Writing A Business Case

By Martin Gilliard

You have a great idea, the next step is to build a business case for it. This document is used in order to demonstrate the advantages of an innovative idea to all stakeholders…

The case should put forward the vision for the idea, showing how it will add value for the organization and the people who use the idea.

A business case

(Photo Credit: Simon Peckham)


A typical business case includes the following:

A problems statement: If the idea is aimed at solving some problem then the problem should be stated in a problem statement. Here you only state the problem and don’t start to give any details related to your solution.

Goals: Define the goals that will be achieved from implementing this idea.

Business model: How will this idea create value or improve compliance within the organization?

Fit: How does this idea fit into and complement the existing business? Getting support from your stakeholders is much easier if they are able to see how the idea fits in with existing practices or the strategic direction of the organization.

Benefits: Here you can list all of the intangible benefits. Leave the tangible benefits for the cost benefit analysis. Document what the idea does to improve on what already exists. Note any metrics that you will be observing in order to demonstrate actual improvements.

High Level Project Plan: Include a very high level project plan which only includes the major milestones for the project and the expected dates when you expect to reach them. 

Risks: To demonstrate that you have considered potential problems, list any risks that you envisage could happen to obstruct or derail the project, also list ideas that help mitigate those risks.

Cost benefit analysis (CBA): Here you want to be listing quantitative benefits, along with your anticipated costs. List any dollar savings or expected profits over time. For projects that are less than one year you can document the benefits using the payback method which results in a number related to the number of years it will take for the project to pay for itself, ideally, many organizations like to see this number coming in at less than 1. For longer projects you should use more advanced appraisal techniques that take into consideration the time value of money such as the discounted cash flow technique. Include in your CBA resource costs / requirements – be aware that people costs are likely to increase if the project is planned to take beyond a year.

Executive summary: Add an executive summary to the case to summarize all of the key points for anyone who may not have the time to digest the full document. Make sure that this summary is short, factual, and clear and effectively sells your idea. An effective executive summary should compel the reader to get more details about your great idea. 

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