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)
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.
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:
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:
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).
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