How to write a business case12 Feb 2019
You’ve a project you’re excited to sink your teeth into. It’s one that you believe in, and you know it’ll benefit the business you work for. However, before you can begin you need to win approval for the project to proceed.
Writing a business case requires preparation, skill and structure. Do you know how to write one?
The purpose of a business case
I like to think of a business case as an opportunity to share my vision with the company and show them why I’m invested in the idea. It’s my opportunity to show the work I’ve put into the project or task and demonstrate the worth of what I want to achieve.
Officially, a business case is a document that’s meant to justify why a business should undertake an initiative. It explains why the funds and time involved with seeing it through to fruition are necessary. The problem or reasoning why the company needs the initiative is clearly laid out, all possible solutions considered, and your personal recommendation logically explained and put forward. You should dedicate part of this justification to showing how the proposal ties in with the company’s business plan and helps the organisation move towards its aims.
A good business case needs to look at the full impact of the project or task. The readers require the complete scope of the initiative to weigh the benefits up against the outcomes before making a decision.
How to structure a business case
First and foremost, a business case must lead the readers through a clear and logical breakdown of the problem, possible solutions and the end proposal. Sometimes, different companies will have different requirements for how you should structure a business case. However, generally there are some key components that you need in your business case. These are as follows.
Though you should put this at the start of your business case, I find it’s better to save writing your summary until you’ve finished the rest of the document. Make the summary succinct, clear and covering only the essential information. The rest of the business case expands on the points made within the summary.
Outline of the problem and analysis
Within your problem outline show how solving the issue ties into the company’s overall strategy.
After the introduction you want to clarify the problem or opportunity you’re creating the business case for. Highlight the pain points that make this problem worth solving. In this section explain how the project ties in with the organisation’s strategy.
Once you’ve done the outline, use hard evidence to back up your reasoning. Identify the full and ongoing impact of the issue to demonstrate further why the business needs the project. If anyone has helped you with the initiative so far, now is the time to mention it as well.
The different possible solutions
List all the different possible solutions that you’ve been able to identify for the problem. For each, carry out a cost benefit analysis. This includes:
- The benefits. Talk about how well the solution deals with the issue.
- The expense. To break up the text I like using graphs here to quickly and efficiently communicate the information.
- The time frame. When will the decision makers begin seeing a return on investment?
- The risks. Anything that might hold the project up or issues that the solution may cause.
Recommendation and breakdown
Explaining your reasons why, tell the readers which option you think is the best to proceed with.
Go into any further detail about your recommendation. Show them why you’re backing this option, and convince the decision makers that it’s the wise choice.
Creating a compelling business case
A business case should rely on strong logic and reasoning to convince the decision makers to authorise the project. However, I have a few simple tips to make your case more compelling.
- Don’t use jargon. While you’re familiar with the terminology, the readers might not be.
- Keep your language clear, succinct and easy to read. Break explanations down into simple sentences.
- Format appropriately. Breaking the text up into sections that are easy on the eye and using visuals where appropriate, makes your points simpler to absorb.
- Allow your passion for the project to show through and infect your readers with it. Don’t go overboard, but make sure you pass on the urgency of your proposal.
- Proof-read. Errors in grammar and spelling show lack of care and often reduce the validity of your hard work. I often use free online tools to check official documents before submitting them, as they help catch unseen errors. They also help me spot sentences that are too long and complicated.
What tips and tricks do you have for writing a compelling business case?
If you’d like to know more about how ICML can help you write stronger business cases, get in touch today.