also need to make sure that you have a clear idea of the projected value, cost of risk of your idea (including those benefits that aren’t linked to monetary value). Plan out how you’ll put your plan in place and essentially create a guide for project managers to follow, then get your supporting documents written up and ready to go.