When starting a new project, you know what that project seeks to accomplish. You’re in sync with business needs and, after brainstorming with your team, have a possible solution. But before writing a project plan and getting to work, you need to justify this work to your team, manager, and external stakeholders.
That’s why project managers create business cases: well-thought-out and concise documents that justify the time, money, and other resources necessary to complete an upcoming initiative.
What’s a business case?
A project business case is a document that explains why an initiative is worthwhile, thanks to projected benefits, and convinces stakeholders to invest their time and finances in the endeavor.
Creating a business case is part of the project planning process, as you’ll need to determine product and service details to effectively persuade your audience to jump on board.
Why do you need a business case?
A business case proves that your project benefits the organization, aligns with company core values, and uses resources wisely. It’s a comprehensive yet concise project definition stressing that this initiative is for the company's betterment.
To prove this, you must expand your reasoning beyond “We want to do this work” to include costs and possible disadvantages. Your case document should address the following questions:
- Opportunities: What problem does this initiative solve, or what opportunity does it present to the business?
- Benefits: How will this benefit the company, aside from direct opportunities?
- Risk: Are there any risks involved?
- Technical recommendations: How will this affect current business technology?
- Timeline: When do we expect to complete this project?
- Operational impact: How will this impact the business regarding resources and labor?
- Capacity: Do we have the available resources to complete this project?
Answering these questions gives decision-makers all the data points they need to decide on approval.
A business case versus a business plan
The difference between a business case and plan is scope: The former proposes a new strategy or project based on business needs, and the latter details a strategy for starting a new enterprise.
A business plan would include a complete start-up strategy, mission statements, and operational procedures with the intent to build a company from the ground up. Entrepreneurs use this document to plan their business or showcase it to potential investors, hoping to gain financing.
The key elements of a business case
While you can make your business case as thorough or concise as you want, here are some elements most documents include:
- An executive summary that’s brief and states what the project is, who’s involved, and why it’s important.
- A project definition that describes the project’s deliverables and purpose in more detail.
- Goals and objectives that align with employer or client expectations.
- A project scope that roughly estimates project tasks, milestones, and deliverables.
- Context explaining the problem your project seeks to solve, tying it to the company's strategic plan.
- Success criteria that define markers for success beyond simply completing the project.
- Stakeholder demands, like what project terms exist to meet stakeholder needs.
- A budget proposal breaking down costs to inform financial decision-making.
- A schedule like a Gantt chart that clearly showcases due dates and dependencies.
- Rules, like roles, responsibilities, and approval processes, as well as any company procedures that apply to your project.
- Communication details such as a scheduled reviewal plan and how your team will communicate with external stakeholders.
- An update plan defining how and when you'll provide project progress updates.
- A risk assessment defining threats and offering mitigation plans.
Additionally, some business cases include market research, competitor analysis, and marketing strategies if projects require it.
8 tips for writing an excellent business case
It’s time to show your work. Feel free to create a template from the above business case elements, filling it in as you follow these eight tips.
1. Highlight problems the project solves
Employers care about solving target audience pain points because, if they do, they gain customer interest and retention. To persuade the reader it’s a worthwhile initiative, stress how this project solves consumer problems.
Another convincing factor is how your project solves business issues. Throughout your business case development, stress how this project might mitigate challenges like decreased revenue or staffing difficulties.
2. Research alternative solutions
The best way to empathically articulate this project’s benefits is if you can show that alternatives aren’t worthwhile. You don’t want a C-suite exec to respond to your business case with another method you hadn’t considered yet — that suggests you didn’t do your due diligence in researching this solution. So spend some time in your business case acknowledging alternatives and explaining why your solution is best.
3. Fill out each section considering your audience
As you fill out your document, always keep the reader in mind. You might even create separate cases for different audiences, like one that convinces your manager to approve and run a project and one that persuades a client to invest. Personalize the entire document by addressing each audience’s concerns so they feel you’ve thoroughly considered their needs.
4. Outline your implementation plan
Remember: Creating this document is already part of the project planning phase, and it can help you develop an implementation plan. Touch on this roadmap in your business case so readers understand next steps and see that you’ve thoroughly considered how to execute your chosen solution.
5. Create a compelling story
Engage your audience by adding visual stimuli and storytelling elements, like using emotion-focused language to effectively express your target audience’s pain points. Add illustrations and charts that support your research and objectives so the reader gains quick and convincing data-driven takeaways. And when explaining your case, use real-world analogies and metaphors to make the material more human and relatable.
6. Use previous examples
One way to sell your case is to mention similar situations where project rejection led to adverse business outcomes. You could present this information as a business case analysis, comparing similar factors in related cases.
7. Simplify your case
Consider the executive summary an "elevator pitch,” using it to quickly convince the reader and allowing all other details to simply bolster what they already think is a great initiative.
8. Use everyday language
The decision-maker might not be a project manager or industry-relevant professional, so use plain, easy-to-digest language, avoiding technical jargon and complex details.
Make your business case a reality with Roadmunk by Tempo
Once you have a successful business case, it's time to start working on your project plan. Roadmunk by Tempo helps you create audience-friendly, comprehensive, and flexible roadmaps your team can easily update. Then, use Timesheets by Tempo to track team progress and ensure you meet project deadlines.