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How to Write a Business Case (Template Included)
Table of Contents
What is a business case, how to write a business case, business case template, watch our business case training video, key elements of a business case, how projectmanager helps with your business case.
A business case is a project management document that explains how the benefits of a project overweigh its costs and why it should be executed. Business cases are prepared during the project initiation phase and their purpose is to include all the project’s objectives, costs and benefits to convince stakeholders of its value.
A business case is an important project document to prove to your client, customer or stakeholder that the project proposal you’re pitching is a sound investment. Below, we illustrate the steps to writing one that will sway them.
The need for a business case is that it collects the financial appraisal, proposal, strategy and marketing plan in one document and offers a full look at how the project will benefit the organization. Once your business case is approved by the project stakeholders, you can begin the project planning phase.
Projects fail without having a solid business case to rest on, as this project document is the base for the project charter and project plan. But if a project business case is not anchored to reality, and doesn’t address a need that aligns with the larger business objectives of the organization, then it is irrelevant.
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Use this free Business Case Template for Word to manage your projects better.
The research you’ll need to create a strong business case is the why, what, how and who of your project. This must be clearly communicated. The elements of your business case will address the why but in greater detail. Think of the business case as a document that is created during the project initiation phase but will be used as a reference throughout the project life cycle.
Whether you’re starting a new project or mid-way through one, take time to write up a business case to justify the project expenditure by identifying the business benefits your project will deliver and that your stakeholders are most interested in reaping from the work. The following four steps will show you how to write a business case.
Step 1: Identify the Business Problem
Projects aren’t created for projects’ sake. They should always be aligned with business goals . Usually, they’re initiated to solve a specific business problem or create a business opportunity.
You should “Lead with the need.” Your first job is to figure out what that problem or opportunity is, describe it, find out where it comes from and then address the time frame needed to deal with it.
This can be a simple statement but is best articulated with some research into the economic climate and the competitive landscape to justify the timing of the project.
Step 2: Identify the Alternative Solutions
How do you know whether the project you’re undertaking is the best possible solution to the problem defined above? Naturally, prioritizing projects is hard, and the path to success is not paved with unfounded assumptions.
One way to narrow down the focus to make the right solution clear is to follow these six steps (after the relevant research, of course):
- Note the alternative solutions.
- For each solution, quantify its benefits.
- Also, forecast the costs involved in each solution.
- Then figure out its feasibility .
- Discern the risks and issues associated with each solution.
- Finally, document all this in your business case.
Step 3: Recommend a Preferred Solution
You’ll next need to rank the solutions, but before doing that it’s best to set up criteria, maybe have a scoring mechanism such as a decision matrix to help you prioritize the solutions to best choose the right one.
Some methodologies you can apply include:
- Depending on the solution’s cost and benefit , give it a score of 1-10.
- Base your score on what’s important to you.
- Add more complexity to your ranking to cover all bases.
Regardless of your approach, once you’ve added up your numbers, the best solution to your problem will become evident. Again, you’ll want to have this process also documented in your business case.
Step 4: Describe the Implementation Approach
So, you’ve identified your business problem or opportunity and how to reach it, now you have to convince your stakeholders that you’re right and have the best way to implement a process to achieve your goals. That’s why documentation is so important; it offers a practical path to solve the core problem you identified.
Now, it’s not just an exercise to appease senior leadership. Who knows what you might uncover in the research you put into exploring the underlying problem and determining alternative solutions? You might save the organization millions with an alternate solution than the one initially proposed. When you put in the work on a strong business case, you’re able to get your sponsors or organizational leadership on board with you and have a clear vision as to how to ensure the delivery of the business benefits they expect.
Our business case template for Word is the perfect tool to start writing a business case. It has 9 key business case areas you can customize as needed. Download the template for free and follow the steps below to create a great business case for all your projects.
One of the key steps to starting a business case is to have a business case checklist. The following is a detailed outline to follow when developing your business case. You can choose which of these elements are the most relevant to your project stakeholders and add them to our business case template. Then once your business case is approved, start managing your projects with a robust project management software such as ProjectManager.
1. Executive Summary
The executive summary is a short version of each section of your business case. It’s used to give stakeholders a quick overview of your project.
2. Project Definition
This section is meant to provide general information about your projects, such as the business objectives that will be achieved and the project plan outline.
3. Vision, Goals and Objectives
First, you have to figure out what you’re trying to do and what is the problem you want to solve. You’ll need to define your project vision, goals and objectives. This will help you shape your project scope and identify project deliverables.
4. Project Scope
The project scope determines all the tasks and deliverables that will be executed in your project to reach your business objectives.
5. Background Information
Here you can provide a context for your project, explaining the problem that it’s meant to solve, and how it aligns with your organization’s vision and strategic plan.
6. Success Criteria and Stakeholder Requirements
Depending on what kind of project you’re working on, the quality requirements will differ, but they are critical to the project’s success. Collect all of them, figure out what determines if you’ve successfully met them and report on the results .
7. Project Plan
It’s time to create the project plan. Figure out the tasks you’ll have to take to get the project done. You can use a work breakdown structure template to make sure you are through. Once you have all the tasks collected, estimate how long it will take to complete each one.
Project management software makes creating a project plan significantly easier. ProjectManager can upload your work breakdown structure template and all your tasks are populated in our tool. You can organize them according to your production cycle with our kanban board view, or use our Gantt chart view to create a project schedule.
8. Project Budget
Your budget is an estimate of everything in your project plan and what it will cost to complete the project over the scheduled time allotted.
9. Project Schedule
Make a timeline for the project by estimating how long it will take to get each task completed. For a more impactful project schedule , use a tool to make a Gantt chart, and print it out. This will provide that extra flourish of data visualization and skill that Excel sheets lack.
10. Project Governance
Project governance refers to all the project management rules and procedures that apply to your project. For example, it defines the roles and responsibilities of the project team members and the framework for decision-making.
11. Communication Plan
Have milestones for check-ins and status updates, as well as determine how stakeholders will stay aware of the progress over the project life cycle.
12. Progress Reports
Have a plan in place to monitor and track your progress during the project to compare planned to actual progress. There are project tracking tools that can help you monitor progress and performance.
Again, using a project management tool improves your ability to see what’s happening in your project. ProjectManager has tracking tools like dashboards and status reports that give you a high-level view and more detail, respectively. Unlike light-weight apps that make you set up a dashboard, ours is embedded in the tool. Better still, our cloud-based software gives you real-time data for more insightful decision-making. Also, get reports on more than just status updates, but timesheets, workload, portfolio status and much more, all with just one click. Then filter the reports and share them with stakeholders to keep them updated.
13. Financial Appraisal
This is a very important section of your business case because this is where you explain how the financial benefits outweigh the project costs . Compare the financial costs and benefits of your project. You can do this by doing a sensitivity analysis and a cost-benefit analysis.
14. Market Assessment
Research your market, competitors and industry, to find opportunities and threats
15. Competitor Analysis
Identify direct and indirect competitors and do an assessment of their products, strengths, competitive advantages and their business strategy.
16. SWOT Analysis
A SWOT analysis helps you identify your organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. The strengths and weaknesses are internal, while the opportunities and threats are external.
17. Marketing Strategy
Describe your product, distribution channels, pricing, target customers among other aspects of your marketing plan or strategy.
18. Risk Assessment
There are many risk categories that can impact your project. The first step to mitigating them is to identify and analyze the risks associated with your project activities.
ProjectManager , an award-winning project management software, can collect and assemble all the various data you’ll be collecting, and then easily share it both with your team and project sponsors.
Once you have a spreadsheet with all your tasks listed, you can import it into our software. Then it’s instantly populated into a Gantt chart . Simply set the duration for each of the tasks, add any dependencies, and your project is now spread across a timeline. You can set milestones, but there is so much more you can do.
You have a project plan now, and from the online Gantt chart, you can assign team members to tasks. Then they can comment directly on the tasks they’re working on, adding as many documents and images as needed, fostering a collaborative environment. You can track their progress and change task durations as needed by dragging and dropping the start and end dates.
But that’s only a taste of what ProjectManager offers. We have kanban boards that visualize your workflow and a real-time dashboard that tracks six project metrics for the most accurate view of your project possible.
Try ProjectManager and see for yourself with this 30-day free trial .
If you want more business case advice, take a moment to watch Jennifer Bridges, PMP, in this short training video. She explains the steps you have to take in order to write a good business case.
Here’s a screenshot for your reference.
Today we’re talking about how to write a business case. Well, over the past few years, we’ve seen the market, or maybe organizations, companies or even projects, move away from doing business cases. But, these days, companies, organizations, and those same projects are scrutinizing the investments and they’re really seeking a rate of return.
So now, think of the business case as your opportunity to package your project, your idea, your opportunity, and show what it means and what the benefits are and how other people can benefit.
We want to take a look today to see what’s in the business case and how to write one. I want to be clear that when you look for information on a business case, it’s not a briefcase.
Someone called the other day and they were confused because they were looking for something, and they kept pulling up briefcases. That’s not what we’re talking about today. What we’re talking about are business cases, and they include information about your strategies, about your goals. It is your business proposal. It has your business outline, your business strategy, and even your marketing plan.
Why Do You Need a Business Case?
And so, why is that so important today? Again, companies are seeking not only their project managers but their team members to have a better understanding of business and more of an idea business acumen. So this business case provides the justification for the proposed business change or plan. It outlines the allocation of capital that you may be seeking and the resources required to implement it. Then, it can be an action plan . It may just serve as a unified vision. And then it also provides the decision-makers with different options.
So let’s look more at the steps required to put these business cases together. There are four main steps. One, you want to research your market. Really look at what’s out there, where are the needs, where are the gaps that you can serve? Look at your competition. How are they approaching this, and how can you maybe provide some other alternatives?
You want to compare and finalize different approaches that you can use to go to market. Then you compile that data and you present strategies, your goals and other options to be considered.
And then you literally document it.
So what does the document look like? Well, there are templates out there today. The components vary, but these are the common ones. And then these are what I consider essential. So there’s the executive summary. This is just a summary of your company, what your management team may look like, a summary of your product and service and your market.
The business description gives a little bit more history about your company and the mission statement and really what your company is about and how this product or service fits in.
Then, you outline the details of the product or service that you’re looking to either expand or roll out or implement. You may even include in their patents may be that you have pending or other trademarks.
Then, you want to identify and lay out your marketing strategy. Like, how are you gonna take this to your customers? Are you going to have a brick-and-mortar store? Are you gonna do this online? And, what are your plans to take it to market?
You also want to include detailed information about your competitor analysis. How are they doing things? And, how are you planning on, I guess, beating your competition?
You also want to look at and identify your SWOT. And the SWOT is your strength. What are the strengths that you have in going to market? And where are the weaknesses? Maybe some of your gaps. And further, where are your opportunities and maybe threats that you need to plan for? Then the overview of the operation includes operational information like your production, even human resources, information about the day-to-day operations of your company.
And then, your financial plan includes your profit statement, your profit and loss, any of your financials, any collateral that you may have, and any kind of investments that you may be seeking.
So these are the components of your business case. This is why it’s so important. And if you need a tool that can help you manage and track this process, then sign up for our software now at ProjectManager .
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How To Write the Perfect Business Case
Why do too many projects fail to deliver their objectives even though project management best practices appear to be used? Project management is naturally complicated, but it can be disastrous if you don’t have sufficient buy-in from the right parties. Writing a strong and complete business case can make all the difference.
In this how-to guide you will discover,
- What is a business case?
Why you need a business case
- Is the project worth doing?
When to use a business case
How to write a business case, the business case template, a business case example, 1. the executive summary, 2. the finance section, 3. the project definition, 4. project organization, managing the business case, making the case, frequently asked questions, what is a business case.
A business case is developed during the early stages of a project and outlines the why, what, how, and who necessary to decide if it is worthwhile continuing a project. One of the first things you need to know when starting a new project are the benefits of the proposed business change and how to communicate those benefits to the business.
While the project proposal focuses on why you want a project, it will only contain an outline of the project:
- business vision
- business need
- expected benefits
- strategic fit
- products produced
- broad estimates of time and cost
- and impact on the organization
In contrast, the business case, which is first developed during the project initiation phase , contains much more detail. It should be reviewed by the project sponsor and key stakeholders before being accepted, rejected, canceled, deferred, or revised.
Depending on the scale of the business change, the business case may need further development as part of a detailed investigation. Therefore, it should be developed incrementally so that time and resources aren’t unnecessarily wasted on the impractical.
Preparing the business case involves an assessment of:
- Business problem or opportunity
- Costs including investment appraisal
- Technical solutions
- Impact on operations
- Organizational capability to deliver the project outcomes
These project issues are an important part of the business case. They express the problems with the current situation and demonstrate the benefits of the new business vision.
The business case brings together the benefits, disadvantages, costs , and risks of the current situation and future vision so that executive management can decide if the project should go ahead.
Many projects start life as a walk in the fog, which is fine in itself, but never see the light of day or stumble along aimlessly for too long because the clarity of scope , time-scale, cost, and benefits are not defined adequately during the first stages of the project.
Is the project worth doing
Why are you starting a project? Chances are you’re doing it because you need to solve a problem.
Usually, the problem is something that gets in the way of achieving your goals . So, it seems a project is about achieving goals and your goals won’t be realized unless you deal with the problem (or opportunity or circumstance.)
If a project is worth doing you need to answer 4 simple questions:
- What is your goal?
- What’s stopping you from reaching the goal?
- How much change is needed to overcome the problem?
- Are you certain this will solve the problem?
Can you answer these questions quickly? Do you have evidence to support or refute your assumptions?
If not, it may not be worth starting a project.
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The business case is needed when resources or expenditure on a project has to be justified. Approval is usually sought from the project sponsor and other interested parties. For instance, the finance function may authorize funds and the IT department provide resources.
The purpose of the business case is communication. Therefore, each section should be written in the parlance of the intended audience.
Moreover, it should only contain enough information to help decision making. When writing a business case keep the following in mind:
- Be brief and convey only the essentials.
- Make it interesting, clear, and concise.
- Eliminate conjecture and minimize jargon.
- Describe your vision of the future.
- Demonstrate the value and benefits the project brings to the business.
- Ensure consistent style and readability.
The project sponsor is responsible for preparing the business case. However, all appropriate team members should contribute to its development. Likewise, subject matter experts from other functions ― finance, HR, IT, service delivery, and so on ― can provide specialist information.
Those writing the business case should have a thorough understanding of the project’s aims and be able to merge the varied and potentially complex plans into one document using the following business case template.
What follows are the four steps to writing a business case template for your project. It includes the following four sections:
- Executive Summary
- Project Definition
- Project Organization
This example of a business case is a simplified version for a small company with few staff. The bigger the project, the bigger the risk, which means the more detail you will need to provide for your investors and stakeholders.
In 2021, retail e-Commerce revenue reached 768 billion US dollars. People are expecting more digital experiences and want to interact and purchase what they need online.
Our current website is just a static page with no interaction available to possible customers. With a website upgrade to incorporate an e-Commerce store, we can entice users to purchase all their training online, in return increasing productivity and efficiency within the office. An estimated $25,000 could be saved a year through this upgrade.
1.1 Financial Appraisal
The expected cost of the new website is $15,000 with a $500 annual maintenance fee.
The training costs of the staff is estimated at $2,000, but the reduction of administration and manual handling of orders is estimated to save $25,000 annually.
1.2 Sensitivity Analysis
The alternatives include:
- Maintaining the current system, which costs $25,000 annually to maintain and run.
- Upgrading the website, but not including an e-Commerce store. This would cost $6,000, but the cost of processing the orders is still $25,000.
- Outsourcing the training purchases to a third-party site, which would cost between $49.99 - $100 per month. In the long run this would cost more and offer less development scope.
2. PROJECT DEFINITION
2.1 Background information
The World is digitizing and we, as a business, must keep up with consumer demand if we are to remain one of the most sought-after training providers.
Since 2020 and the outbreak of Covid-19, many more people have been working remotely and wish to access their training requirements online. We need to update our systems to provide our customers with a purely online system that can provide them with their required training courses in a virtual environment, from purchase through to attendance. This new e-Commerce website is the first step in this process.
2.2 Business Objective
The goal is to provide an online platform where customers can purchase their training requirements.
The solution is to build an e-Commerce website.
This syncs with the business strategy, as it will increase efficiency and profits.
2.3 Benefits and Limitations
The benefits of this project far out-weigh the negatives. They include:
- Improvement in the quality of customer service and user journey
- Increased conversion rate through streamlined processes
- Cost savings through efficiencies
- Reduced working capital
- Increase in revenue generated
- Remain competitive in a digital world.
The limitations of this project remain with staffing, as we do not have a web designer or developer within our company, meaning this will still have to be outsourced if anything arises at a future date.
2.4 Option Identification & Selection
Options for the e-Commerce site include the following:
- WordPress website with WooCommerce store
- All-in-one website hosted on e-Commerce platform such as Shopify
- Use of third-party payment system, such as Stripe, PayPal, or Worldpay
- Ability to take payments directly through the website and acting as controller and processor of user’s sensitive data
- Inclusion of a blog
- Integration of CRM platform.
2.5 Scope, Impact, and interdependencies
The website will be built independently from the current site, so will not affect any current processes or user experience.
2.6 Outline Plan
The website will be built by an external agency and will take around 6 months to complete and push live.
One month before going live the staff will undertake essential training.
2.7 Market Assessment
Since retail e-Commerce has risen to $768 billion US Dollars, it’s time we also made the move to online sales.
2.8 Risk Assessment
The project will be completed out of house.
2.9 Project Approach
The project will be managed out of house.
2.10 Purchasing Strategy
We will enter a contractual agreement with the creative agency. Attached is a copy of the proposed contract.
3. PROJECT ORGANIZATION
3.1 Project Governance
Project will be managed by the agency and in-house by the Centre Executive.
3.2 Progress Reporting
The agency will report to the Centre Executive.
Depending on the length of the business case you may want to include a high-level summary of the project.
The executive summary is the first section of the business case and the last written. It is a short summary of the entire business case. It succinctly conveys vital information about the project and communicates the entire story to the reader.
First impressions are important. Get this right!
The finance section of an effective business case is primarily for those who approve funding. The finance function will be interested in this plus the first half of the project definition.
When you prepare the financial appraisal seek advice on content and presentation from the finance function. In the case of capital developments, consult subject matter experts.
The purpose of a financial appraisal is to:
- Identify the financial implications for the project
- Compare project costs against the forecast benefits
- Ensure the project is affordable
- Assess value for money
- Predict cash flow.
Sensitivity analysis concerns project risk and looks at alternative futures by measuring the impact on project outcomes or assumptions of changing values in which there is uncertainty.
In effect, sensitivity analysis lets the project accountant experiment with possible scenarios.
This is the largest part of the business case and is for the project sponsor, stakeholders, and project team. It answers most of the why, what, and how questions about your project.
The purpose of this section is to give a clear introduction to the business case and project. It should contain a brief overview of the reasons why the project or business change has come about: the problem, opportunity, or change of circumstances.
If necessary, refer to related programs, projects, studies, or business plans.
This part describes why you are doing the project. The business objective answers the following questions:
- What is needed to overcome the problem?
- How will the project support the business strategy?
Benefits and limitations.
The benefits and limitations section describes the financial and non-financial benefits in turn. The purpose is to explain why you need a project.
For instance, to:
- Improve quality
- Save costs through efficiencies
- Reduce working capital
- Generate revenue
- Remain competitive
- Improve customer service
- Align to corporate strategy
The business case should also include any limitations since these present potential risk to the project.
Option identification and selection.
Identify the potential solutions to the problem and describe them in enough detail for the reader to understand.
For instance, if the business case and proposed solution makes use of technology, make sure to explain how the technology is used and define the terms used in a glossary. Since most problems have multiple solutions an option appraisal is often needed. This will explore the potential solutions and recommend the best option.
When writing the initial business case, the option appraisal is likely to contain a long list of options and will cover many possibilities. As the project continues a few options will be rejected. The final business case may contain three to five options ― the short list ― that includes a do nothing or benchmark option.
Scope, impact, and interdependencies.
This section of the business case template describes the work needed to deliver the business objective and identifies those business functions affected by the project.
Moreover, the project scope, impact, and interdependencies section should state the project’s scope and boundaries. It describes what is included and what is excluded plus the key interdependencies with other projects. It is important for the business case to consider the failure of other interrelated projects and show how such dependencies make impact benefits.
The outline plan provides a summary of the main activities and overall timescale ― project schedule ― for the project.
A project should be divided into stages with the decisions to make preceding each stage. Use this section to answer the following questions:
- What is required?
- How is it done?
- Who does what?
- When will things happen?
This outline plan lists the major deliverables and includes a brief project description plus accountabilities for each activity.
It is important that the business case provides its readers with a thorough assessment of the business context ― the market assessment. In other words, make the underlying business interests explicit.
Therefore, the market assessment should show a complete understanding of the marketplace in which your business operates.
A good starting point is the inclusions of a PESTLE ― political, economic, sociological, technological, legal, and environmental ― analysis.
The risk assessment summarizes the significant project risks and opportunities and how they are managed. Include any risks that could arise from your project, as well as the organization’s ability to deliver change.
This section answers the following questions:
- What risks are involved?
- What are the consequences of a risk happening?
- What opportunities may emerge?
- What plans are in place to deal with the risks?
- Every project should include a risk log
When writing a business case, make sure this is included as it explains how risk and opportunity are managed.
The project approach describes how the project is tackled. That is, the way in which work is done to deliver the project.
For instance, a project with much of the work contracted out is likely to take a different approach to a project that develops an in-house solution.
This section describes how a project is to be financed and whether a decision to buy, lease, or outsource should be taken by the organization before purchasing.
Moreover, the purchasing strategy should describe the purchasing process used. A formal procurement process may save time and money and reduce project risk.
The last section of the business case template is of most interest to the project manager, project team, and managers responsible for delivering work to the project. This project organization section describes how the project is set up.
This section of the business case template shows the reader how the project is structured and the different levels of decision-making. Usually, a business will already have implemented a project governance framework that will support the project through each stage.
If your organization does not use a structured project management process framework use this section to include:
- Roles and responsibilities (RACI Chart)
- Project tolerances
- Project standards
- Review points
- How decisions are made.
Finally, the business case should define how project progress is recorded and the project board updated on project performance. Usually, the project manager does this by preparing a concise progress report or highlight report at regular intervals.
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The completed business case provides structure for the project and project organization throughout the project lifecycle . Therefore, it should be used routinely for reference and not consigned to the shelf.
Accordingly, the project sponsor and project board should review and update the business case at key stages to check that the project remains viable and the reasons for doing it are still valid. Ideally, the review should take place before starting a new stage to avoid unnecessary investment in time and money.
In this article we showed you how to write a business case. We covered a lot of ground and may give the impression that the resulting business case is a large and unwieldy document.
This is not the case.
A business case should be concise and to the point. For small projects it may run to a few pages. For larger projects and complex business change endeavors the document will be large.
Therefore, be sure to keep the intended audience in mind when preparing each section and include supporting information in an appendix.
For instance, the option appraisal section may summarize each option with the details contained elsewhere for reference.
To conclude, the purpose of a business case is to outline the business rationale for undertaking a project and to provide a means to continually assess and evaluate project progress.
What is the difference between a business case and a business plan?
The focus of the business case is an action, which is usually the purchase of capital equipment or a service. In comparison, the focus of the business plan is to outline the future of a business proposal, it’s margins, revenue growth over several years and what the business goals and strategies will encompass.
What should be included in a business case?
Writing a business case can seem like a daunting task, which is why we have provided you with a business case template and example to help you make a start.
The four sections include:
What is a business case template?
A business case template provides you with a structure and format to present your case to relevant stakeholders and investors. It’s essential that this document communicate the essence of your project’s goals and benefits, while aligning with the company’s strategies and objectives.
The Plain English Guide to Writing a Business Case
Published: April 01, 2021
Have you ever heard the age-old classic story of a company that got its start from a back-of-the-napkin idea? Or about the start-ups that started in someone's garage?
While all those stories are, of course, inspirational, a huge element that they leave out is that every business started because someone felt the project justified spending time and money on it.
That's why some projects require you to write a business case. Whether you want to start a company, pitch a new product, or perhaps you just want your business to use a new project management tool. Either way, a project that requires time and resources will also require justifying those expenses in the form of a business case.
Below, let's review what a business case is, plus an example and template to inspire your own business case.
What is a business case?
A business case is a document that evaluates whether a project or task makes sense to complete. It will present the reasoning for taking on a project, such as benefits, cost, risk, etc. Essentially, this document makes a case that a project makes business sense to do.
In a business case, you might include the background on a project, expected benefits, costs, risks, and opportunities. This document will justify taking on a certain project. So, how do you develop a business case? Let's dive in below.
Business Case Development
To develop a business case, you'll need to write several key components, including a proposal, strategy, budget, SWOT analysis, and project plan. With these documents, you should be able to prove that the project you're pitching is worth doing.
Let's dive into the steps for how you'll develop a business case below:
Before you can write a business case, you need to do your research. First, you should have a goal in mind for your project, whether it's to create a new product, help drive more traffic/leads, or improve user experience.
Write down your goal and then conduct research to prove that your project is the way to achieve your goal.
You can begin by researching what competitors are doing and look for gaps that your project solves.
Start to brainstorm what this project's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats are. Additionally, you'll want to learn about your market -- whoever will be the consumer of the project, even if that's your own team.
Finally, you should start to look into what a budget would look like for your proposed solution.
2. Focus on one component at a time.
A business case will usually include several documents. Focus on one at a time, while keeping your notes organized.
Start with your proposal, then move on to your SWOT analysis, the competitive analysis, the project plan, overall strategy, and then the budget. It can be easy to get lost in just one of these tasks, so focus on one thing at a time to complete the bigger picture business case.
3. Write an implementation plan.
Once you've gathered your research and you're working through each component, it's time to start thinking about implementation.
How will you implement your project? Once you've made the business case that your project should be done, stakeholders will wonder how you'll execute it.
To do this, write an implementation plan that discusses how you'd complete the project and metrics that you'd track to measure success.
Once you're done writing your business case, look at the whole document and ask yourself whether it's comprehensive, measurable, and adaptable.
A business case doesn't need to be an entire business plan for a new product. Sometimes it will be less formal due to the size of the project. Either way, you want to make a strong case for your project, so it should be easy to understand and implement.
Now, let's look at an example of what a business case might look like.
Business Case Example
Now that you've seen what it takes to write a business case and what the process looks like, let's look at an example for inspiration.
In the example below, the project is about getting a new phone system to help the sales staff. Because this is a fairly small project, the business case isn't several pages long with exhaustive research.
However, it's important to keep in mind that while your business case might look something like this for a small scale project, it might include several pages of information if you're pitching something like a new product or a new UI to improve user experience.
The point in the business case is that it's adaptable to be whatever you need. However, the components of the business case will be the same regardless of how long it is. Every business case should include why a project should be done, the benefits, costs, risks, and budget.
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How to Write a Business Case: Examples, Templates, and Checklists
By Joe Weller | April 24, 2019 (updated February 26, 2023)
This article presents expert tips on how to write a business case. We also provide a checklist to prepare for, write, and present a business case, along with free, easy-to-use Word and PowerPoint business case templates.
Included on this page, you'll find details on how to write a business case , sections to include in your business case , a business case checklist , and business case presentation examples .
What Is a Business Case?
A business case is a formal, structured document; an informal, short document; or a verbal exchange that defines the benefits of an initiative or project.
In addition, a business case forecasts the costs, benefits, and risks of an initiative, so decision makers — and even the project initiators — can decide whether a project is worthwhile and why to choose one approach over similar strategies.
Jim Maholic has over 20 years of experience with IT strategy and business case development, including two stints as a CIO, two management positions with the Big Four consulting firms, and leadership positions at several technology companies.
He describes a business case in this way: “A business case is the full story that explains the ROI for a capital project. It begins with a statement of a business problem, then explores how we can solve it or what the value of solving it is. For example, ‘Our revenues aren’t rising as fast as they should,’ or ‘Inventory isn't turning over as fast as it should,’ or ‘Costs are too high.’ That's where the business case starts.
“Then, we find out how big this problem is. We talk to people in the company and find out what they think the value of solving the problem is. All this information is packaged into a story that says, ‘Here's the problem. Here's the value of solving the problem. Here's what it costs in hardware, software, or whatever. Here are the benefits. And here’s the whole story.’”
Business Cases Explain Why You Should Invest
A business case explains why stakeholders should invest in a project. The purpose of a business case contrasts with that of a project proposal , which provides a high-level outline of what you want to initiate and its benefits to the company, or that of a project plan , which explains how you execute a project. You should create your business case during the earliest stages of project planning .
A business case can also become a key document for a project manager when planning, creating milestones, and evaluating progress.
Other names and uses for business cases are financial justification, cost-benefit analysis (CBA) , total cost of ownership (TCO) analysis , and return on investment (ROI) analysis . Nonprofits and government entities sometimes refer to business cases as case statements .
What Is Business Case Analysis (BCA)?
A business case analysis (BCA) looks not only at lowest costs, but also at technical value and other nonquantitative factors in what is known as a best-value analysis . The BCA addresses the triple constraints of time, money, and scope, and it can include measures such as performance, reliability, viability, and supportability.
Although business case analysis is used interchangeably with business case , some experts consider the analysis to be part of the business case as a whole.
What Is a Business Case Used For?
A business case helps a company or an organization prepare for new ventures or changes. This document is a crucial building block of project success and underpins the foundations of senior-level involvement and strong planning. Business cases summarize the benefits of an endeavor, clarifying a project’s business value to help stakeholders make decisions.
A good business case should focus less on the technology, domain knowledge, or specific deliverables and more on the users of a product and the goals of a project. In the same vein, a project manager should focus not only on creating output, but also on delivering value. An initiative can offer many types of value, including contributing to strategic aims, increasing efficiency, and supporting compliance. Insufficient attention to the details of a business case and the accompanying research can lead to poor project results.
Business cases usually describe these items:
- A business problem or opportunity
- Possible solutions and their benefits and disadvantages (sometimes known as disbenefits )
- Risks associated with the main solution
- Implementation timeline
- Consequences for implementing a solution and for retaining the status quo
- Resources required for the initiative or project
Advantages of a Business Case
A business case may seem like just another document destined for the shelf or the shredder, but it can offer real advantages:
- All stakeholders have similar expectations concerning the value and benefits of an initiative to an organization.
- You can convert a business case into a project plan with milestones. You increase the chances of a project’s success with planning.
- A business case becomes a gauge for determining whether an endeavor continues to offer value during execution and after a team produces a deliverable.
- Project planners can more easily establish objectives and goals.
- You can more easily discern success.
- Teams apply the right resources more efficiently.
Who Prepares a Business Case?
You might think that business cases are the purview of financial officers and accountants. In fact, people who have direct knowledge of processes and teams should be responsible for creating these documents.
Some pundits say that the individual who advocates change must enact the change, so anyone in any role could assume the responsibilities for producing a business case. This includes consultants, line managers, or IT managers. In some organizations, the project sponsor or project manager may guide the preparation of the business case and include input from relevant departments and SMEs.
When Do You Need a Business Case?
It’s no longer enough to complete a project and present a deliverable. In an economy that often seems as unstable as it was in 2008, stakeholders want to see that a deliverable creates value and benefits for an organization. This is particularly true for complex projects or those that require justification for enlisting external resources. Public sector projects frequently need business cases.
What's in a Business Case?
A business case outlines for a decision maker the benefits and business value of a proposed initiative. The term business case frequently refers to a written document that is submitted for review or presented at a meeting, but can also apply to an informal, spoken proposal.
What Should Be in a Business Case?
A well-written business case flows logically from presenting a problem or opportunity through the advantages and disadvantages of solutions to describing the recommended solution. When you require great detail, you can chunk text into sub-sections so that the content is easier to scan, as well as faster and less overwhelming to read. Following are the common sections of a business case in sequential order:
- Executive summary
- Problem statement
- Analysis and financial details
Many organizations have pre-established templates for writing business cases. If your organization doesn’t, search online for free, easy-to-use business case templates for construction business cases, one-page business cases, and more. Depending on the narrative needs of the business case, it can contain many possible sections:
- Preface: A preface may indicate the intended audience and any related documents.
- Table of Contents: If your document is delivered as a PDF file, consider hyperlinking your table of contents to the appropriate sections.
- What is the problem?
- What do you believe is the value of solving the problem?
- How much are you asking for?
- When will we start seeing benefits?
“I’ve had some presentations that don't get beyond that first page,” Maholic muses.
- Description of the Product or Service: When proposing a new object or concept, detail what the deliverable is and how it works.
- A Problem Statement or Mission Statement: By describing the problem or the mission of the organization, you can contextualize the proposed initiative.
- Business Drivers for the Initiative: Indicate what benefits will contribute to the strategic aims of the organization.
- Finance Section: Explain how much the project will cost and whether it is affordable. Detail the cash flow. Describe the expenses to execute (or not execute) the project in a cost comparison against forecasted benefits. Conduct a sensitivity analysis , a technique for determining how the different values of an independent variable affect a dependent variable.
- Financial and nonfinancial benefits
- Quality improvements
- Cost savings through efficiencies
- Added revenue
- Improved customer services
- Options: What are the possible solutions to the problem? Usually, you narrow this list to 3 to 5 viable choices. Frequently, you include a “do nothing” option and a benchmark option. Some organizations require the do-nothing option; others require it only if the do-nothing option is a legitimate possibility. Quantify the benefits of each potential solution. Also, outline the risks, issues, and interdependencies for each solution.
- What is required?
- How is it done?
- Who does what?
- When will things happen?
- Assessments or Analysis: Your analysis should list assumptions and consider cash flow and costs. Describe the risks of the project and the plans to deal with them. Also, discuss how you will leverage opportunities. Describe the context of your undertaking using PESTLE (political, economic, sociological, technological, legal, and environmental) analysis.
- Project Approach: Detail the organization of the project, including governance and accountability, roles and responsibilities, and the schedule of progress reporting. Describe the purchasing strategy for completing the endeavor. Will you lease equipment? Rent office space? Hire contractors or employees?
- Recommendation and Next Steps: Note the recommended solution and immediate required action.
- Appendix: Add supporting documentation here, such as spreadsheets, charts, or drawings.
Considerations for Executive Presentations
The sections that comprise a business case may vary depending on your house style and the type of initiative. Jim Maholic says, “I package my business cases this way: I set up a one-hour meeting, so I have maybe 20 slides, but 10 to 15 slides are plenty. In reality, I might have 100 slides, but I add those in an appendix.” You may have credible supporting information, but you don’t want to bore your audience of decision makers by slogging through each slide.
“They might allocate an hour, but honestly, you're going to get their attention for 10 to 15 minutes, and then they'll start checking email and stuff,” Maholic adds. “You really have to be crisp in how you do this and know where you're going.
“Start with, ‘We have this problem,’ followed by, ‘Here are the people that we talked to who validated that this is a problem. They offered ideas about solving this problem, so we could see this substantial benefit,’” he notes.
“What matters in an executive meeting is that I answer the main questions: What is the problem? What is the cost of not solving it? What are the benefits of solving it? And when do we see the benefits? You may address additional questions later in the meeting or after the meeting, on an individual, offline basis,” Maholic says.
Business Case Templates
Using templates, you can more easily create business cases because you can focus on your research and fill in the blanks. The following free, downloadable templates are customizable for your organization’s needs.
Business Case Presentation Template
You can lengthen this short PowerPoint presentation template to accommodate more detail. The business case presentation template includes spaces for describing the following elements: the project name, the executive summary, the project description, the financials, the recommended solution, the assumptions and dependencies, the options, and the benefits.
Download Business Case Presentation Template - PowerPoint
Simple Business Case Template
A simple business case template serves a small project or a small organization. It can cover extensive details if necessary. It includes spaces for describing the following elements of the case: the title, the executive summary, the business objective, the target users, the financials and costs, the assumptions and dependencies, the implementation strategy, the required resources, and the project governance and reporting.
Download Simple Business Case Template
Word | PDF | Smartsheet
Healthcare Business Case Template
A healthcare business case template helps you explain the current setup and how the proposed solution can create improvements. It provides space for a one-page executive summary, context for the problem or opportunity, a description of the current situation, an explanation of the proposed changes, and details of how the changes can affect your organization and any other entities.
Download Healthcare Business Case Template
Word | Google Docs
New Product Business Case Template
A new product business case template explores the business landscape for a new product or service. In addition to the meta information, such as the title, the author, and the executive summary, the template includes space to describe the current mission statement, the proposed product or service, the marketing strategy, an analysis of competitors, SWOT analysis , an overview of the implementation plan, and financial details.
Download New Product Business Case Template
Preparing to Write the Business Case
You can expedite your business process by understanding business case structure and using a template. In addition, having the correct perspective and following best practices can contribute to your success.
Why Are You Doing the Project?
Before you start researching and writing, understand why you want to initiate a project. The goal of a project is to solve problems. What is a problem? A problem prevents your organization from achieving its full potential. To begin, determine what problem the project is trying to solve.
Projects have deliverables, whether tangible or intangible. Think of an outcome as the result created by the deliverables. Benefits represent quantifiable improvements derived from an outcome. When a customer or team member can leverage these benefits, they become advantages.
Do Your Business Case Research
To start, review the mission statement(s) for the organization or the project. Identify the sources of data for your business case. One way to encourage the acceptance of your proposal is to discuss your rough estimates of the costs and resources with a project sponsor or customer before you embark on the business case. This helps you and the sponsor understand each other’s expectations and lessens the chance of sticker shock during the executive presentation. Then interview the people who conduct the day-to-day work and get their perspective on problems and possible solutions.
Do the Business Case Math
You must consider whether the returns justify the request. “If we're asking for $3 million, we've got to show that the project benefits far exceed that amount,” asserts Maholic. “With returns of $10, $15, or $20 million, you're going to get their attention. If you say the benefits are $300 million, they're going to think you've fallen off the truck somewhere, because that's not realistic. On the other hand, if you show benefits of $3.5 million for a cost of $3 million, that's probably not going to beat the projected return of any other project that comes across their desk.”
Consider Who the Business Case Is For
Whether the business case comes in document form or as a presentation, the project sponsor and key stakeholders will study it. Consider the key audience for each section of your document and write with that audience in mind.
The most convincing arguments for projects are those that your team can initiate and wrap up within six months, as well as produce considerable quantifiable results. Especially when big money is on the table, your proposal will compete with others from different departments. “No company has all the money it wants to invest in everything — it has to prioritize. The business case helps evaluate what the return will be for each of the projects that comes across the board's desk for approval,” explains Maholic.
Furthermore, a business case presents estimates. A business case should be built on sound research, but no one has a lock on certitude. “I think first-time business case writers in particular get caught up in building some great story. But seasoned executives get requests all the time, and they're not buffaloed by clever-sounding words or fancy spreadsheets,” Maholic cautions.
“Your ideas have to be rooted in something sensible, not just, ‘I bet we can raise revenues by 15 percent,’” he explains. Grand plans may be possible, but the key, according to Maholic, is to help decision makers understand how it is possible.
How Do You Write a Business Case?
When you have the main questions in mind and a sense of the required sections and format, you can begin to write. Consider limiting the number of authors to ensure an effective writing effort that’s consistent in style and voice. Then follow these tips:
- Concisely cover the core content with enough detail, so stakeholders can make an informed decision.
- Compare options, so decision makers understand the landscape.
- Be clear, concise, and captivating.
- Avoid jargon as much as possible.
- Demonstrate the value of the project to the business by creating a credible and accurate argument.
- Clearly describe the landscape for the initiative, including its dependencies. Enumerating these dependencies is crucial because contextual changes can alter the project parameters or eliminate the need for the project altogether.
- Focus on the business and the business value rather than the knowledge domain covered by the intended project deliverable.
How Do You Know You Have Enough Detail?
You determine the length of your business cases according to the scope and complexity of your proposed endeavour. A complex project means a long business case; a small, short project means a short business case.
However, Maholic cautions against adding too much detail — conciseness can be a challenge. “You may take 4 to 6 weeks to create a business. You might talk to 50 or 100 people. There's this gnawing urge in some people to show everything they've collected in the executive presentation. Look how hard we worked. Look how smart I am . That's just awful.
“You have enough data and slides when you can answer those 4 or 5 basic questions. There may be 100 other slides, but those are supporting detail,” he says.
Common Mistakes in Writing Business Cases
You can strengthen your business case by avoiding common mistakes:
- Forget What Your White Papers Say: Maholic finds that when salespeople create cases for customers, they frequently rely on the benefits outlined in a product’s white papers. He notes, “Saying your product cuts costs by Y percent is a great place to start, but it has to be balanced by what's in front of you regarding a particular customer.” He continues, “As a salesperson, you may say that your product can increase revenue by 5 percent. That may be true for past customers, but this particular customer may have three straight years of declining revenues. It's silly to say that a product is going to both arrest a decline and bump up revenue by 5 percent. You have to think things through. That’s the analysis part. You can't just mouth off.”
- Spreadsheets Are not the Main Show: "Too often, I think, people hear business case , and they jump right to building a spreadsheet,” Maholic says. “They're eager to build the mother of all spreadsheets and show how smart they are by demonstrating the mother of all spreadsheets. While certainly spreadsheets are necessary to show the math, the spreadsheet is only a small part of the solution. Spreadsheets don't really articulate the problem or indicate who you talked to or what you analyzed to get to that solution,” he adds.
- Arguments Do not Equal More Money: Sometimes, people believe that a strong case justifies a more generous price tag. Not so, says Maholic: “As a decision maker, having a better business case doesn't mean I'm going to roll over and say, ‘Sure, you can charge me an extra million dollars.’ A good business case means the project has the value to go forward. Now, we're going to start negotiating and I'm still going to work to get the best price I can. People who've done business cases before know that. But people who are new to them don't completely understand that.”
- Remember That It’s About Value, Not About Toys: For startups, the coolness factor of the technology or product may carry some weight, but for most organizations, a business case must focus on the business value without getting lost in the domain knowledge and technical details. Maholic explains: “Nobody at the executive level cares what the throughput ratio is of this process or that stack. What they want to know is, ‘Do I get revenue more quickly? Do I cut costs more deeply? Tell me what the value of doing X is, and then you can go off and buy whatever toys you want to in order to do X.’”
Steps to Produce a Business Case
Your organization may have a tribal understanding of the best process for creating a business case. Some employees may advocate for following the Ds , which refer to the steps to produce a business case. The Ds can include as many as six steps, but generally focus on these four:
- Discover your problem or opportunity.
- Design your solutions and alternatives.
- Develop the details that describe the pros and cons of each potential solution.
- Deploy the business case.
Some advocates add the Define step to the beginning of the process and the Deliver step to the end. For best results, create your business case in the following order:
- Determine your problem or opportunity.
- Research the context for your proposal as appropriate: When developing a new product, your research may focus on the market; when acquiring new training or software, you may review current internal processes; and when making a new purchase, you may interview dozens of team members who use current tools and procedures.
- Compare alternative approaches and recommend the most appropriate strategy.
- Gather supporting data and evidence for the recommended approach.
- Write the business case.
- Write the executive summary.
- Edit your business case draft.
- Present your business case to either the final authority or the personnel who will be instrumental in implementing the case plan.
Download Business Case Process Checklist
The Business Case in Project Development
Contrary to what you might imagine, the business case can be a living document. Starting with the review process, stakeholders may reject, cancel, postpone, accept, or adjust the business case. To some extent, the business case becomes the guidebook for your initiative. Stakeholders and the project manager should refer to the business case throughout the lifecycle of the project to ensure that efforts (and intentions) remain on track.
What Are the Features of a Project Business Case?
A well-considered business case offers the following characteristics: an easy-to-understand description of the business value of the initiative and the immediate benefits of the project, including details of the positive impact on organizational strategy.
How Do You Analyze a Business Case?
In university-level business schools, business case studies (or case studies) function as teaching tools to help students use their analytic skills. Case studies describe a company and how it employs a solution. Following is the suggested approach for students analyzing a case:
- Review the case in detail. Identify the key issues.
- Determine 2 to 5 essential problems.
- Look for solutions to those problems.
- Describe your recommended solution.
What Is a Full Business Case?
A business case is a structured, detailed document that presents the justification for the commitment of financial and other resources to an endeavor. Business cases help you gain the support of management and other stakeholders, as well as approval for projects and programs.
What Is a Business Case in Project Management?
An approved business case can have a long life. Although the project sponsor ultimately owns the business case, it is the project manager who uses the business case as the guidebook for expectations and dependencies. In addition, the business case becomes an important document in an organization’s project portfolio management process. During this process, a company balances its resources with its strategic objectives to determine the livelihood of all the projects it undertakes.
History and Origins of Business Cases
The formal business case has its roots in 19th-century Europe, particularly with the work of French-Italian engineer-economist Jules Dupuit. His contribution included statistical tools to identify, measure, and value the benefits beyond merely determining the lowest bidder. Specifically, Dupuit is credited with inventing what he called the benefit-cost analysis . Today, professionals recognize the value of business cases outside of public works and government. Both nonprofit and for-profit organizations regularly use business cases.
Resources and Examples for Creating Your Business Case
If you’re new to business cases, you don’t have to start empty-handed. We offer resources to help you begin writing. Please see the following examples and templates:
- Here’s an example of a business case in a classic document format . This particular business case argues against a capital investment.
- This example presents three business cases for one higher education department . The presentation comes in a slide format.
- In this article, Jim Maholic offers a template for creating your business case .
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The Right Way to Present Your Business Case
- Carolyn O’Hara
Get key stakeholders on board with one effective presentation.
You’ve already put a great deal of work into preparing a solid business case for your project or idea. But when it comes to the critical presentation phase, how do you earn the support of decision makers in the room? How do you present your case so that it’s clear and straightforward while also persuasive?
- Carolyn O’Hara is a writer and editor based in New York City. She’s worked at The Week, PBS NewsHour, and Foreign Policy. carolynohara1
- Project planning |
- The beginner’s guide to writing an effe ...
The beginner’s guide to writing an effective business case
Nearly every project needs to be approved—whether that means getting the simple go-ahead from your team or gaining the support of an executive stakeholder. You may be familiar with using a project plan or project charter to propose a new initiative and get the green light for a project. But if your proposed project represents a significant business investment, you may need to build a business case.
If you’ve never written a business case, we’re here to help. With a few resources and a little planning, you can write a business case that will help you get the resources and support you need to manage a successful project.
What is a business case?
A business case is a document that explains the value or benefits your company will gain if you pursue a significant business investment or initiative. This initiative can be anything from the messaging for a new product or feature launch, a proposal to increase spend on a current initiative, or a significant investment with a new agency or contractor—to name a few. A compelling business case will outline the expected benefits of this significant investment decision. Key stakeholders will use the business case you provide to determine whether or not to move forward with an initiative.
If you’ve never created a business case, it may sound similar to other early project planning documentation. Here’s how it stacks up:
The difference between a business case and business plan
A business case is a proposal for a new strategy or large initiative. It should outline the business needs and benefits your company will receive from pursuing this opportunity.
A business plan , on the other hand, is an outline for a totally new business. Typically, you’d draft a business plan to map out your business strategy, your mission and vision statements, and how you’re planning on getting there. There may be a case where you create a business plan for an already-existing business, but you’d only do so if you’re trying to take your business in a significantly new direction.
Business case vs. executive summary
Business case vs. project charter.
If you need to create an elevator pitch for your project but you don’t quite need the full business case treatment, you might need a project charter. Much like a business case, a project charter outlines key details of an initiative. Specifically, a project charter will cover three main elements of your project: project objectives, project scope, and key project stakeholders. Your management team will then use the project charter to approve further project development.
Do you need a business case?
Not every project needs a business case—or even a project charter. Plan to build a business case only for initiatives or investments that will require significant business resources. If you’re working on a smaller initiative, consider creating a project charter to pitch your project idea to relevant stakeholders.
Even if you don’t need to pitch your project to any stakeholders, you should be ready to answer basic questions about your proposed project, like:
What is this project’s purpose?
Why are we working on this project?
How does this project connect to organizational goals and objectives?
Which metrics will we use to measure the success of the project ?
Who is working on this project?
When is this project going to be completed?
5 steps for creating and pitching a business case
Your business case shouldn’t just include key facts and figures—it should also tell a story of why pursuing a particular investment or initiative is a good idea for your business. When in doubt, avoid jargon and be brief—but always focus on communicating the value of the project. If this is your first time creating a business case, don’t worry. Follow these five steps to create a solid one.
1. Gather input
You don’t have to write a business case on your own. Instead, make sure appropriate team members and stakeholders are contributing to the relevant sections. For example, the IT team should be involved in any tooling and timeline decisions, while the finance team should review any budget and risk management sections. If you’re creating a business case to propose a new initiative, product line, or customer persona, make sure you also consult subject matter experts.
2. Plan to write your business case out of order
Some of the first things that appear in your business case—like your executive summary—should actually be drafted last, when you have all of the resources and information to make an informed suggestion. Your executive summary will present all of your findings and make a recommendation for the business based on a variety of factors. By gathering all of those details first—like project purpose, financial information, and project risk—you can ensure your executive summary has all of the relevant information.
3. Build your business case incrementally
A business case describes a significant investment for your company. Similarly, simply writing a business case is a significant investment of your time. Not every initiative is right for your business—so make sure you’re checking your work with stakeholders as you go. You don’t want to sink hours and weeks into this document only for it to be rejected by executive stakeholders right off the bat.
Consider doing a “soft launch” with an outline of your business case to your project sponsor or an executive stakeholder you have a good relationship with to confirm this initiative is something you should pursue. Then, as you build the different sections of your business case, check back in with your key stakeholders to confirm there are no deal-breakers.
4. Refine the document
As you create sections of your business case, you may need to go back and refine other sections. For example, once you’ve finished doing a cost-benefit analysis with your financial team, make sure you update any budget-related project risks.
Before presenting your business case, do a final read through with key stakeholders to look for any sections that can be further refined. At this stage, you’ll also want to write the executive summary that goes at the top of the document. Depending on the length of your business case, your executive summary should be one to two pages long.
5. Present the business case
The final step is to actually present your business case. Start with a quick elevator pitch that answers the what, why, and how of your proposal. Think of this presentation as your chance to explain the current business need, how your proposal addresses the need, and what the business benefits are. Make sure to address any risks or concerns you think your audience would have.
Don’t go through your business case page by page. Instead, share the document with stakeholders before the presentation so they have a chance to read through it ahead of time. Then, after your presentation, share the document again so stakeholders can dig into details.
A business case checklist
Start with the why.
The first section of the business case is your chance to make a compelling argument about the new project. Make sure you draft an argument that appeals to your audience’s interests and needs. Despite being the first section in your business case, this should be the last section you write. In addition to including the traditional elements of an executive summary , make sure you answer:
What business problem is your project solving? This is your chance to explain why your project is important and why executive stakeholders should consider pursuing this opportunity.
What is your business objective ? What happens at the end of a successful project? How will you measure success—and what does a successful project mean for your business?
How does this business case fit into your overall company business strategy plan? Make sure your proposed business case is connected to important company goals . The initiative proposed in your business case should move the needle towards your company's vision statement .
Outline financials and the return on investment
At this point in your business case, you should outline the project finance fundamentals. Don’t expect to create this section on your own—you should draft this in partnership with your company’s finance team. In particular, this section should answer:
How much will this project cost? Even if the initiative is completely new to your company, do some research to estimate the project costs.
What does each individual component of the project cost? In addition to estimating the total overall cost, break down the different project costs. For example, you might have project costs for new tools and resources, competitive intelligence resourcing, agency costs, etc.
What is the expected return on investment (ROI)? You’ve talked about the costs—now talk about how your company will benefit from this initiative. Make sure to explain how you calculated the ROI, too.
How will this project impact cash flow? Cash flow is the amount of money being transferred into and out of your business. Significant investments are going to cost a lot of money, so they’ll negatively impact cash flow—but you should also expect a high ROI, which will positively impact cash flow.
What is the sensitivity analysis? Sensitivity analysis is a summary of how uncertain your numbers are. There will be a variety of variables that impact your business case. Make sure to explain what those variables are, and how that could impact your projections.
Preview project details
Your business case is proposing a new initiative. In addition to the financial risks, take some time to preview project details. For example, your business case should include:
Your project objectives and key project deliverables . What will happen at the end of the project? What are you expecting to create or deliver once the project is over?
Your project plan . A project plan is a blueprint of the key elements your team needs to accomplish in order to successfully achieve your project goals.
The project scope . What are the boundaries of your project? What exact goals, deliverables, and deadlines will you be working towards?
A list of relevant project stakeholders . Who are the important project stakeholders and key decision makers for this work? This can include the members of the project team that would be working on this initiative, executive stakeholders who would sponsor the project, and any external stakeholders who might be involved.
A general project roadmap in a Gantt-chart like view. At this stage in the process, you don’t need to provide a detailed project timeline, but you should outline a general sense of when each project stage will happen in relation to the others. To do this, create a project roadmap in Gantt-chart like software . Make sure to include any important project milestones in your roadmap as well.
Any important project dependencies. Is there anything that would get in the way of this project getting started? Does this work rely on any other work that’s currently in flight?
Discuss project risks
Once you’ve outlined the financial impact and important project details, make sure you include any potential project risks. If you haven’t already, create a project risk management plan for your business case. Project risk management isn’t the process of eliminating risk—instead, it’s about identifying, analyzing, and proactively responding to any potential project risks. Clearly defining each project risk and how that risk might impact your project can best equip you and the project team to manage and avoid those risks.
In the risk section of your business case, include:
A risk analysis of any potential project risks. What is the risk? How likely is it to happen? What is the priority level of this risk?
What, if any, assumptions you are making. In project risk management, assumptions are anything you think will be true about the project, without those details being guaranteed facts. Basing project decisions around an assumption can open your project up to risk. Make sure you ratify every project assumption to avoid jeopardizing project success.
Any comparable alternatives in the market. If you’re writing a business case to pitch a new product or angle in the market, evaluate anything that already exists. Could the alternative impact your financial assessment or project success?
Develop an action plan
In the final section of your business case, outline how you will turn this business case into an actionable project. This section should answer questions like:
How will decisions be made? Who is responsible for the project? Who is the project sponsor? If you haven’t already, consider creating a RACI chart to outline project responsibilities.
How will progress be measured and reported? Not every project stakeholder needs to be notified of every project change. Outline key parts of your project communication plan , as well as how you’ll communicate project status updates .
What is the next course of action? If the management team ratifies this business case, what next steps will you take to put this into action?
Bring your business case to life
You’ve built a solid business case and it’s been ratified—congratulations! The next step is to bring your business case to life. It can be intimidating to initiate large-scale change , and implementing your business case is no exception.
If you haven’t already, make sure you have a project management tool in place to manage and organize your new initiative. With a central source of truth to track who’s doing what by when, share status updates, and keep project stakeholders in the loop, you can turn a great business case into a successful project.
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Build your case for your promotion
Document examples of accomplishments and accolades for your promotion.
Make a strong case when you ask for your next promotion by showing your accomplishments and accolades.
A big step toward making your case for a promotion is to document your results. Many people are uncomfortable with this step, and this is why they often find themselves waiting for a promotion to come to them instead of going after it. But it’s up to you to make sure your accomplishments are recognized. Many managers are so busy that they may not be aware of what specific things you’re doing to excel at your job. This is how you’ll make sure your manager knows you are excelling at your job and ready for this promotion.
Accomplishments are the things on your roadmap that you’ve done to demonstrate that you’re ready for this promotion.
Once you’ve begun acquiring experience in line with your desired promotion, you should start documenting your accomplishments immediately. Just keep a spreadsheet or a text document where you jot things down as you do them.
Note that I said “jot things down”. You’re not writing a book about your accomplishments, you’re keeping brief notes to use later when you build your case.
Record them in this format: Activity → result .
“ Activity ” is the thing you did. “ Result ” is the value added by the thing you did.
Here are some examples:
- Documented teammate onboarding process to make it reusable and to help decrease the time to productivity when new people join our team.
- Took online seasonal forecasting course to help with 2016 forecasting effort.
- Mentored Jeff as he built a client’s blogging application in Ruby so that he can work on other Ruby projects in the future.
Note that this can be a useful format on your résumé as well. Most people just list the “Activity” part in their “Accomplishments” or “Experience” section, but they’re missing an opportunity to describe the value they brought to the business by doing that thing. The “to result” part is how you communicate that value.
“I shoveled snow” isn’t nearly as compelling as “I shoveled snow so that you can get your car out of the garage.”
Having trouble thinking of things you’ve accomplished? Here are some questions to get your mental wheels turning:
- When did you go the extra mile for a client?
- How have you saved your team money?
- How have you made your team more efficient?
- What was your most recent learning experience?
- Have you made any suggestions that worked well and improved your team?
Accolades are praise and awards you’ve received over the past several months. There’s a good chance you already have accolades in your inbox if you know where to look. Start by searching your inbox for phrases like “thank you”, “well done” and “great job” to see if you already have accolades from clients or coworkers. When you find good examples, move them over to a separate folder so that it’s easy to find them again later. You can also use that folder to capture new accolades as they come in.
The two main types of accolades you’re likely to find are specific praise from a client or coworker, and awards or recognition for a job well done. For specific praise from a client or coworker, record who gave the praise, and either a summary of their feedback or a specific quote from them if you have one. For awards and other forms of recognition, record the award name or description, and the project or accomplishment that earned you the award.
Here are a couple examples:
- ACME Corp—”Shannon really nailed this project. She kept us on track and informed the whole time, and did a great job of identifying risks well ahead of time. She made this project easy for us.” —Tom Thompson, VP of HR
- Spotlight Award—For working three straight weekends on pre-sales for the ACME Corp deal to close it before end of year 2014.
While you’re collecting examples of accolades, keep an eye out for accomplishments you forgot about. If you find any new accomplishments, make sure you go back and add them to your list of accomplishments.
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Produce results to show you’re ready for your target job, use this promotion email template to draft your request.
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Getting Paid What You’re Worth When Changing Companies
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Promotion Business Case Template
- business case
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What is a business case and how to write one (with template)
In this guide, we’ll define what a business case is, help you determine when you need one (and when you don’t), and walk you through a four-step process for creating a business case.
We’ll also outline what you should include in a business case and provide a free template you can use when writing a business case to secure stakeholder support for your next big project.
Table of contents
What is a business case, align with strategy, gain stakeholder support, prioritize projects, track outcomes, when you don’t need a business case, business case vs. business plan.
- Identify the business need
- Explore all possible solutions
- Propose the best approach
- Outline the implementation process
What is included in a business case?
- Download our free business case template
Every project needs the support and approval of key stakeholders before it can launch. Many project and product leaders use a project plan or charter to communicate pertinent details to those involved.
Similarly, for large initiatives that require significant resources, potential investors are presented a business case outlining the costs, benefits, business need, and risks involved.
A business case is a document that defines the value it will deliver if executed and benefits the company over the costs involved. With a thorough understanding of the components to be included and necessary resources, it is possible to create a compelling business plan.
Why do you need a business case?
If a project is green-lit without a business case, it can lead to serious issues down the road. A project without clearly articulated expectations and goals can go on endlessly and aimlessly. This leads to wasted resources, money, and time with no outcome in the end.
A business case enables you to:
A business case helps to showcase how a project is aligned with the overall strategy and goals of the organization. It clearly defines the problem or opportunity that the project is intended to address.
A business case also enables you to determine expected benefits and outcomes before you start a project or initiatives, thus projecting how the project contribute to achieving the organization’s goals.
A business case is a useful tool to provide a clear rationale for pursuing the project. A thorough business case can help key stakeholders decide whether to invest in the project by evaluating the feasibility, costs, risks and potential returns. A business case presentation gives stakeholders an opportunity to ask questions and address concerns.
A business case defines the value that the project is expected to deliver. Based on the value delivered by each project, business and product leaders can prioritize projects for budget cuts or further investments. Proper prioritization helps the organization achieve the goals aligned with the business strategy.
A business case provides a roadmap for the project, including the goals, milestones, and key deliverables. Once the project starts, a roadmap helps you keep track of your progress toward project goals, including what has already been achieved and what will be delivered at the end. Providing a timely update on the project to the key stakeholders is critical for setting expectations.
A business case is certainly helpful for large initiatives requiring support from key stakeholders, but there are some situations where creating a business case might be a waste of time.
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For instance, small or low-risk projects that would not impact the organization in any negative way do not require a business case because it would not make sense to spend that much effort on a low-scale project.
A business case might also be considered superfluous for a project that is already ongoing. It can be tempting to create a business case post-launch for the sole purpose of documenting decisions made and milestones achieved. However, it’s typically not worth the time investment because such a business case rarely adds any value or insights.
Before you take on the task of creating a business case, it’s important to carefully consider the need and to ensure that doing so would produce valuable insights to the decision-making process. It is in the best interest of everyone to forgo the business case creation process in situations where it does not provide any additional value and to focus instead on other activities that directly impact the project.
A business plan is not the same thing as a business case.
A business case outlines a proposed project and its potential benefits to convince key stakeholders to invest. It typically includes analysis of costs, value to be delivered, and associated risks, along with ROI.
A business plan, on the other hand, outlines the overall strategy and goals for an entire organization. It defines the what, why, and who for the business, covering the products and services offered, target segment, marketing and sales strategy, and operational and financial projections over a period of time. A business plan is designed to help potential outside investors make informed decisions about whether the business is worth investing in.
The table below breaks down the differences between a business plan and a business case:
How to write a business case
Before we dive into steps to create a business case, let’s review what we’ve learned so far:
- A business case is a document created during the initiation of the project but is referred throughout the project lifecycle
- A strong business case helps in building confidence and gaining support of key stakeholders
- A business case also helps you track a project’s progress over time
- A weak business case that is not aligned with strategy can lead to project failure
To write a business case, follow this four-step process:
1. Identify the business need
Projects are initiated to solve a business need and achieve a value or a benefit aligned to the goals of the organization.
The first step to create a business case is to identify the business problem and define it clearly. Market research and any available data to justify the business need is helpful to include in the business case.
2. Explore all possible solutions
Once the business problem has been identified, the next step is to explore all the possible solutions for that problem. You can do this systematically by listing out all the possible solutions along with other parameters, such as:
- The benefits of each approach
- Time period
A detailed analysis of each option predicting the cash flows, ROI, and value delivered would help key stakeholders understand each solution and cross-question the assumptions, feasibility, and other parameters.
3. Propose the best approach
Set a criteria to showcase how you evaluate each solution and then come up with the best out of the list.
To set the criteria, identify attributes that closely align to the organization’s strategy. For example, if the organization’s goal is to increase revenue in the next year, then an important criterion might be the solution with maximum revenue projection.
List the top three-to-five attributes to evaluate alternative solutions against and rank each solution 1–5. Once you rank all of them, total the ranks for all the attributes to indicate a clear winner.
Document this process and present it to stakeholders to ensure they are on the same page with the selection process of the best solution.
4. Outline the implementation process
Once the best solution has been proposed, the next step is to think about how it will be implemented.
When it comes to planning the implementation process, you need to define:
- Resources needed
- Timeline from initiation till the end
- Risks and how to mitigate
- Milestones and when they will be achieved
- Total cost involved and how much will be used by when
These four steps, when captured in detail, can help you win the support of key stakeholders and kick off your project with a solid foundation and a clear objective.
Now that we’ve walked through the steps of how to create a business case, let us also take a look at what to include in the business case document to support the four steps outlined above.
Here’s what to include in a business case:
- Executive summary — A quick overview of the project and the topics being covered in the business case
- Business problem — A description of the business problem and why it is important to solve it
- Possible solutions — A list of possible solutions and how the best possible solution is identified
- Project definition — Define the business objectives to be achieved along with general information about the project
- Project plan — Create the project plan with key elements your team needs to accomplish to successfully achieve your project goals
- Project scope — Clearly define what would be covered as a part of the project and what is out of scope to avoid any confusion
- Project budget — Estimated cost involved to complete the project needs to be captured with a detailed breakdown
- Project roadmap — Projection of the estimated timeline for each stage of the project to be done. Be sure to include any important project milestones
- Project financials — Financial metrics depicting the cash flow, such as NPV, IRR, ROI, and payback period to help stakeholders understand the financial value the project can bring in over a period of time
- Risk assessment — Capture the risks involved and the steps planned to mitigate the risks
- Project stakeholders — A list of key stakeholders involved can help anyone looking at the document to reach out to them when needed. The list can include the project team, sponsoring executives, and any external stakeholders who might be involved
Business case template
To help you get started writing a business case for your next big project or initiative, we created a business case template that you can download and customize for free.
You can access this simple business case template by clicking here (be sure to select File > Make a copy from the main menu bar before editing the template).
Preparing the business case is only half the journey of initiating a project. The next step is to present the business plan to key stakeholders , answer their queries, and compel them to support the project.
Lastly, be sure to follow up with the attendees to make sure all the stakeholders are on the same page and aligned to support the project.
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How to Write a Great Business Case
- Case Teaching
C ase studies are powerful teaching tools. “When you have a good case, and students who are well prepared to learn and to teach each other, you get some magical moments that students will never forget,” says James L. Heskett, UPS Foundation Professor of Business Logistics, emeritus, at Harvard Business School (HBS). “They will remember the lessons they learn in that class discussion and apply them 20 years later.”
Yet, for many educators who want to pen their own case, the act of writing a great business case seldom comes easily or naturally. For starters, it’s time consuming. Case writers can spend substantial time visiting companies, securing a willing site, conducting interviews, observing operations, collecting data, reviewing notes, writing the case, revising the narrative, ensuring that teaching points come through, and then getting executives to approve the finished product.
The question, then, becomes: Where do you begin? How do you approach case writing? How do you decide which company to use as the subject of the case? And what distinguishes a well-written case from a mediocre one?
We asked three expert HBS case writers—who collectively have written and supported hundreds of cases—to share their insights on how to write a great business case study that will inspire passionate classroom discussion and transmit key educational concepts.
Insights from James L. Heskett
UPS Foundation Professor of Business Logistics, Emeritus, Harvard Business School
Keep your eyes open for a great business issue.
“I’m always on the prowl for new case material. Whenever I’m reading or consulting, I look for interesting people doing interesting things and facing interesting challenges. For instance, I was reading a magazine and came across a story about how Shouldice Hospital treated patients undergoing surgery to fix inguinal hernias—how patients would get up from the operating table and walk away on the arm of the surgeon.
6 QUALITIES OF GREAT CASE WRITERS
Comfort with ambiguity, since cases may have more than one “right” answer
Command of the topic or subject at hand
Ability to relate to the case protagonists
Enthusiasm for the case teaching method
Capacity for finding the drama in a business situation and making it feel personal to students
Build relationships with executives.
“When writing a case, it’s helpful to start as high in the organization as possible. It helps assure mid-level managers that they can share the information you need with an outsider. It also helps when it comes to getting the case cleared for use. Serving on corporate boards can help in building relationships with senior executives, but there are other ways to make those connections. For instance, you can approach speakers at business conferences if you think their presentations could form the basis for a good business case. If you want to write about a company where you don’t have any personal connections, you can always check with your colleagues to see if any of them have a personal relationship with the CEO or sit on a board where they could introduce you to the right person who would be able to facilitate the case. My colleagues and I make a lot of these introductions for each other.”
“If you make the case into a crossword puzzle that takes five hours to solve, it’s not really fair to the students and will most likely cause them to lose focus.” James L. Heskett
Skip the curveballs and focus on key issues.
“Cases don’t have to be obvious. As a pedagogical objective, you might want students to look beyond a superficial issue to say this is the underlying topic that we need to address, and these are the questions we need to pose. Still, I think it’s unhelpful if cases contain real curveballs where ‘unlocking’ the case depends on finding some small piece of information hidden in an exhibit. Give students a break! They may have to read and digest three cases per day, so they probably won’t be able to devote more than a couple of hours to each one. If you make the case into a crossword puzzle that takes five hours to solve, it’s not really fair to the students and will most likely cause them to lose focus.”
Build a discussion plan while writing the case.
“In case method teaching, the teacher is not in complete control. Students teach each other and learn from each other. On any given day, there will likely be somebody in the room who knows more about the company featured in the case than the professor does. So a professor can’t walk into the classroom and expect to impose a lesson plan that goes in a strict linear way from A to B to C to D. The case ought to be written to allow students to jump from A to D and then come back later to B if that’s how the discussion plays out. At the same time, the case should be structured so that the instructor can collect student comments on a board, organizing them as a coherent set of related ideas, and then deliver a 5-to-10-minute summary that communicates whatever essential concepts the case has covered. This summation can be a very powerful teaching and learning experience.”
Focus on quality over quantity.
“Cases don’t have to be too long. Some good cases are only two or three pages. Students may give more scrutiny to these brief cases than they would a 20-page case.”
Advice from Benson P. Shapiro
Malcolm P. McNair Professor of Marketing, Emeritus, Harvard Business School
Take out the chaff in advance.
“You don’t want students to spend too much time separating the wheat from the chaff. If a case has 12 pages of text and 10 pages of exhibits, even the smartest MBA students will likely lose interest. Writers who try to capture a situation from every angle and in every detail end up with sprawling narratives that usually do not make a good case. When writing cases, you need to set good, strong boundaries. Avoid superfluous, flowery, or poetic material that may contain interesting anecdotes or factoids, but that could distract readers from the case’s core topics. Include only those important and useful details that can help students make decisions and understand key issues that the case explores.”
Work in layers and metaphors—subtly.
“The best cases work on multiple levels. A case should focus on a specific situation—for example, whether or not to introduce a certain product. But it should also serve as a metaphor for broader issues in the background: How do we think about introducing new products? Are we introducing enough products? Are new product introductions a source of competitive advantage in our industry? How should we organize and manage new product development? You want the case to encourage students to think broadly about the various cultural, financial, and strategic impacts that managerial decisions have on a company.”
“Writers who try to capture a situation from every angle and in every detail end up with sprawling narratives that usually do not make a good case.” Benson P. Shapiro
Encourage emotional engagement.
“Case writing is an interesting literary form—it needs to be very engaging, but also educational. Great cases revolve around points of contention on which intelligent people can hold different points of view: What should you do? Why? How do you get it done? Ideally, students should have to choose between two very attractive alternatives or two terrible alternatives. The best cases involve questions that get students emotionally engaged so that they really care about choices and outcomes. When you see students physically leaning forward and following what their peers are saying, you know that they have a visceral feel for the importance of the subject. When you hear them debating after class— You were out in left field! You missed what was really important here! —that’s how you can tell you succeeded in developing a great case.”
Lessons from Carin-Isabel Knoop
Executive Director of the Case Research & Writing Group, Harvard Business School
Don’t forget the classroom component.
“Cases are deliberately incomplete documents. What a case writer leaves out of a case is often just as important as what he or she puts into it. Cases are designed to be completed through classroom instruction and discussion. While drafting the case, try to develop the classroom process in parallel. Work on the assignment questions and classroom content. Keep in mind that the case should be able to adapt to your classroom and course needs.”
Hone your elevator pitch.
“Before getting started, always have clear, succinct learning objectives in mind. Don’t start developing the case until you are able to summarize these objectives in less than five minutes.”
Case writing is a relationship, not a transaction.
When choosing a case site, be clear with executives that you are developing a teaching tool and that you will require their time and candor—and eventually their data. Put them at ease, and manage the authorization process, right from the start. Indicate that quotes will be cleared before publication and there will be time for individual review. During the creation process, ask their advice. This creates a process of engagement and helps bring home that this is a pedagogical tool, not gotcha journalism. At HBS, we oftentimes invite someone from the company to attend class. Finally, once the case is done, stay in touch with your case protagonists. They will move to other organizations and spread the good word about their experience with case writing.
Invite disagreement in case discussions.
“The case study method is based on participant-centered learning. The students all start from the same base of 11 (or however many) pages in the case, but they bring different knowledge and experiences into the classroom. So they can take the same facts and disagree about what course of action to pursue. We want students to behave like decision makers, and it can be painful to make decisions. Some critics deride the case teaching method as being unrealistic, but someone who just lectures about marketing doesn’t help students realize how difficult it is to choose between two plausible options to meet the same marketing objectives. For students, a big part of the education process is learning from discussions with classmates who think differently and advocate for different solutions. Witnessing a robust case discussion reminds us of the potential for collective learning to emerge from contrasting views.”
“Faculty don’t just write cases for teaching purposes, they write them to learn.” Carin-Isabel Knoop
The Case Writing Process Is a Worthy Effort
Researching, writing, and publishing cases is well worth the time and effort. “The case research and writing process is important for faculty development,” Knoop adds. “While developing field cases, faculty go to site visits and meet with decision makers. The case writing process helps connect scholars to practitioners and practitioners to the academic world. Faculty case writers get to explore and test how their academic theories work in practice. So faculty don’t just write cases for teaching purposes, they write them to learn. The case method is an integral part of faculty development.”
There’s another big bonus to becoming a case writer, especially for younger educators. “Young business instructors face a credibility gap with their students,” says Heskett. “It’s not uncommon to have MBA students in a class who have more experience than the instructor on a particular subject. Once you go into the field and write a case, you will know more about that subject than anyone else in the class. A primary way for professors to establish their credibility on a topic is to have written the case the class is discussing that day.”
James L. Heskett is UPS Foundation Professor of Business Logistics, emeritus, at Harvard Business School. He completed his Ph.D. at the Graduate School of Business, Stanford University, and has been a faculty member at The Ohio State University as well as president of Logistics Systems, Inc. Since 2000, he has authored a blog on Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge website .
Benson P. Shapiro is the Malcolm P. McNair Professor of Marketing, emeritus, at Harvard Business School where he taught full time from 1970 to 1997. Since 1997, Shapiro has concentrated his professional time on consulting, giving speeches, serving on boards, and writing. He continues to teach at Harvard and has taught in many executive programs and has chaired the Sustainable Marketing Leadership for Mid-Sized Firms Program.
Carin-Isabel Knoop is the executive director of the Case Research & Writing Group at Harvard Business School. She is also coauthor of Compassionate Management of Mental Health in the Modern Workplace .
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How to Write a Business Case (With Example & Template)
By Kat Boogaard , May 19, 2022 - 10 min read
A business plan is a straightforward document. In it, you’ll include market research, your overall goals for the business , and your strategies for achieving those goals.
But what is a business case and why do you need one if a business plan outlines everything else?
A business case takes a closer look at a specific problem and how you can solve it. Think of a business case as the reason you create a project you’re going to manage in the first place.
The article provides a step-by-step guide on how to write a successful business case, including a checklist for identifying problems, researching solutions, and presenting to stakeholders. As a bonus, we’ll show you how to use Wrike to manage your product business cases with a requirements management template or implement them with a project scheduling template .
What is a business case?
A business case is a project you’ll assemble for identifying, addressing, and solving a specific business problem.
The key to a business case is the change it creates in your business. Developing a business case starts with identifying a problem that needs a permanent solution. Without that lasting change, a business case is only an observation about what’s going wrong. A complete business case addresses how a company can alter its strategy to fix that problem.
Front-to-back, a business case is a complete story. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It typically looks like this:
- Beginning: Someone identifies a problem within the business and presents the business case to the key decision-makers.
- Middle: With the project go-ahead, the company launches an internal team to address the business case and deliver results.
- End: The team delivers a presentation on the changes made and their long-term effects.
In short, a business case is the story of a problem that needs solving.
Examples of business cases
The problem for many companies is that they can turn a blind eye to challenges that are right in front of their faces. This is even the case when the company has a compelling product to sell.
Consider the example of Febreze . In the mid-1990s, a researcher at Procter & Gamble was working with hydroxypropyl beta-cyclodextrin. His wife noticed that his clothes no longer smelled like cigarettes, which was a frequent complaint.
P&G had something of a miracle product on its hands. However, their approach was wrong. They initially marketed Febreze as a way to eliminate embarrassing smells. Predictably, the product flopped.
But P&G stuck at it. They had a potential business case on their hands: a highly marketable product proved difficult to market. What was going wrong? Working on the business case from beginning to end provided the answer.
After some focus group testing, P&G found out that few consumers recognized the nasty odors they were used to. Instead, they learned to use a different business case for Febreze: it was a cleaning product now, a way to make the house smell nice when the floors are vacuumed and the counters are wiped clean. They gave it its own pleasant smell and fashioned it into a cleaning product. And because it worked so well, so did the campaign.
That’s an example of a business case overall. But let’s get specific: developing a business case is easier when you have a template to look at. Let’s build an example using a made-up company, ABC Widgets, and a hypothetical business case. Let’s call our business case example “Operation Super Widgets”:
Business Case: ABC Widgets
Section 1: summary.
Briefly describe the problem and the opportunities.
ABC Widgets’ latest widget, the Super Widget, is suffering from supply issues, requiring higher shipping costs to procure the necessary resources, and eating into profits. We need to switch to a new supplier to restore the viability of the Super Widget.
Section 2: Project Scope
This section should include the following:
- Financial appraisal of the situation. Super Widgets are now 20% more expensive to produce than in the year prior, resulting in -1% profits with each Super Widget sold.
- Business objectives. To get revenues back up, we need to restore profit margins on Cost Per Unit Sold for every Super Widget back to 2020 levels. Benefits/limitations. Restoring Cost Per Unit Sold will restore 5% of sagging revenues. However, we are limited to three choices for new Super Widget suppliers.
- Scope and impact. We will need to involve supply chain managers and Super Widget project management teams, which may temporarily reduce the number of widgets we’re able to produce, potentially resulting in $25,000 in lost revenue.
- Plan . Project Management Teams A and B will take the next two weeks to get quotes from suppliers and select one while integrating an immediate plan to bring in new Super Widget parts for manufacturing within four weeks.
- Organization. Team Member Sarah will take the lead on Operation Super Widget Profit. Both teams will report to Sarah.
This is a bare-bones example of what a business case might look like, but it does hit on the key points: what’s the problem, how can you fix it, what’s the plan to fix it, and what will happen if you succeed?
How do you write and develop a business case?
When writing your own business case, the above example is a good guide to follow as you get started with the basics.
But, once you’re more familiar with the nuts and bolts, it’s also worth being prepared for some potential roadblocks you could face along the way.
Challenges of writing a good business case
Why don’t more companies create a business case? It might come down to a lack of good communication. Many people don’t even know how to write a business case, let alone present one.
“The idea may be great, but if it’s not communicated well, it won’t get any traction,” said Nancy Duarte , communication and author who wrote The HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations.
The key challenge, notes Duarte, is taking abstract business concepts (like lagging numbers) and turning them into an immediately recognizable problem. After all, if a company already had perfect awareness that it was making a mistake, it likely would find a way to stop the error in its tracks.
A business case is challenging because it usually means you’ll have to persuade someone that change is needed. And change can be difficult. In a thriving business, it’s especially problematic because it’s easy to point to the bottom line and say that whatever the company is doing is already working.
How do you present a business case?
The tips and examples above give you some nice remedies for creating a business case without the typical problems. But you’ll still want to present a business case with the straightforward proposals and numbers you’d associate with any new project.
Essentially, it all comes down to how well your business case can persuade the decision-makers. That’s why you shouldn’t just build a case off of raw numbers. The bottom line might be a compelling argument, but it’s not always what “clicks.”
If you’re presenting a business case, you’re a salesperson. And not every sale is a matter of precise logic. It’s also about emotion—the story of why something’s gone wrong and what needs doing if you’re going to overcome it.
The art of a good business case is the art of persuasion. Keep these specific points in mind as you craft one of your own:
- Point to an example of a bad business case and liken it to the present case . No one likes the idea of watching themselves walk into a mistake. Presenting an example of a business that made the same mistake your company is making and then translating it into the present moment is a compelling way to craft a business case that makes ears perk up.
- Build a narrative. Nancy Duarte pointed out that in one business case, a client convinced a CEO to follow through with a project by using simple illustrations. It’s not that the idea of adding illustrations to the business case was so great. It’s that the illustrations were able to tell a compelling story about why the case needed to go through.
- Distill the idea into an elevator pitch. Try this exercise: get your business case down to one sentence. If you can’t explain it any more simply than that, your business case might not be as memorable as it needs to be to sway decision-makers.
- Use analogies to drive the point home. Let’s say you discovered a problem in a growing business. Overall, revenues are good — but you’ve noticed an associated cost that has the potential to explode in the future and tank the business. But it’s not compelling to use dollars and cents when the business is doing so well. Instead, consider introducing the business case with a simple analogy: “Without repair, every leaky boat eventually sinks.” You now have their attention. Use the numbers to drive the point home, but not to make the point.
If you’re presenting a business case to decision-makers, remember that it’s not only the logic of your argument that will convince people — it’s how persuasive you can be.
Business case checklist
Before you can check “learn how to write a business case” off your list, you have to know the essentials. Make sure you include the following elements in your business case checklist (and, of course, your business case itself):
- Reasons. This should be the most compelling part of your business case. You can tell a story here. And the most compelling stories start with a loss or a complication of some sort. What is the threat to the business that needs remedy? What are the reasons for moving forward?
- Potential courses of action. It’s not a complete story until we know the next chapter. A business case isn’t just about the problem — it’s about rectifying a problem through the solution. Recommend a few specific courses of action to help spur discussion about what to do next.
- Risks and benefits. Not every solution is going to be perfectly clean. There are going to be solutions with downsides. There are going to be costs along with the benefits. Make sure to include each of these to give a clear and complete picture. This is the time to manage expectations — but also the time to inspire action.
- Cost. What’s it going to cost to complete the project? The people making the decisions need to know the bottom line figure to assess which business cases to prioritize.
- Timeline. A good project isn’t only measured in dollars but in days, weeks, and months. What is the expected timeline for the business case? How quickly can the problem meet its solution?
With every business case, specificity is key. A vague timeline won’t help — a timeline with specific weekly milestones looks more achievable. To make your business case more compelling, always look for the specific details that tie your story together.
Business case template
A business case template is a document that outlines the key elements of a business case in a structured format. By using a standardized template, companies can ensure that all relevant information is captured and shared in a clear and consistent manner.
Depending on the size of your business and the scope of your project, your business case template can be as detailed or as simple as you like. For a smaller project, you can use a one-pager to get started, detailing the main points of your project, which include:
- Executive summary: An overview of your project, its goals, and the benefits of completing it for your business
- Team and stakeholders: A list of the relevant people involved in your project, and their contact information
- SWOT analysis : An analysis of how your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats weigh up against your competitors
- Risk analysis: An overview of the kind of risks that are involved with your project and how you may avoid them
- Budget and financial plan: Details of your budget and where you may secure financing for your project
- Project plan: A schedule of how you plan to implement your project and what tasks are involved
Let's see what that might look like.
How to write a business case with Wrike
Wrike’s project management software can step in and turn a business case from the seedling of an idea to a full-fledged initiative.
The requirements management pre-built template can help you document and track project requirements in a structured manner. The template includes sections for capturing stakeholder requirements and business cases, as well as any constraints that may affect the project’s success. By using this template, you can ensure that all necessary requirements are identified and that potential issues are addressed early in the project planning process.
If you want to move from the business case description to the actual implementation faster, consider using the project scheduling template . This template can help you create a detailed project timeline with milestones, identify task dependencies, and assign resources. By utilizing this template, you can ensure that the project is realistically achievable and meets all business needs, giving stakeholders confidence in the project’s success.
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What to Include in a Promotion Letter
Table of contents.
Each time you promote an employee, they should be sent a promotion letter to confirm their promotion, the increased pay rate, new responsibilities and more. A letter helps hold the employee accountable as they transition into their new role, and long after. Promotion letters don’t take long to write and don’t have to be as rigid as other business documents, though they should be formal.
What is a promotion letter?
A promotion letter formally details an employee’s new, higher position within your company. Typically, a promotion letter doesn’t commence discussions about promotions; instead, it is a follow-up to ongoing conversations you’ve had with the employee about the promotion. As such, it’s less about presenting new information than confirming all of the details you and your employee have discussed regarding their new position, pay and duties. It’s also a chance to congratulate them and express your gratitude to the employee.
What should you include in a promotion letter?
A promotion letter should include the following:
- The employee’s full name and contact information: Although a promotion letter should be relatively casual, you should still list your employee’s contact information toward the top of your promotion letter.
- The employee’s new title: In addition to pay and responsibility changes come new titles. You should indicate your employee’s new title in the promotion letter so they can include it in their email signature and share it on LinkedIn, if they want to.
Don’t forget to update the employee’s title on your website and print updated business cards for them.
- Relevant pay, work hours and payday changes: Even though you and your employee have verbally discussed what the promotion will mean for their pay, you should clearly state these details in your promotion letter. You should also indicate any changes in work hours or pay schedule that accompany the employee’s promotion as well as when these changes take effect.
- The employee’s responsibilities in their new role: Promotions typically entail added responsibilities, and as your employee transitions between positions, some crucial business needs can be overlooked if the employee is unaware of their requirements. That’s why you want to clearly state all of the employee’s responsibilities in the promotion letter. In doing so, you hold the promoted employee accountable while keeping your operations on track.
- The employee’s supervisor(s) in their new role: If your employee is appointed head of a department, they’ll likely no longer have someone within their department to report to; instead, they might report directly to you. Include this detail in your promotion letter.
- The official start date of your employee’s promotion: A promotion doesn’t necessarily take effect upon delivery of a promotion letter. That’s why you should state when the new role begins. This way, there are no delays or missteps in the employee’s transition to their new position.
- A request for the employee to accept the promotion: Even if your employee has verbally accepted the promotion, ask them to respond to your letter by providing a written response accepting the promotion. By doing so, your employee formally accepts their promotion and officially puts the gears in motion for their new role.
- An expression of gratitude: A promotion letter also allows you to tell the employee how grateful you are for their work. Sure, a promotion is one way to show that you value and trust the employee (and their work), but including a personal message that expresses your gratitude is also a great way to reduce employee turnover .
How do you write a promotion letter?
In addition to the above tips, here are a handful of tips to keep in mind as you write your letter:
- Use a formal template. Although promotion letters are less formal than other business documents, they should still adhere to some level of formality. Building your letter from a template helps you achieve this goal.
- Edit and proofread the letter with a colleague. As with any business document, you should edit and proofread your promotion letter before sending it to the employee. Ideally, you should have someone else in your company – perhaps someone from your HR department – read a draft of the letter. This way, you catch any errors, such as an inaccurate pay amount or incorrect title, before the employee receives the letter.
- Find the right balance between formal and casual. Yes, you can use an exclamation mark at the end of the sentence in which you congratulate your employee. Beyond that, stick to periods and avoid language you wouldn’t use in formal documents (though contractions are acceptable). Do not use slang abbreviations and emojis in your emails . While they may be common, these items do not belong in a promotion letter.
When writing a promotion letter, begin with a template, use a formal but cordial tone and have someone from HR proofread the final draft.
Promotion letter example template
To build your promotion letter, copy the below example into your word processor and replace the relevant details as needed:
Subject: Promotion for [Name of employee]
Congratulations on your promotion to [New title] at [Company name]! Your promotion is effective [Date on which promotion takes effect].
Your new salary will be [Salary] per year, paid [Pay schedule, e.g., semimonthly, monthly, etc.]. You will report to [Name of new manager and their title] and maintain your 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekday work schedule. [Name of new manager] is looking forward to working closely with you.
Your responsibilities will be to [Detail the employee’s new responsibilities]. Our employee handbook has additional details on what the [new title] role entails.
Again, congratulations on your promotion. The company and I are very grateful for all of the work you have done to date – and the work you’ll do in your new role. If you accept this promotion, please reply to this email and acknowledge your acceptance of the promotion.
Why is a promotion letter important?
There are several reasons why you want a promotion letter instead of verbally discussing, and then enacting, a promotion with no paper trail:
- Promotion letters help ensure that intangible conversations are more concrete. It’s one thing for you and your employee to have a mutual interest in a promotion. It’s another, though, to ensure you both have the same understanding about the new role and duties and the transition to the new role. A formal promotion letter ensures that no details are left behind in the transition. The result is a promotion that pleases both you and your employee.
- Promotion letters formalize pay changes. Many promotions include a pay raise, and you should always document such raises in writing.
- Promotion letters outline new responsibilities. Transitions between roles – and the changes accompanying them – can be overwhelming. If the employee or you have questions, you can both refer to the promotion letter.
- Promotion letters show gratitude. In business, it can be easy to focus solely on the bottom line. But this tendency can lead to you not recognizing the contributions of your employees. At the end of the day, demonstrating your gratitude to valuable employees can further motivate them. [Read related article: Your Employees Feel Underappreciated – Here’s What You Can Do to Fix It ]
What is the difference between a promotion letter and a promotion announcement?
Although a promotion letter and promotion announcement may sound like the same thing, they serve different purposes and are typically used at various stages of the promotion process.
A promotion letter is a formal document sent to the employee who is being promoted. Its primary purpose is to officially communicate the promotion to the individual, outline the details of the new role, and provide information regarding changes to salary , benefits and reporting relationships.
A promotion announcement is sent to the broader organization (e.g., colleagues, managers and other stakeholders) to inform them about an employee’s new position. Its primary purpose is to inform the entire organization of the employee’s new role and responsibilities. It may also be used to celebrate the employee’s achievements and contributions.
What should you include in a promotion announcement?
A promotion announcement should be clear, concise and professional. It should also be aligned with the company culture and brand.
A promotion announcement should include:
- Congratulations to the promoted employee: Start the announcement with a positive message congratulating the employee on their promotion.
- Effective date: Specify the date when the promotion becomes effective. This is important information for both the promoted employee and their colleagues.
- An introduction of the promoted employee: Provide a brief introduction of the promoted employee, such as their name, title and department. This is especially important if the employee is not well known to the company.
- Employee history and accomplishments: Mention the employee’s key achievements, qualifications and contributions to the company that led to their promotion.
- New reporting structure: If applicable, outline any changes in the reporting structure. Mention the name of the person the promoted employee will report to in their new role.
- New employee role and responsibilities: Explain the employee’s new title, department and key responsibilities.
- An encouragement of congratulations from others: End the announcement by encouraging other employees to congratulate the promoted employee.
You can customize the promotion announcement even further by including a photo and/or quote from the promoted employee, as well as a link to the promoted employee’s LinkedIn profile.
It’s always a good idea to email a formal promotion announcement. However, it can also be coupled with an announcement during a meeting or via an internal messaging platform like Slack.
Promotion announcement example template
To build your promotion announcement, copy the below example into your word processor and replace the relevant details as needed:
Subject: Promotion Announcement for [Employee name]
I would like to take a moment to congratulate [Employee name]! I am pleased to announce [Employee name]’s promotion to [New position] effective [Date on which promotion takes effect].
[Employee name] has been with [Company name] for [X] years and has worked in [Department name]. During their tenure here, [Employee name] has consistently exceeded expectations and made significant contributions to the team.
Some of [Employee name]’s key accomplishments include:
- [List of accomplishments]
In their new role, [Employee name] will report to [Supervisor’s name] and will be responsible for [List of responsibilities].
I am confident that [Employee name] will excel in this new position and continue to be a valuable asset to our team. Please join me in congratulating [Employee name] on their well-deserved promotion!
Be sure to proofread your promotion announcement carefully before sending it out.
Skye Schooley contributed to this article.
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How to Write Your Business Plan Cover Page + Template
6 min. read
Updated November 17, 2023
The cover page is likely the last thing you’ll consider when writing a business plan .
While it’s not the most vital part of your business plan, a well-formatted cover page can be a nice touch when pitching to investors , banks , or business partners.
In this article, we’ll cover what to include and how to format your cover page so you can assemble an impressive page in just a few minutes.
- What is a business plan cover page?
The business plan cover page – or title page – is the introduction to your business plan document. It should be simple and straightforward—only providing logistical information about your business for stakeholders to reference.
Unlike your executive summary , a summarized version of your business plan, the cover page is strictly meant to provide contact information and set the tone for what they are about to read. The quality, formatting, and readability can all impact a stakeholder’s expectations for your plan and business.
- Why do you need a cover page for a business plan?
To be clear, the cover page is not a required section of your business plan.
It’s a largely decorative addition meant to grab the attention of a stakeholder. It should introduce you, your business, and the planning document and make it easy for the reader to find your contact information.
If you’re writing a business plan purely for internal purposes , you probably don’t need to spend time on a cover page.
But if you pitch to investors , apply for a loan , or approach a potential partner—a cover page can be a nice touch that makes you (and your business) look more professional.
- What to include in your business plan cover page
It’s best to keep your cover page simple. The page should only include:
- Company logo
- Business name
- Value proposition (optional)
- Business plan title
- Completion and/or update date
- Address and contact information
- Confidentiality statement
- How to create your business plan cover page
Creating a cover page shouldn’t take too long. Gather all the information listed above, and then fine-tune the formatting. Here’s how we recommend you organize the information:
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1. Start with your logo
Including your logo should help your business be more memorable. Just be sure it’s memorable for the right reasons.
That means adding a reasonably sized, high-resolution image at the top of your cover page. Just don’t make it so large that it takes attention away from other information on the page.
2. Add your business name
You want readers to connect your business name to your logo. So, add some space (2-3 lines) and drop your name front and center. Consider using a large and bold font option to ensure it’s easy to read and immediately noticeable.
3. Include your value proposition (optional)
While optional, including your value proposition can be useful if it effectively describes your business purpose.
4. Craft a title
Now you need to describe the document’s purpose. Don’t overthink it – start by adding “Business Plan” to the center of the page. Keep the bold font, but apply a slightly smaller font size than with your business name.
From there, you can apply a title that frames the type of business plan you’re creating: “ One-page ,” “ 5-year ,” “Merger,” “ Growth plan ,” etc.
Expanding the title is optional and should only be done if you believe it will benefit the reader.
5. Add the completion date
Including the completion date shows how fresh and up-to-date your plan is. Ideally, you’re revisiting your plan regularly (especially the financial projections in your plan). So the date should be relatively recent.
This information alone can show how focused and dedicated you are to running a successful business.
As far as formatting is concerned, keep it simple. Include the month, day, and year – either numerically (9/15/2023) or spelled out (September 15, 2023).
6. List your contact information
This is the true purpose of your cover page. The last thing you want is for an investor or lender to love your pitch only to have to scrounge around for your email or phone number.
Add a header that states “Contact Information” centered near the bottom of the page. Then, on separate lines, add your name (or other points of contact for your business), email address, phone number, business website, and physical address.
Tip: If you’re sending your plan digitally, add links to your email address and website so they can reach you quickly.
7. Include a confidentiality statement
The confidentiality statement is meant to help legally protect your information and ensure that no one shares or copies portions of your business plan.
You can include a simple “Confidential” watermark near the top of the page or write a more thorough statement to sit at the bottom.
Here’s an example:
“This document contains confidential and proprietary information created by [your business]. It is exclusively designed for informational purposes and should not be disclosed, shared, or copied without the consent of [your business].”
Don’t worry too much about emphasizing this information. It can sit as smaller text in the footer of your cover page.
- Tips to make your cover page memorable
Adding the information should be quick. Now, spend some time on these best practices to get your business plan title page ready to share.
Apply consistent formatting
Inconsistent formatting looks unprofessional and can make a document more difficult to read. So check that your character and line spacing, font choices, and text alignment are consistent to ensure they are identical.
You should also print out the document (as a Word Document and PDF) to check if the format changes.
Use your brand color scheme
Adding your brand colors to text, borders, and other design elements can strengthen the presence of your brand identity in your business plan. It also better connects non-visual elements to your logo.
Just don’t force adding color to your plan. If it takes away from the text or takes too much time to get right, it’s best to avoid it.
Check your cover page from top to bottom for spelling errors and mistakes (you should do this for your entire business plan). If possible, have someone else proofread it to ensure you didn’t miss anything.
- Business plan cover page examples
To help you visualize your cover page design, here is an example from our free business plan template :
We recommend you avoid creating an overly designed business plan. However, if you believe a more visual cover page will grab your reader’s attention—check out these other examples.
- Spend more time on the rest of your business plan
We’ve already emphasized that you shouldn’t spend too much time creating a business plan cover page. While it can be a nice addition, it’s often quickly skipped over and only referenced again if the reader needs your contact information.
And it’s unnecessary altogether if you’re not planning to share your plan with anyone. If that’s the case, focus your time and effort on writing the rest of your business plan.
Check out our full plan writing guide for step-by-step walkthroughs for every section.
You can also download a free business plan template (that includes a cover page) to ensure you cover everything about your business.
See why 1.2 million entrepreneurs have written their business plans with LivePlan
Table of Contents
4 Min. Read
How to Develop a Positioning Statement for Your Business
10 Min. Read
Use This Simple Business Plan Outline to Organize Your Plan
5 Min. Read
How to Write a Personal Shopper Business Plan + Example Templates
8 Min. Read
How to Conduct an Industry Analysis
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