How to Write A Business Case For Your Project

What It Should Include

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A business case is a document that secures the investment both in terms of time and money for your project. You use a business case to convince everyone else that you have a great idea and that it is a sensible thing to do. That’s why it is important that you write a good, convincing business case. If you can’t get your message across in this document then you risk losing the commitment of your senior managers – if you had it already.

What to Put in a Business Case

A business case is made up of information that helps whoever is making the decision about whether the work should go ahead. It should answer all their questions and give them the information they need to make the decision.

Traditionally, business cases have been full of financial information, and that still is relevant in many cases, especially when you are looking for a sizeable chunk of money for investment in your project.

Business cases should include:

  • An executive summary: this helps readers who are in a hurry
  • The rationale or business driver for doing the project
  • An overview of what problem the project will solve
  • An assessment of the options considered (including what would happen if you did nothing)
  • Your recommended solution
  • The benefits of doing the project
  • How you will know if it has been successful, and what success looks like for this piece of work
  • An outline of what it would take to get that recommended solution up and running, for example a high-level plan, how you will track your project and an outline of the budget.

    The Money Sections

    Most executives will want to see something about how much it will cost to implement your solution. Your business case should include enough information to make the decision on whether this project is worth the investment.

    Remember to include:

    • How much it will cost to do the project
    • The cost of not doing the project: i.e. the money that would be lost through not harnessing this new opportunity or through continuing to work in outdated ways.
    • The cost of any resources required, even if you don’t have to actually pay for internal staff members.

    The financial sections of your business case should also include something about the return on investment you can expect. This is where you get to explain about how many extra sales you can expect or what efficiency measures you predict. Don’t be overly optimistic as this won’t help anyone. Instead, be realistic and honest about what you think this project will return for your company.

    Other Elements to Include

    Not everything to do with projects can be measured in money. You may also see benefits from your projects that relate to quality, improvements in staff morale, increased customer satisfaction scores or something else that is hard to equate back to cash. That’s fine. Include all of these in the benefits section of your business case. If you can track them in other ways, such as through staff satisfaction surveys or increased loyalty measures, then note down how you are going to judge if the project has been a success.

    Refine As You Go

    Your business case is a document that is presented to the project board or another decision-making group, but that isn’t the last time you will see it.

    You should be updating the business case as you go through the project. When you get further through the project life cycle then you’ll be able to assess whether you are on track to deliver what is set out in the business case. You can make a call as to whether you will hit your financial targets or not.

    If not, review whether the project is still viable.

    The business case should be a useful working document for a project manager as it explains exactly what should happen and why. It also provides a useful benchmark to look back on, so make it as comprehensive and convincing as you can.