The ONLY guide you need for writing a business case. We show you how to write a business case for your project using an outline business case template.
This article is about writing a business case. In 3 Reasons for Project Failure, the Lazy Leader asked, “Why do too many projects fail to deliver their objectives even though project management best practices appear to be used?”
To recap, research identified the following common causes of project failure:
- poor project planning,
- a weak business case, and
- ineffective top management involvement and support.
This article examines the second cause—a weak business case—and shows you how to write a business case for your project or business change initiative. We also provide an outline for the business case template.
It is during the early stages of a project that we develop the business case. Skipping or racing through the stages described here is a recipe for failure.
Since this how to guide covers a lot of ground and is a long read, you may want to check out the table of contents for some quick jumping around.
Introduction to Writing a Business Case
Before we consider how to write a business case, we must deal with the following 3 questions:
- What is a business case?
- Why do you need a business case?
- When do you use a business case?
The business case
One of the first things you need to know when starting a new project are the benefits of the proposed business change and how to communicate those benefits to the business.
If you don’t know these things, there is little point proceeding.
Understanding is the beginning of approving. – André Gide
During the early stages of a project, we draft the business case to answer the “Why?, What?, How?, and Who?” questions necessary to decide if it is worthwhile continuing a project.
Whilst the project proposal focuses on why you want a project, it will only contain an outline of the project: business vision, business need, expected benefits, strategic fit, products produced, broad estimates of time and cost, and impact on the organization.
In contrast, the business case, which is first developed during an initial investigation, has much more detail and should be reviewed by the project sponsor and key stakeholders before being accepted, rejected, cancelled, deferred or revised.
Depending on the scale of the business change, the business case may need further development as part of a detailed investigation.
Therefore, to avoid wasting unnecessary time on the impractical, the business case should be developed incrementally and reviewed periodically.
Why you need a business case
Preparing the business case involves an assessment of:
- business problem or opportunity,
- costs including investment appraisal,
- likely technical solutions,
- impact on operations, and
- organizational capability to deliver the project outcomes.
These project issues are an important part of the business case. They express the problems with the current situation and demonstrating the benefits of the new business vision.