What comes first business case or business requirements?

What comes first business case or business requirements?

‘What comes first business case or business requirements?’ I’ve heard this question asked a number of times.  My personal view is that it is very important to develop business requirements before or as part of your business case development.

From personal experience I have found that if business requirements are not developed, then the business case that is written is very pie in the sky, not really focusing on the business need.  These business cases usually do not address a true problem statement, as the problem or opportunity is often not fully understood.

On the other hand the opposite occurs when business requirements are developed up front.  The problem statement is more defined and clearly articulated, and the estimates and options within the business case are better defined.  I see that this occurs because there is a clear picture of ‘the business requirements’ and I mean this in the generic sense.

The one benefit of having a Business Analyst working with you early on at the inception stage of the project (it is really pre-project), is that they have the ability to work with the business to define the business requirements as part of the work involved in developing the business case.

By developing business requirements early you also have a clearer picture of the change impacts and what this will mean for the business.  This allows for funding and resources to be called out in your business case for change management (in the more formal sense).  This is one area that is often over looked in business case development, to the detriment of the business and a successful project outcome.

I therefore suggest that business requirements run a pretty close first to developing your business case.  If you do them side by side you ultimately end up with better outcomes for both documents, your business case and your requirements, and then ultimately the project that ensues.

Develop your business requirements too late after writing the business case and you will find that there is sure to be a mismatch between what has been requested and agreed in the business case vs the desired business outcomes.  This will show up in the options that are proposed.  It will also become evident with your financial costings and timeline.

The one thing that I can tell for sure of a failing project is that the business requirements have not been developed at the same time as the business case.  It is clearly evident when the project scope is so far off what was originally defined in the Business Case that it is not really evident that they are one and the same.

It is therefore really important to consider developing them together so that the true business needs are understood and your project is initiated based on meeting the business change needs.


Written by Karen Munro