Business cases

What Is a Business Case & How To Create One (video Included)

what is a business case

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If you’ve ever wondered “What is a business case?” You’re not alone. In fact, hundreds of professionals sit and ask themselves the exact same thing. But have you ever tried to run a marathon blindfolded? That’s the professional equivalent of launching a new idea, project, or opportunity without justification.

But fear not! This complete guide provides a concise and clear overview of how to create a business case, including best practices, tips, and tricks.

What is a Business Case Explained

What is a business case?

A business case justifies an idea, project, or opportunity. It documents and communicates the purpose of launching an idea or project, and offers insight into budget allocations, resource requirements, benefits, risks, and more.

All these details are necessary to execute a plan smoothly, and with minimal disruption. Without a business case, the road ahead is filled with uncertainty and setbacks.

A thorough business case will also identify alternative options and provide critical data so leaders can make better decisions about new projects and ideas. These findings and considerations are then brought into a streamlined business case.

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Ultimately, if you’re in charge of a business and its expenditures, you want a clear and concise process for your team to submit ideas and for solutions to be evaluated. That’s what makes a business case so important.

If you’re an employee pitching a new idea or project that solves a bottleneck at your company, you’ll likely need to convince stakeholders that it’s a worthwhile idea to invest in. It’s a business case that gives you a little more thought and depth.

What Information is Included in a Business Case?

There are several elements that make a solid business case. Each has its purpose in creating a compelling case for any new idea or project. By carefully crafting your message and crunching the numbers, your business case has a better chance of being approved. Below is a list of what information is included in a business case:

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Problem Statement
  3. Objectives
  4. Proposed Solution
  5. Benefits
  6. Financial Plan
  7. Risk Assessment
  8. Stakeholder Analysis
  9. Implementation Plan

Let’s look at each of these areas in a little more detail, shall we? If you already know what information is included in a business case, feel free to skip ahead.

Executive Summary

The first piece of information included in a business case is the executive summary. This is your complete overview of the business case proposal, suggested solutions, benefits, risks, and more.

It’s important to keep this section clear and concise. The rest of your business case will speak for itself. This is just about grabbing your reader’s attention. At the end of the day, it’s your sales pitch for the business case you are proposing.

The problem is, not everyone knows how to write an executive summary for their business cases. So we’ve taken the guesswork out with our solid tips below!

how to write an executive summary

How to Write My Business Case Executive Summary

Your executive summary needs to be three things: clear, evidence-based, and concise. You can’t sell ifs, buts, and maybes to your senior stakeholders. You must have some of the details at hand.

Take the biggest benefit your business case provides, and the worst scenario the ignored problem creates and write up an attention-grabbing statement.

Here’s an example for a coffee machine manufacturer:

By eliminating this function from our coffee machines, we can save $10M dollars over the next twelve months. However, with three new coffee machine products soon to reach production, this unused feature could cost us more than $30M.

The above text highlights the benefit of rethinking the product design and the implications of ignoring the proposed business case.

That is exactly how you should draft your business case executive summary. But be sure to include other details, including other benefits, a financial summary, milestones, and potential risks.

Problem Statement in a Business Case

Any business case proposal requires a problem statement. This is your chance to highlight, in detail, the problems your business case can resolve. It’s important to highlight key figures and findings.

For example, if you know your business case will solve the problem of lost revenue, tell your reader exactly how much revenue.

“By introducing this feature, we can cut losses from $500,000 to $125,000”. Now doesn’t that just grab your attention?

When discussing the problems your business case solves, highlight the implications on everyday operations, revenue, and other areas. If your suggestions are worthwhile, this section will be a major hit with stakeholders at every level!

Ultimately, problem statements are your first port of call when it comes to justifying a business case. You can’t solve a problem that isn’t there, right? Paint the picture and hit all the right pain points and your business case should be approved.

Business Case Objectives

The ideal objective of any business case should be to improve the organization’s bottom line. If you can demonstrate this, you’re well on your way to approval. However, not all business cases strive for revenue targets and goals, and that’s okay.

This section of your business case is designed to highlight the outcomes of the entire project, idea, or opportunity. It’s your way of saying “By doing X, Y, and Z, we should achieve X, Y, and Z”

Of course, the bigger the benefits and the brighter the opportunity, the better the approval rate. Make sure to include all of your predicted outcomes, and how you intend to measure success in this business case.

Sometimes victory isn’t so black and white. Find metrics that can show how you delivered the results and that the business case was worthwhile. If you believe you’ve made a product more powerful, then track performance metrics.

Finally, be sure to include your timeframes, milestones, and deadlines within your business case objectives. No stakeholder will approve your case without knowing just how long you intend to work before any benefits are realized.

An idea may be good, but only as good as it takes to materialize. The last thing you want to do is promise the world ‘some point in the near future’

Proposed Solution in a Business Case

When asking what information is included in a business case, the proposed solutions spring to mind instantly. This section gives you the chance to list the solution(s) you will conduct to resolve the problem your business faces.

In your proposed solution section, outline the specific strategies, actions, resources, and methodologies you anticipate using. Your readers need to be confident your business case delivers the right resolution to achieve the objectives you promised.

Don’t shy away from going into detail here. If the Problem Statement of your business case was your chance to justify, this is your second-best chance.

Business Case Benefits

Next up, the benefits of your business case. In this section, you have to demonstrate your expectations and the results you will deliver. Build on some of your previous points in the business case objectives.

Whether it’s increasing customer satisfaction, refining a user journey, or revamping a product feature, you must detail the benefits the business case has to the business. It is in the name after all!

Problem statements and business case objectives are all well and good, but the benefits will matter more to your stakeholders. In the modern world of ideation, innovation, and project management, delivering an ROI is pivotal.

How will you define and convey the benefits you anticipate in a way that will win over senior colleagues and get the approval you need?

Examples of Business Case Benefits:

  • Process improvement
  • Cost-saving solutions
  • Revenue generation
  • Market expansion/differentiation
  • Sustainability
  • Competitive advantage

The list is truly endless, but when asking what information is included in a business case, your benefits cannot be ignored! Now let’s look at creating a financial plan.

Creating The Perfect Financial Plan

Your business case must include a financial plan. This is where you provide a high-level description of all the financials. From expected return-on-investment to the cost implications of specific resources, and anything else to consider.

Including a financial plan in your business case makes it easier for senior managers to give the green light and approve your proposal. After all, if solving a problem is going to cost way beyond what your business can afford, it creates problems of its own.

Considerations for your business case financial plan:

  • Where will you source the funding needed?
  • Does the project or idea provide long-term sustainability?
  • Does your proposal comply with financial regulations?
  • What will be used to conduct financial reporting?
  • What are the financial risks of your business case?

When you’re thinking about what information is included in a business case, your financial plan should be one of the first things you create.

Business Case Risk Assessment

Now let’s turn our attention to risk assessments. Every business case needs one. If you Google what information is included in a business case, this will come up. But what is it and what must you consider before presenting to stakeholders?

Your risk assessment does what it says on the tin. It’s a way for you to address both the concerns your stakeholders might have and the likelihood of setbacks. It’s a way for you to be transparent about your business case.

Don’t shy away from highlighting the risks associated with your business case. You may be onto a great idea or project, but one risk could hold you back from approval. Be open about your risks, and explain how you plan to combat these obstacles.

Doing this will demonstrate that you’re the person for the job. That you are capable of leading this business case from idea to implementation, whatever the risks. Risk management is crucial information to include in your business case and shouldn’t be overlooked.

After all, risks threaten your entire proposal. Ignoring them achieves very little. So be cautious, be aware, and be ready to overcome anything in your way confidently!

Stakeholder Analysis in a Business Case

Stakeholder analysis is key information that must be included in a business case. It highlights the various stakeholders involved, their interests, and responsibilities. Understanding how you can strengthen stakeholder engagement is pivotal.

It’s in this section of your business case that you can demonstrate your strategy to bring stakeholders into the picture, develop better relationships amongst them, and show how they will help move your business case forward toward success.

Believe it or not, many stakeholders can be involved in a business case, but here are some of the more common examples:

  • Project Managers
  • CEOs, CFOs, and COOs
  • Suppliers
  • Project Sponsors
  • Business Investors
  • Regulatory bodies
  • Customers
  • SMEs (Subject Matter Experts)

The list goes on! But if you’re stuck wondering what information is included in a business case when it comes to stakeholder analysis, this list of titles is where you should start.

Implementation Strategy in Business Case

Finally, we come to the last factor of your business case, and one of the most important, your implementation plan. In this section, you need to take all the learnings and insights from your entire proposal and craft the perfect plan.

A step-by-step guide to going from new idea, project, product, or opportunity to implementation. Spend some time creating the best plan of action. This isn’t something to be rushed.

It demonstrates to your key stakeholders that the learnings you have made will be worth it in the end. That you know what is necessary to make your proposal a success. Start by setting timeframes, and the resources you require, and specify what the milestones are for your business case.

You can have the very best business case, but without a solid implementation plan, it simply won’t be approved. You need to demonstrate excellent project delivery and how you will go from A to B.

Hopefully, by now you have learned what information is included in a business case. Each of these sections breaks down exactly what to include, and some tips for how to write a business case.

Now let’s move on to another big question a lot of PMOs face… what is a business case in project management? Is it really that different from standard business cases?

Project manager discussing business case

What is a Business Case in Project Management?

In project management, a business case helps project managers determine, justify, and analyze the need for a project. It gives project management teams the chance to weigh up the pros and cons.

It’s no secret that project management teams are busy, meaning it’s important they prioritize and identify the best project to focus on next. That’s exactly why a business case in project management is so important!

The contents of a business case in project management remain the same and will include the problem statement, objectives, benefits, budget planning, risk assessments, implementation plan, stakeholder analysis, and monitoring strategies.

what is business justification

What is Business Justification?

Business justification focuses on the reasoning behind a new idea or project and looks to understand why you may pursue it. A business case, on the other hand, is your formal proposal presented to stakeholders.

You could say that business justification identifies whether an idea or project aligns with your budget, your business objectives and whether it offers enough value. Of course, these are covered in more detail, but that belongs in your business case document.

How to present a business case

How to Present a Business Case?

You can present a business in two ways. A comprehensive analysis, or a simple presentation with key points. Your choice depends on the scope and scale of a project or idea. But remember, getting stakeholder buy-in requires a little harder work.

Understand Your Target Audience

Before you present a business case, get a better understanding of who your audience will be. This helps you speak to them in a way that makes sense, grabbing their attention and driving the importance of a business case.

Make Use of Visual Prompts

Some of us are visual learners. That includes the people you’re presenting a business case for. To put your message across accurately, clearly, and with impact, find ways to say less and show more. Whether that’s graphs, diagrams, or charts.

Practice Your Pitch

They say life is all about negotiation. Your business case is no different. If you want to know how to present a business case, start by practicing your delivery. Rehearse the different topics you want to discuss and any statistics you want to share.

Be Prepared for Questions

To master your presentation, prepare yourself with answers to questions stakeholders may ask during your pitch. Will they ask about the benefits and outcomes? The budget requirements. The resources needed. Be prepared!

Other Ways to Present a Business Case

There are millions of ways on how to present a business case. Below are a few more for you to consider, giving your proposal the best possible presentation!

  • Include key stakeholder endorsement.
  • Provide real examples of the impact similar proposals have made.
  • Always think about how to convey the ROI of your proposal.
  • Present a prototype for stronger buy-in.
  • Leverage the power of storytelling in your pitch.

Now that we understand how to present a business case, let’s look at why exactly you might need the handy business case. From developing criteria for new ideas to understanding the scope of requirements from a new project, let’s dive in.

Business Case Paperwork

Why do you need a business case?

There are three reasons why your team needs a business case. Firstly, it’s important to gain buy-in from senior management to secure the budgets and resources necessary.

Secondly, a business case gives your team the tools to develop criteria for all new ideas and projects. If it doesn’t meet your newfound criteria, it doesn’t make the cut!

Finally, your team needs a business case to grasp the scope of work required to bring new projects and ideas to life. 

Now explore these key reasons in a little more detail below and see for yourself why business cases can be so significant in moving forward as a business with the right projects and ideas!

Gaining Leadership Buy-in

One of the primary goals of creating a business case is to convince decision-makers to go forward with an idea or project. It is essentially “putting pen to paper” in terms of getting your message across, the pros, cons, risks, and more.

A business case demonstrates to your senior leadership team that you have applied rationale and given strategic thought to an idea, making the decision process much easier for everyone involved. By doing so, your organization can focus on value-driven ideas, and decision-makers are burdened less with new proposals that amount to very little impact. 

What’s more, a business case helps your organization prioritize projects that are inline with the overall strategy of the business. Understanding what cases are viable, and which aren’t is key to building a successful business — something that feeds into our next reason to consider business cases, developing criteria for new ideas.

Developing Criterion for New Ideas

Criteria can be a powerful thing. Not just with new ideas, but anything. It’s a great tool for filtering out the fluff, categorizing specific items, and prioritizing impactful tasks or actions. Ultimately, criteria is the mechanics for what we choose to focus on and why. 

When we think of business cases, we are fundamentally referring to a criteria for new ideas, projects and tasks. One that helps align team efforts to support key business goals. And that’s exactly why business cases are such a necessity, as they provide a more efficient, optimized approach to innovation management.

Choosing to build a business case is choosing to create a transparent process that is companywide and a level playing field for all potential projects. What’s more, with each new opportunity your team will have a better understanding of whether it drives value in the right places or not. 

In short, business cases help prevent aimless innovation efforts. Lessen the budget spent on dead-end opportunities and give your team something to work with when coming up with new ideas.

Understanding the Scope of the Requirements

Last, but certainly not least, understanding the scope of work required is a key reason to take business cases seriously. Think about it; if the project is chosen, the business case can help with managing the scope of the project during the initial planning stage.

Then, after the project is completed, the business case becomes the measurement tool to assess how well your organization did with planning and implementation. Developing a business case is about connecting the dots; and realizing what it really takes to plan, implement, and succeed with a particular project or idea. 

See, before any work takes place, a business case may reveal a problem further down the line. Risks that threaten your chances of success. You may discover that a particular project or idea won’t provide the benefits your team actually wants.

It’s safe to say that without first scoping out a project or idea from start to finish, you should hold back on making any decisions, investing any budget, or allocating any resources. 

Ready to revolutionize your business case process?

Increase efficiency, accuracy and collaboration with business case software.

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Business Case FAQs

Below is a list of frequently asked business case questions. We’ve kept these short and sweet for rapid learning! However, we do have exciting plans to bring these questions to life in the future with long-form articles.

What are the three recommended components of a business case?

Every business case needs three components: key objectives, a financial plan, and an ROI analysis. Without these, a business case becomes a puzzle that is missing pieces. It also won’t receive the right buy-in from key stakeholders.

What are three recommended components of a business case?

Why do I need key objectives?

The first of our list of three recommended components of a business case is key objectives. As we’ve outlined in this guide, your objectives explain what it is you’re trying to achieve. Not necessarily the benefits, but all the hard work you’re putting in.

Why do I need a financial plan?

Your financial plan is pivotal. If your business can’t afford to move a business case forward, there is no need to make your proposal. Assess the feasibility of your business case before investing any more time.

Why do I need an ROI analysis?

The benefits. The expected outcomes. The results. Call it what you will. You need to be able to demonstrate the ROI your business case provides. It’s as much of a recommended component of a business case as any of the above.

Who Needs a Business Case?

There are many different professions, spanning many industries and seniorities that could need a business case. If you are working in the corporate landscape, and you have an idea to pitch, you need a business case.

Below are some of the more typical roles you might find handling business cases across corporate and governmental organizations:

  • Business Analyst
  • Innovation Lead
  • Project Manager
  • Finance Manager
  • Subject Matter Expert
  • Legal Advisor
  • Senior Business Executive

A business case provides justification for initiating an idea, project, or task. Essentially, it is used to sell a project idea to key stakeholders and provides clear expected goals and benefits for project managers.

employee writing a business case

How to Write a Business Case?

Writing a business case starts with a problem. It is then up to you to research, analyze, and effectively communicate the steps to resolving said problem. We have covered how to write a business case in more detail elsewhere.

We recommend you start here and move on to our other article on the same topic for a deeper dive into the ins and outs of crafting a compelling business case. Word by word, benefit by benefit, risk by risk.

But we can’t leave you empty-handed, can we? Here are our top three tips for writing a business case from scratch:

  • Be clear and concise with jargon-free language.
  • Back your business case with evidence and statistics.
  • Understand the audience approving your business case.

how long should a business case be

How Long Should a Business Case Be?

There is no perfect length for a business case. Ultimately, it depends on various things, from the complexity of your proposal to the research or analysis required. As a rule of thumb, small business cases should be around 5 to 10 pages, medium business cases should be 15 to 20 pages, and complex business cases should be 25+ pages.

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