Business Case Tutorial Series
how to write an effective business case
Module 1 - What is the Business Case
This tutorial series focuses on how to write a business case. This
tutorial is taken from Prosci's Business
Case Toolkit which includes a complete business case template, guidelines,
exercises, worksheets and checklists for developing an effective business case. It follows
the series dedicated to project planning and reengineering design.
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This first module is adapted from a tutorial written for Prosci by Nancy Maluso.
Why should a business case be written?
The most obvious reason for putting together a business case is to justify the
resources and capital investment necessary to bring a change project to fruition. However,
this implies that the business case is simply a financial document. While all business
cases should include financial justification, it should not be the only purpose of the
The business case is the one place where all relevant facts are documented and linked
together into a cohesive story. This story tells people about the what, when, where, how
· Why is the project needed (issues & opportunities)?
· How will the effort solve the issues or opportunities facing the organization?
· What is the recommended solution(s)?
· How does the solution address the issues or opportunities (benefits)?
· What will happen to the business if the BPR effort is not undertaken (the do nothing
· When will the solutions be deployed
· How much money, people, and time will be needed to deliver the solution and realize
What are the three roles of a business case?
The writing of the business case forces the team to sit back and reflect on all of the
work they have so diligently completed. It is far too easy for the team to continue to
plug away toward the end result and fail to document the work they've already
accomplished. This is especially true during the concept and design stages of any project.
Therefore, the business case serves as a wake-up call to the team causing them to capture the knowledge they've developed about how the
business will function both with and without the final solution.
The second role of the business case is to verify that the solution substantiates or
meets the needs of the business, and is the vehicle for receiving
funding and approval to move forward. It provides a vehicle for the team
to step back and subjectively review their facts and assumptions. In addition, it is vital
that the team document what would happen to the business if the project is not undertaken.
This base case or "do nothing" scenario is the foundation upon which all
benefits from the effort are derived. By documenting everything together in one story, it
is easy to link the issues to the solution and the benefit, and identify where the
business would be without the project. The development of the overall business case
simplifies the development of the financial justification, and will usually identify holes
or problems with the solution. Moreover, you now have a way to measure your success. This analysis also is useful for your leadership team to prioritize this
project against the many other initiatives in the business that may require capital
The final important role that the business case plays is to provide a consistent message to many different audiences. It is a
high level view of the entire project and enables all organizations affected by the effort
(customers, management, operations, research & development, service, sales,
accounting, finance, etc.) to be knowledgeable about the project.
Who should write the business case?
The business case should be viewed as a story -- your team's story. Therefore, everyone
on the team should contribute to its development. This does not mean that everyone will
write a section of the business case. In fact, only one or two people should actually
write the final document. However, all of the information used in the business case should
come from team members themselves.
The business case writers should be team members who have an overall understanding of
the entire project and can synthesize the multiple and varied plans into one document.
Keeping the actual writers of the case to a minimum ensures a consistent style throughout
When should the business case be written?
A project lifecycle typically provides some break points where a business case should
be completed. The figure below shows the steps leading up to the writing of the business
case (see design phase).
Every milestone in the activity of the team should result in a contribution to the
business case. For example, at the conclusion of the project planning phase, all of the
key project information should be documented in the business case (description, business
issues, scope, objectives, etc.).
While one of your primary goals may be to get funding, your chances of success will be
greater if you keep the following goals in mind as well:
- Make it interesting; remember someone will have to read it.
- Keep it clear and concise.
- Minimize jargon and conjecture.
- Communicate all facts as part of the overall story - you've done your homework, here is
the chance to prove it.
- Provide the reader with a picture or vision of the end state.
- Demonstrate the value the project brings to the organization, customer and financial
bottom line of the company.
When your team is done, you should throw a business case party. The entire team should
feel a wonderful sense of accomplishment, after all, the business case contains a complete
record of the great work the team has completed and demonstrates the value of the work yet
to be done.
The benefits obtained by your team by writing the business case are many, but at a
minimum they will have gained:
- Organization of thoughts, activities and knowledge
- An objective review of the ideas and facts of the project
- The ability to identify holes, inconsistencies or weaknesses in the effort
- An improved ability to communicate the purpose of the project
- Financial justification for their effort
- A great sense of accomplishment
Coming next: Module 2 will look at the key
elements of a business case and provide an outline that you can use as a starting point.
Business Case Toolkit -
this toolkit provides activities and checklists for cost and benefit analysis, financial
justification of projects, return on investment, reengineering business case development,
and templates for business case presentation to executive sponsors.
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