What is a business case document? What is a business case in Project Management?
A business case is a keystone document to any new project, start-up or business. It is usually a formal document that outlines the reasons for the venture, looks at options and weighs up the cost-benefit of the proposal.
In project management the business case is part of the Initiation phase of the Project Life Cycle and forms part of the Project Initiation Document (PID) in PRINCE2.
How do you write a business case?
A good business case is concise and it is worth remembering that most ideas can be summarised on one piece of paper. A well-crafted proposal will be interesting to read and the vision should be clear. Subsequently the document should capture the imagination of those who are sanctioning the project. The business case should also consider the options available and provide evidence to support the recommendation. This in turn will make the proposal easier to agree to.
What should you include?
There are many different formats available for building business cases but there is no one perfect template. However, they generally include some common elements, such as the following:
- Overview – An executive summary of the business case. An introduction and background to the project.
- Aim – The issue, purpose or demand. The objective and scope of the project.
- Benefits – The benefits and outcomes of the project.
- Options – Outline of the courses of action available.
- Risks – Identification of the most serious risks for each option and how they be mitigated.
- Costs – Outline of costs for each option and required resources. Investment profile and cost/risk/benefit analysis.
- Duration – Key dates, time constraints and outline schedule.
- Recommendations – Choice of course and next steps.
In project terms these reflect the key elements of the Project Management Triangle (the Triple Constraint model) that reflects the interdependencies between time, cost, scope and quality. The business case should help to identify which are the most important elements and priorities within this relationship.
Business Case Template
One easy way to remember the key elements of a business case is by using The Right Questions method. If you follow through The Right Questions process it will allow you to explore the questions that you need to answer. Then these answers can be place into the appropriate format.
For example, if we take some of the key questions from The Right Questions process and combine them with the business case outline from above we can come up with the following business case template:
|Overview||Where have we come from to get to this point?
Where are we now? What is the present situation?
Where do we want to get to with this project?
Why do we need this project?
Why does the project align with our values?
Why do we believe the project will succeed?
Who are the stakeholders in the project?
Who is the market?
|Aim||What is the aim?
What is the scope of the project?
|Benefits||What are the benefits?
Who are the beneficiaries?
|Options||Which options are available to us?
|Risks||Which risks are attached to these options?
Which are the most important risks?
Which mitigation measures can be applied?
|Costs||How much will each option cost?
How will resources be allocated?
How do we measure the costs versus the benefits?
How do we measure progress?
|Duration||When does the project need to be completed by?
When can we start?
When can each element of the project be achieved (the schedule or programme)
|Recommendations and Conclusions||Which option is recommended and why?
Who should be in the team?
Who needs to sign off on the business case?
Once the business case is written and refined it is possible to revisit each of the stages of The Right Questions process again and therefore add more detail. This will provide the basis of your project plan.