Beginner’s Guide to Writing an Effective Business Case

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Almost all projects need to be approved, whether it’s getting the green light from the team or convincing stakeholders at the executive level. You may know how to use a project plan or project charter to present a new initiative and get the project approved. But if the project involves a significant business investment, you may need to develop a business case.

To develop a business case and present your build-operate-transfer project, Alcor provides resources and planning to help you get the resources and support you need to run a successful project.

What is a business case?

A business case is a document that explains the value or benefits to your business of pursuing a significant investment or business initiative. The initiative can be anything from communications activities for the launch of a new product or feature, a proposal to increase investment for an ongoing initiative, or a significant investment with a new agency or contractor, to name a few.

Business Case vs Business Plan

A business case is a proposal for a new strategy or major initiative. It should describe the business needs and benefits of your business.

A business plan is an outline of a brand new business. In the business plan, you define your business strategy, mission and vision, and how you plan to get there. It is also possible to create a business plan for an existing business, but only if you want to change the direction of the business.

Free Business Strategy Template

Business case vs summary

An executive summary is an overview of an important document that contains facts and details that project stakeholders need to know if they haven’t had time to read the entire document. The final step in writing a business case is to prepare an executive summary that contains the most important and overarching information your stakeholders need to know.

Business Case vs Project Charter

If you need to create a pitch for your project but don’t need the full business case template, you can use a project charter. Similar to a business case, a project charter outlines the main details of an initiative. A project charter has three main parts: project objectives, project scope, and key stakeholders. The management team will then use the project charter to approve further development of the project.

Do I need a business case?

It is not mandatory to write a business case, or even a project charter, for all projects. A business case is only necessary for initiatives or investments that require significant resources. If you’re working on a smaller initiative, consider creating a project charter instead to pitch your idea to relevant stakeholders.

Although you don’t need to pitch your project to stakeholders, you should be able to answer some basic questions about your project proposal, such as:

  • What is the purpose of the project?
  • Why work on the project?
  • To what extent does the project support the goals and objectives of the organization?
  • What indicators will be used to assess the success of the project?
  • Who is working on the project?
  • When will the project be finished?

5 Steps to Create and Present a Business Case

Your business case shouldn’t be limited to key facts and figures. It should also be able to explain why a particular investment or initiative is beneficial to your business. If you’re unsure, avoid overly technical language and be concise, but always be sure to communicate the value of the project. If this is your first time writing a business case, don’t worry. Just follow these five steps to success!

1. Gather information

Instead, ask team members and stakeholders to contribute to different sections. For example, the IT team should be involved in all decisions related to tools and timelines, while the finance team reviews all budget and risk management issues. If you’re creating a business case for a new initiative, product line, or customer profile, be sure to consult with experts in each area.

2. Plan to write your business case in the wrong order

Some of the sections that come first in your business case — like the executive summary — are usually written last, after you’ve gathered all the resources and information you need to make a well-founded proposal. In the executive summary, you will present all findings and make a recommendation based on a variety of factors. By gathering all the important information first, such as the project’s purpose, funding, and risks, you can ensure that the executive summary contains what is relevant.

3. Build your business case step by step

Likewise, you invest a lot of time in writing a business case. Not all initiatives are right for your particular business, so be sure to regularly let stakeholders check your work as you write. No one wants to spend hours and weeks drafting a document only to have it immediately rejected by management.

Consider a “soft launch” by presenting an outline of your business case to your project sponsor or a senior stakeholder with whom you have a good relationship, to confirm that the initiative is something to invest in . Then, as you create the various elements of your business case, you should regularly ask key stakeholders to check the content to confirm that there are no barriers to the initiative.

4. Refine the document

As you write the different parts of your business case, you may need to go back and refine certain sections. For example, once you complete a cost-benefit analysis with the finance team, be sure to update all project risks related to the budget.

Before presenting your business case, do a final reading with key stakeholders to identify sections that might need further improvement. At this stage, you should also write the executive summary, which is the first part of the document. This is usually one to two pages, depending on the length of your business case.

5. Present your business case

The last step is actually the presentation of your business case. Start with a quick presentation of your proposal, answering the questions of what, why and how. Consider this presentation a great opportunity to explain the business need, how your proposal meets the need, and what the benefits are. Also, be sure to address any risks or concerns that you think your audience might want to know about.

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