Written by: Phil Sealy – The Pro Forum Community of Practice

Have you ever been handed a new project and wondered how you should get started?  You know how to go about doing the work, what must be done, and when it needs to be done by, but how do you put all that down on paper?  Unless you are a seasoned Project Manager who can do this in their sleep, you need to start with a business case to justify the undertaking of the project, programme, or portfolio.


So, what exactly is a business case? 

A business case provides the ‘why’ for the project, why are we doing this, why now, and why is the success of this project so important?  These questions will answer why we need to do this now to determine if it is the right time to invest time, resources, and money into the venture.  It also helps  the delegate signing off on the business to decide on whether it is in the organisation’s best interest to secure the funding and the resources to the project.  If change is needed, then the business case will help to develop this change, but irrespective of the size and the complexity of this change need, it is important to feed this into the business case to determine why the business case should be supported.

A business case is not only for projects, as it can take on a different name in different situations, such as cost-benefit analysis and feasibility study.  A business case evaluates the benefits, costs and risks involved, and any options that the author proposes the project to undertake.  With any options proposed, there should always be a ‘do-nothing’ option to provide a fall-back option, particularly when the current market is not ready for the change, or the organisation is waiting for a newer solution in the market that will meet their needs better by not proceeding with the project.  Perhaps the business case does not support the current strategic direction of the organisation at the time, but either way, there should always be at least two options other than ‘do-nothing’ to show that there has been analysis and consideration of the option to meet the need/change.

Decision-makers want to see what the benefits of the business case can bring, as well as the risks of supporting the change to make deciding easier.  They want to explore the opportunities that the change can provide, the threats that may arise, and the cost of delivering the change to ensure that they are well within their budget. Without these factored into the business case, will make approvals of any business case difficult.  The detailed costing will come from the future development of the strategy to deliver the change.  This document can also be used by the execution team and the support team to understand what needs to be built and what business objective it needs to meet, particularly when comparing the outcome with the intent of the project.

So, when starting any work on a project, consider the business case to allow the delegate, the execution team, and support teams to better understand the purpose, the benefits, and the outcomes of the project through this one document.


NOTE: The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter, and specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances. The content must not be relied upon as legal, technical, financial or other professional advice.