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How to keep a business case up to date


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How to keep a business case up to date

You’ll see that at various points in the project management lifecycle you are supposed to review the business case and check it is still fit for purpose, but what does that actually mean? What are you looking for?

I’m not sure that continuing commercial justification of a project sits solely on the project manager’s shoulders, but you can do a first pass review and raise any concerns with the sponsor. After all, power sits with them to make changes to the project or cancel it, should it no longer be fit for purpose and likely to achieve its goals.

Here’s what to look for when you do a business case review to check if the project is still viable.

business case review

Strategic alignment

Hopefully your strategy doesn’t change that often, but if you’re managing a multi-year project or program, or you’ve just had some strategic change at the top, it’s worth checking to see that your project still aligns with the organisation’s goals.


Can you still afford to do the project? In other words, have costs spiralled due to unforeseen issues, scope changes, requests from the client that have to be included because the contract was so vague they are saying you have to pay for it (of course, that never happens…) and so on.

The challenge with assessing for affordability is that it then opens up a conversation about sunk cost. If you’re three weeks off finishing the project, it may well be worth the cost uplift to get you across the line. If you’ve got two years still to go, not so much.


Look at whether the riskiness of the project has changed. Hopefully as you know more, risk levels have decreased. But a portfolio manager would probably want to assess the risk of this project along with the risk of the portfolio overall, and if the whole portfolio risk profile has changed, there are some conversations to have.

Look at whether your risk budget or contingency time in the schedule is adequate to cover the risk. If not, if you added more, would that make the project unviable?


Consider whether you can still complete the work. Achievability might be challenged if key resources have left, deadlines have changed, a supplier has gone bust, or there are plans for a merger. Anything might affect your ability to achieve the plan as it is today.

If you can’t achieve the baselined plan, would a replan mean other criteria for viability are not met? For example, you could achieve the plan with more time and more money, but that would mean the project would not be a cost-effective initiative.


Check that you are still going to get the benefits, or enough of the benefits to make it worthwhile from a cost/benefit analysis. If the project ticks all the other boxes, it might not tick the box for benefits. For example, a delay in the schedule may push back realisation of the benefits to a point that undermines the business case. Additional resources pushing the price up will eat into benefits. Perhaps the project no longer represents value for money.

Carry out these checks at key governance points and gate reviews. Highlight where there are issues to resolve, and come up with a plan if you can. Then discuss that with key stakeholders, the client and sponsor, and see if you can resolve any business case challenges without having an impact on viability of the project. Ultimately, if the business case is no longer viable, the decision is around cancelling the project – and that’s a tough conversation for everyone.

However, if the business case no longer stacks up, cancelling could be the best thing to do.

Posted on: April 15, 2024 08:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

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