What, No Business Case?

Managing a project with no Business Case, is a problem.

I’m guessing you been in the situation of being bought in as the Project Manager (PM) on a project that has already started. When you start in your role you find that there’s no business case, what do you do?

It is fine to ask “Why is there no business case?”

Ask this question to find out how the project got started. By doing this you will understand the momentum that created the ‘project’ in the first place.

The project that didn’t start out that way

I often find this is the case where the ‘project’ has started out as a Business As Usual (BAU)
initiative.  Or where there are sales teams who have these very bright ideas, and whose managers have
easy access to funds.

The Manager decides to head off down the system development path, without any real
rigor. And then call this a ‘project.’

There is no business case because they don’t think one was needed and have no idea how to write one.

What do you do if you find yourself in this space?

Firstly I would suggest you ask these key questions of the business owner or sponsor to get a good understanding of what the expectations are, of you as the PM:

  1. What are the success factors for this project?
  2. What benefits are you hoping to gain from undertaking this project? And, what benefits are you
    expecting me to deliver on?
  3. What is the problem that you are trying to solve or the opportunity you want to take up?
  4. Who are the key stakeholders that I need to be aware of?

By asking and obtaining answers to these questions you are gaining information and detail that you would
have needed to prepare a business case. These are the key areas that are going to help clarify
your position and the expectations regarding this project that you have now been tasked to deliver.

Speak to the key stakeholders and develop a lite business case

Your aim is to gather other information so you can develop your own light version of a business case. This means speaking to the key stakeholders. Gather enough information from them to write a document. They need to be willing to read it and sign it off , both them and the business owner. This document will provide the clarity for you on what you are expected to deliver.

I am a strong advocate for a business case being the foundation of any project. The business case provides the clarity of purpose, and structure for a project up front.

It will be difficult for you to know what is expected of you without such a document. By asking
these four questions you gain the insight that will help you to define a strong base to work from.

So, ask these questions, document them, and have them signed off as the agreed base for your
project. You will at least then have something to work from to ensure that your scope and project is
always objectively meeting the business needs.

This podcast episode discusses this further.