The Standardized Business Case: A Template for Project Approval

  • from ITtoolkit.com

Image of page in dictionary with the word decision highlighted, showing the need for a business case template to provide for sound decision making.

The project Business Case is the first major process deliverable of the project management process, utilized to present and propose "project concepts" in a standardized format designed to focus on business value and viability.  It's the means by which you can advocate and "make the case" for your idea to go from "concept" to "project".  It's an important deliverable, and it must be done right.  Read on for more.

The project business case is an “originating” deliverable, produced at a time when a need has been realized, and a potential solution determined, but the delivering project has not yet been approved or initiated. The primary purpose of the business case is to present the need and the solution, and to obtain approval, funding and commitment for the proposed project.  (Also Read: Practices for Project Selection)

Make the Case for Your Project....

A well conceived business case will convey sufficient information to convince decision makers that the proposed project should be approved. Approval is not a given. In fact, not every proposed project can or should be approved. Considering cost, time and resource constraints, choices have to be made, and sometimes, even good ideas have to be set aside or postponed. Projects are never proposed with 100% certainty, and in fact, business case approval does not guarantee that a given project will actually see completion. Business case presentation and approval is but the first step in the overall process.

As such, at a minimum, every business case deliverable must answer one key question -- Is this proposal sufficiently sound, important and relevant to warrant further expenditures for planning and analysis?

An effective business case will get you to the next appropriate step. In certain cases, the approved business case will lead to the initiation of actual project tasks. In other cases, the approved business case will lead to more intensive study and planning. It’s all about moving forward to make informed decisions.

Every Business Case Has A Mission....

While length and complexity will vary, every project business case must be created to serve a specific "mission" and purpose within the project management process.  This is expressed in the six point list below:

  1. The business case mission is to make a sufficiently compelling case for approval.
  2. The business case must explain what is to be done and why it is necessary.
  3. The business case must convince the decision makers that the idea is well thought out and considered.
  4. The business case must convince the decision makers that the project proposal is realistic and that the plan is credible and executable.
  5. The business case must lay out all key elements of the project in terms of results, costs, benefits and risks, both for action and inaction.
  6. The business case must justify the investment in time, funds and resources.

Producing Business Case Deliverables

The business case deliverable must sell the project, and it’s a “sale” you want to make. And it takes planning and strategy to get the job done. Your first step is to match business case “effort and content” to the “size and scope” of the proposed project. Projects vary by multiple factors, including type, cost, duration, complexity, visibility, priority, risk and value. Just as with any other process deliverable, the business case must reflect the overall “scale” of the project being proposed. Process overkill can damage a small project in the same way that insufficiency can doom a large scale project.

It is important to be appropriate, but consistent.  (Also Read:  Understanding Project and Process Deliverables)

To that end, the project business case must present both “the need” and the “proposed solution” expressed in terms of goals, objectives, needs, anticipated benefits, status quo analysis, risks, constraints, performing organization capabilities, cost/benefit analysis and related matters.  And, as it is prepared, it must travel a road to ensure proper feedback and approval:

  1. All of the business case "stakeholders" should be identified and selected according to interest in the project proposal and ability to contribute to business case production.
  2. The "business case" production process should be planned, with established deadlines, due dates, task assignments and an organized production scheduled.
  3. Business case production work should not begin until all required data has been collected and organized (to minimize time wasted).
  4. The business should first be prepared as a "draft", subject to vigorous review, input and revision as needed.  Version control is essential to track changes and ensure that everyone is on the same page.
  5. Formal procedures should be established for submission of the final business case for review by the decision making stakeholders (which can include a PMO or project steering committee).

Once the business case deliverable is produced, it should be evaluated using standardized criteria to measure concept viability and to determine whether the case has been made to go from "concept" to "project".  If a given business case is approved, the next step is project definition (to make the project ready for action and stakeholder acceptance).

Source: Unless noted otherwise, all content is created by and for ITtoolkit.com


About Us

Right Track Logo

ITtoolkit.com staff writers have experience working for some of the largest corporations, in various positions including marketing, systems engineering, help desk support, web and application development, and IT management.

ITtoolkit.com is part of Right Track Associates, proprietors and publishers of multiple web sites including ITtoolkit.com, Fast Track Manage, HOA Board List and more. We started ITtoolkit.com in 2001 and have continued to grow our web site portfolio, Toolkit products, and related data services. To learn more, visit us at Right Track Associates.

Stay Informed

Useful information without inbox overload.

we do not sell our list

subscribe now
I.T. Service Planning The Fast Track Project Toolkit Start For Free

The IT Service Strategy Toolkit teaches you how to fast track IT service planning using the time-saving “service strategy process”. The goals are simple... to manage IT departments, services and projects in a common-sense manner, to align business and technology, and realize maximum value, acceptance, and utilization - all at the lowest overhead costs. It’s all about adding value, in less time and with greater success. Get lifetime access to a growing IT service curriculum of lessons, videos, reference materials, templates and more. Start for free.

Committee Management The Project Committee Toolkit Start For Free

The Project Committee Toolkit teaches you how to manage successful committees using the "committee concept" process. Committees are one of the most effective ways to organize, deliberate and make decisions. But too often, committee success is hampered by conflict and bureaucracy. When you follow the committee concept process, you’ll learn to avoid these pitfalls and ensure that your committees are properly formed, managed and staffed. Get lifetime access to a growing committee management curriculum of lessons, videos, reference materials, templates and more. Start for free.

Project Management The Fast Track Project Toolkit Start For Free

The Fast Track Project Toolkit teaches you how to deliver on-time, on-plan projects using "strategic project fast tracking". The fast track approach is a time-saving methodology, designed specifically for "real world" project circumstances - when you are being asked to do more than time and resources may allow. Fast tracking is the way to work around these obstacles and deliver prioritized results. Get lifetime access to a growing project planning curriculum of lessons, videos, reference materials, templates and more. Start for free.