Project Management

PMI Training: Business Case - Best Practices for Success Recap

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Categories: PMI Training

By: Klaus Nielsen, MBA, PMI-ACP, PMP

I have been working with the business case for years. Sometimes it’s a one pager and sometimes it’s 100+ pages illustrating the diversity we need to address. It’s my experience that most practitioners fully understand what a business case is all about – “A business case says: ‘Here is what needs to be done’ and backs it up with evidence.”

However, what are we using the business case for? Is it just approval & getting the money, or something more? What it contains varies very much by the context. Most business cases contain the project description & context, the cost, benefits, risks, executive summary, scenarios and so on, but how it’s covered and the details vary upon the context and pages available. This means that for each section of the business case, the type of content may vary greatly depending on the context. 

We have solved this problem by creating process goal diagrams, which some might recognize from Disciplined Agile. That means for each section of the business case, we present an option list, so the choices for ways of working/tools/techniques are clear to all. 

Let’s say you are going to write the section of the business case describing the reason for doing the project. Some of these options might include opportunity statement, problem statement, study or POC result, project type/categorization, internal/external factors, cause and effect diagram, SARIE, and so on. Choices are great and foster important conversations about our ways of working. To support this, we have created and collected templates for many of these options, so at the end of the training everyone has a comprehensive collection of templates to bring home. During the training, everyone can choose which templates to use for different sections of the business case, which provides flexibility and, when the results are presented, the application of the various templates are illustrated as most groups select different templates to work with.

Sorry to break it to you, but many business cases are somewhat flawed. Most business cases have underestimated the costs and overestimated the benefits. This is a common problem. Taking optimism bias into account might reduce this problem. A simple way to apply optimism bias is the use of weights, so estimates of costs are increased with a factor. This is just one example of some of the problems organizations are facing and we aim to discuss and possibly solve during the training. Other topics are around the business case in an agile environment (Do we need it? If we need the business case, then how much/little to include? Alternatively, a business case is a business case regardless of ways of executing it), the use of risk management related to the business case, for example, and the probability of higher costs or lower benefits, not just execution risks. 

We have been running this course multiple times a year since 2020 with participants from most parts of the world, where the wisdom of all these people has been included in the material together with leading research, best practices, and the national standards from the United Kingdom, for example, which have turned this course into a truly international course and content which many may benefit from.

I look forward to offering Business Case—Best Practices for Success with Klaus Nielsen again March 20-21 and September 16-17. Visit the PMI Training website for more details.

Posted by Klaus Nielsen, MBA, PMI-ACP, PMP on: March 14, 2024 10:38 AM | Permalink

Comments (2)

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Kwiyuh Michael Wepngong Financial Management Specialist | US Peace Corps / Cameroon Yaounde, Centre, Cameroon
Thanks for this insightful write up

Surupa Chakravarty Senior Business Consultant| PwC Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Agree with you.

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