Writing a business case

A sound business case is the starting point for any IT and business project and is fundamental to its success. Get the business case right and you will get the investment you require and you will also have a platform for effective project management.

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A well-written business case is the starting gun for any proposed project. It is important to make sure it doesn't misfire when handed to the corporate decision-makers, whether that's a department head, the board of directors, or the chief executive.

A good business case will provide senior management with the information they need to confidently make a decision in favour of a project. After that, they may retain it to review the project at different stages, and ensure everything is going to plan.

Any changes that differ from the project plan may impact the business financially and in other ways, so it's important to cover all the angles from the outset.

A sound business case will convince management that the project will be properly managed, that the company has the capability to achieve the desired benefits, and that the project will target the highest value opportunities, and be delivered using the most cost-effective methods.

The business case can also help to explain and clarify timelines, and interdependency between departments, stakeholders and partner organisations.

Here are eight guidelines on writing a strong business case, which should help to ensure the project gets off the ground and stays on track.

1. Need

The first section will explain why you are proposing to carry out a specific project, and the justification for investment.

It is essential to do your homework. This means being convinced yourself that the project has merits, and recognising why you want the investment.

Secondly, ensure that you have discussed the project with stakeholders, individuals, departments, partners and customers who might be affected by the project.

Getting their views on the project before presenting a formal business case can be extremely valuable, as different perspectives yield useful information, raise unforeseen issues and perhaps even unearth unexpected business benefits.

A compelling first section to the business case will also capture both the quantifiable (e.g. financial, ROI, time efficiency) and unquantifiable (e.g. enhanced working environment, better customer services) characteristics of the project.

2. Options

Use this section to describe the various options to achieving the goal, to ensure that management have the full picture.

Each option should carry the pros and cons of a particular route, and the reasons why one particular solution is favoured above the rest. Describing the options can also help to clarify why you have chosen a particular approach.

This part of the argument will also show that you have looked at the project from different angles in order to find the best approach for the business. It indicates you are adaptable rather than rigid about your approach.

Finally, providing senior management with all the available information will help stakeholders to suggest improvements in the plan, which ultimately benefits the project as a whole.

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