Most people don’t understand how to write good business case content. Over my working life I have seen some documents which really don’t contain any of the information needed in order to make a decision, which is ultimately what a business case is about. The business has a business decision to make. Make that decision easy for the business by providing the ‘why’ in your business case.
Good structure is the key
The background needs to contain such information as
1. Why are you writing this business case?
At a high level, what is the reason we need to be putting this document together
2. Who are we in the scheme of things?
This relates to where we (as a business unit/division/workgroup) fit into the larger organisation or entity that we work for. This helps people understand the drill down from the big picture to the small. It also shows that you have researched and understand any dependencies on other areas/systems/people within your organisation. Something that is missing in a lot of business cases.
3. What are the drivers for the change you are suggesting?
What are the real drivers. Is it that you want to automate a manual process to save staff time in undertaking a task, is it that you want to provide better customer service to a segment of your customers, is it that you want to drive up traffic to your website… the list here is endless.
4. Do you understand the deliverables behind the request for funds?
This is an area where most people do not have anywhere near enough information. ‘ We just want to put in a system that’s going to cost approximately 1/2 a million dollars’. If you were a senior executive and going to decide to spend that 1/2 a million dollars is this really enough information to be making a decision? I would suggest not, not if the executive is worth half their weight in gold.
Here it is important that you show the areas within the business that you are going to depend upon to help deliver this change.
- Are the Information Technology (IT) going to provide services?
- Contracts need to be managed so you require Legal Advice.
- External vendors need to be engaged to deliver key parts of the service.
These dependencies may prove important in the ability to deliver on the business case (especially where there may be staffing issues in other teams, where you have no control over them).
What’s the problem?
5. What is the problem that you are going to be solving with the solution you are recommending in this business case?
WHY do you need to solve this problem? It is very important that you understand why you need to solve the problem, because if you don’t it is then not easy to clearly define the scope of your subsequent project.
6. What is in scope and out of scope?
This is REALLY important. Too many times this area is not fleshed out enough in business cases, and then when it comes time to initiate the project and manage delivery all sorts of problems and scope creep arise. All because you have not clearly defined what is and isn’t in scope. Do it now, it saves a lot of time later.
What are the options?
7. What are the options that you have for fixing this problem?
Remember, there is ALWAYS a do nothing option.. that is, if you leaves things exactly as they are, what is going to happen. Here you should have considered a number of options. This may include automated and IT enabled options in different forms to deliver the change. Sometimes it might be manual process changes. Or, perhaps a combination of both.
Support requirements for each option being proposed need to be detailed. Also state if support is not required. This helps build the case for your final recommendation to your Executive.
8.Oh, and it’s also very important here that you list the benefits of each option.
There will be a benefit from the do nothing option. Whilst it might not be as beneficial, it does need to be fleshed out. You really must show that you have considered possibilities, and talked to people. It’s not good practice to sit and write a business case on your own without input from others.
Cost estimates for the options
9. Here you need to provide high level cost estimates for each of the options that you’ve listed.
Naturally you won’t be able to include the finite costings on implementation of a brand new IT system that needs to be purpose built. You do need to get some pretty solid estimates as to how long it is likely to take. And, by solid, I mean solid.. no sticking your finger in the air and ‘guesstimating’. Business funding is about to be spent. For your own reputation, do the work required to get a reasonable estimate. If questioned by your Executive you will be able to explain that the estimates are sure and sound. Need further help, this post on How to Document Options might be useful.
10. Make a recommendation.
It is very important that based on the information gathering that you’ve done you can show a clear reason for making a recommendation one way or the other. The evidence you provide should clearly and easily allow a decision to be made based on sound advice.
- Your reputation is on the line when you write a business case.
- Have you provided the right level of detail for the person reading your business case to make a sound business decision?
- Think about your business case as the stepping stone for your project. Have you got enough information to clearly map out your project (scope, timing, costing) based on what you’ve provided?
Good business cases aren’t hard to put together, they just take a little time, research and co-operation.
You might like to download my eBook ‘Writing a business case: A simple guide.’ It sets out the process of documenting each of the areas that I have discussed in this post as well as key tips for each area.