Categories: business case
One of the things I get asked the most is, “Can you help me with my business case?” It wasn’t always like that, but I think these days project managers are getting more and more involved with writing business cases. We’re taking in part in the project from an earlier point, which often means before the project is even really a project.
I’ve written quite a lot about business cases over the years so here’s a round up of resources that can help you put together a fantastic business case.
Business Case Basics
To get started on a business case you need to know the purpose of a business case, who is going to read it and the 7 essential elements that go into a standard business case. If you’re starting from scratch, these two articles have got you covered:
As with all things in project management, understanding the ‘why’ is a huge benefit for understanding the ‘how’. The 3 reasons why business cases are essential are:
- They specify the problem that has to be solved
- They justify why it’s worth spending time fixing the problem
- They provide information on the solution that helps decision makers prioritise the work and the investment required.
These reasons apply whether or not your company cares much about paperwork and bureaucracy. As a project manager it’s still important to understand why your project has value to the business. If you’re struggling to get your management team to even the shortest business case, keep pushing! It will massively help your project management maturity levels.
And you can watch a short video all about those in more detail below.
Business Cases for Program Management
Programs need a slightly different approach to justifying a project through a business case, although there are many common elements, and the reasons why you would do a business case (to specify the problem, justify the work and explain the solution) are still relevant.
There’s a whole stack of information on preparing a program-level business case in this summary I put together from Program Management (Gower, 2010), by Michel Thiry: What goes into a preliminary program business case?
You’ll see that there is still a great deal of detail required from a benefits realisation plan to resource requirements, and a statement of achievability. It’s a significant amount of work even to get to this position of having a preliminary business case.
Once you’ve got approval in principle to continue with your program, you’ll be able to put together a more detailed program business case. You could argue that this document (again, I’ve pulled together a high level view of some of the ideas outlined in the Program Management book) borders on being a Project Charter, because by this point you’ve had approval for the concepts and solution so you aren’t spending too much effort thinking about options appraisal any longer.
However, there’s also an argument for saying that options appraisals are more suited for solutioning at project level, and at program level you’re really approving the transformative change.
I wrote a recipe for a program business case as well.
More Resources for Business Case Preparation
If you are writing a business case you’ll find this book interesting: Business Case Essentials.
Finally, here are some tips for preparing a business case when your project is all about implementing online collaboration tools. There are some specific things to consider that will help make your proposal more appealing, and it’s especially worth thinking about non-financial elements and how to justify those.
I hope these resources are helpful for you!