Coming up with solutions to a problem is only half the battle. You may have an incredible idea, but without backing, it's tough to move forward.
A business case justifies your solution to all involved parties using data, analysis, and insights. And when you design a user-friendly document, both in structure and design, each stakeholder can easily digest it.
Before embarking on a new project, consider how a business case excites your team, gets support, and reveals unforeseen problems.
Overview: What is a business case?
Professionals use a business case to persuade leaders to make a change. It's the first step in your project intake process. You may use a business case to argue why your company needs specific software, infrastructure improvements, or a new job position. Its purpose is to explain the:
- Business problem
- Potential courses of action
- Recommended solution
- Obstacles to implementation
- Benefits and opportunities
- Cost-benefit analysis
- Scope and timeline
- Next steps
3 benefits of creating a business case
There's no doubt that data-driven decisions support strategic growth and fuel creative problem-solving efforts. Your business case approach combines persuasive storytelling and facts to compel stakeholders to take action.
1. Generates buy-in from stakeholders
For a project to be successful, it needs people to support it. Your business case persuades leaders to allocate resources and funds.
A persuasive business case provides data for informed decision-making, including elements like:
- Cost-benefit analysis: Compares costs, from implementation to maintenance, to benefits, like increased profits.
- Funding plan: Explains how the company pays for the initiative from the existing budget or via investors.
- Return on investment (ROI): Describes your expectations and how you'll measure ROI and drive accountability.
2. Creates a framework for project management
Much like a business plan guides your company, your project business case is a blueprint for change. It's the first stage in your project initiation process, and leaders use the data throughout the plan's life cycle.
Once approved, you'll use key statistics to fuel employee buy-in. You'll also transfer metrics, timelines, and milestones to your project management (PM) software.
3. Reveals obstacles to implementation
During your research, you'll uncover potential barriers through a project feasibility study. These may relate to finances, employees, or timelines. Often, these are the same concerns stakeholders will bring up during your presentation.
By identifying gaps early, you can address stakeholders' concerns within your document and speed up the approval process.
How to write a business case for your projects
Your main objective is to provide a fact-based narrative describing how you'll resolve a business issue. In 1945, mathematician George Polya wrote the book How To Solve It. In his work, he lays out four principles of problem-solving:
- Understand the issue.
- Develop a plan.
- Follow through with your project.
- Review results and produce insights.
Your business case development provides the core elements required to solve a problem, including metrics and expected outcomes. Once complete, you'll turn your research into a compelling argument.
1. Identify and detail the problem
Develop a problem statement that explains the issue affecting your business. For example, your existing project management software may hinder creative workflows and reduce productivity; suggesting a better tool could eliminate these issues.
It's a good idea to speak with department leaders or employees affected to understand the problem. Consider sending out a quick poll or survey to gauge interest in the change. Use data to answer questions like:
- What's the problem?
- Whom does it affect?
- How does it hurt your business?
- Why do you need a solution?
- What do you risk by doing nothing?
- Why do it now?
2. Brainstorm alternative solutions
Show stakeholders various angles by coming up with two or three other suggestions. One of your solutions should be to make no changes.
So if you want new PM software, you may briefly discuss the negative and positive aspects of your existing software while comparing a couple of other choices, including your recommended course of action. Use visuals to connect your problem to a solution.
3. Select your solution
Once you've outlined possible actions, circle back to your main choice. Add extra details about why this option is superior. Explore the benefits, like how it adds value to your organization.
Develop statements about the advantages of using your solution. Include both quantitative (numerical) and qualitative (descriptive) observations.
- Quantitative: Increase team engagement in project management software by 20% while reducing spending by 5%.
- Qualitative: Improve collaboration between teams leading to increased productivity and employee satisfaction rates.
4. Evaluate your desired course of action
Of course, no business solution is without obstacles. Provide details about your project risk management strategy by fleshing out potential difficulties.
Complete a business case analysis by assessing:
- Threats: Outline potential risks, like downtime affecting customers or a lack of funds for proper training.
- Obstacles: Consider barriers to implementation, including funding, infrastructure, or legal concerns.
- Contingency plan: Provide ways you'll address obstacles or an alternative if insurmountable barriers come up.
5. Determine required human and financial resources
Decision-makers want to know how much a project costs. Itemize the project expenses, such as the monthly software subscription amount or extra fees. Then detail the labor hours required from various teams.
List names of stakeholders, department leaders, and employees who will supply labor, resources, or funding. Answer questions like:
- Can we enact the solution with existing staff or do we need to add more labor hours via overtime or outsourcing?
- Where will the funds for extra labor or project implementation come from?
- What are the roles of different leaders, and what amount of their time do you estimate for meetings or phone calls?
6. Sketch your implementation plan
Give leaders a broad overview of your process while reiterating goals and project scope. Use visuals to show how your idea fits into existing workflows and discuss:
- General project schedule with time-management goals
- Milestones for each project phase
- Deliverables per phase or department
- Methods for communication and collaboration
- Budget and labor guidelines
- Key performance indicators (KPIs)
7. Business case structure: Write your plan
Much like telling a story, your business case comes together with a beginning and an end. You'll use your research from the above steps to create a compelling argument for why it's crucial to implement your solution now. Along with written content, include graphs, slides, or infographics.
A typical business case structure consists of:
- Executive summary: Define your initiative in a concise statement with a brief description of its background.
- Desired outcome: Give stakeholders a taste of your company's future once you've achieved your project. Discuss the project's goals and organizational value.
- Current situation: Use data to show your company's existing circumstances while highlighting how it differs from your desired outcome.
- Solutions: Discuss potential courses of action, give your recommendation on the best choice, and back it up with data.
- Key objectives: Describe your plan goals and how you'll measure results. Add cost analysis data to demonstrate the return on investment.
- Requirements: List the resources needed to complete the project. Include people who'll work on it, estimated hours, and any required tools or resources.
- Timeline: Provide a brief timeline with milestones so readers or viewers can visualize the path forward.
- Next steps: End with a call to action, describing what each person needs to do next.
A concise business case leads to action
A well-researched and fact-based business case justifies actions. But it's the emotional appeal that generates buy-in across your organization. Combine data and storytelling to get the backing you need to move forward.