Get Every Project Business Case Approved

Maximise your chances of success with this handy guide [Free Business Case Template]

Construction Project

If the initiation plan is the most important part of the project, arguably, the business case is the most important document in the initiation plan. Without a strong case for the project to go ahead, the likelihood of getting funding is severely impacted.

Just like with many other aspects of the project plan, the requirements will vary from company to company and industry to industry so it’s always best to try to establish the expectations in terms of content, format and detail before you get started.

However you decide to approach creating the business case, we hope that you’ll find the below post useful (and in the Business Case Template). If you have any feedback, we’d love to hear from you in the comments.

>Download a business case template here to kick-start your project.

The main aim of the business case is to give justification for a project and to detail the reasoning that brought you to that conclusion. It typically consist of a structured document, but can also be created in the form of a presentation.

Regardless of the format, the following should be covered:

1. Executive summary

This is where you summarise the key points of your business case. Remember to keep it succinct and tight. It should be a compelling and convincing read, that makes the reader want to delve deeper. Generally, we would advise saving this part to the end, as it’s much easier to bring the key findings in once you’ve finished all other sections.

2. Background and reason

It’s typically useful to frame the business case properly before proceeding with anything else. The way you do this will depend on the circumstances, but it can consist of commentary or analysis of the political climate, the market situation or anything else that will contribute to the justification for the project.

3. Problem statement

Describe the business problem or opportunity that the project would be addressing. It may be worth, as appropriate, to consider the five ‘Ws’: Who, What, Where, When, Why, to help with the information and structure.

4. Project description

Writing an effective project description is not easy, but with practice, it will become easier. Focus on structure, and make sure to cover what the project will consist of, a general description of how it will be executed, as well as the over-all objective. As with any writing, it helps if you test what you’ve written against the criteria of Clear, Concise, Complete, Credible.

5. Scope

Detail the work that needs to be done in order to accomplish the project objectives, as outlined in the project description above. It may also be a good idea to define anything that is not in scope too. The aim is to not leave any room for interpretation at a later stage and thus prevent the dreaded scope creep.

6. Reasons

This section gives you an opportunity to list all the different reasons the project should go ahead, covering both the objectives as well as the predicted outcomes of delivering those objectives.

7. Business options

Provide analysis and recommendations to the business as to what options are available. Usually, it ranges from ‘do nothing’ to do the recommended, with one or two options in between, depending on the nature of the proposed project.

8. Expected benefits

Present the benefits the project is expected to deliver, and align these with the current situation within the organisation.

9. Expected dis-benefits

In this section you should list the potential negative effects the proposed project would have, if any.

10. Organisational impact

How will the proposed project affect the organisation’s processes and how the human capital is organised?

11. Strategic alignment

Outline how the project will support the current company-wide strategy. If there's little alignment between the proposed project and the company strategy, there will be a risk that the project won’t go ahead.

12. Timescale

This section should include the estimated time the project will run until benefits are realised. It should also include a summary of the project plan.

13. Milestones

List and describe the project milestones, as well as completion dates.

14. Costs

Provide a detailed breakdown of all estimated project costs.

15. Investment appraisal

The investment appraisal is a cost-benefit statement and you should put, as far as it’s possible, numerical values on both. You should also mention how the project is funded.

16. Major risks and issues

This section should summarise any known risks and issues connected to the project, their likely impacts and mitigation plans. At this point, any risks are likely to be ‘high level’ – you’ll be likely to conduct a more thorough assessment at a later stage.

17. Dependencies

In this section you should list anything that the project’s going ahead or success would be dependent on. Often there are none, but in other cases there are several. An example of a dependency could be ‘the [success of the] project to build a shopping centre at location X is dependent on the building of Crossrail II’.

18. Assumptions

When you’re assessing a project it’s often necessary to make a number of assumptions. they can range from an estimate of how long it might take to build a piece of software, to the price of raw materials or building materials. It’s important to list the assumptions made, as well as the potential impact of any shift.

19. Constraints

List and define all the existing constraints to the project here. You will typically have to do an internal and external analysis in respect of constraints. Internally you may find that the project is constrained by the lack of expertise, or resources. There may be legal issues, or regulation, that would equally constrain the project. Examples of external constraints might be political social or environmental ones.

20. Business case analysis team

List all the people who’ve contributed to the business case, as well as their roles and responsibilities.

21. Approval

All documents need explicit sign-off by the relevant parties. The information that needs to be present are Name, title/role, signature and date.

That’s all. Now all you have to do is take this away and go create your own business case!

>Download a business case template here to kick-start your project.

 As always, if you have any suggestions or comments, please let us know via email – we would love to hear your feedback.

// The Programme Recruitment team.