Writing a business case: Some things to understand

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Almost every project requires approval, whether it’s convincing management or just getting the green light from your team. You may be used to using a project plan or charter before submitting a new initiative and obtaining approval for the project in question. However, if the latter represents a significant business investment, consider developing a business case.

Have you never written this type of document before? A few resources and effective planning will suffice to write a business case. This will help you get the means and support you need to manage this project expertly and ensure the success of your team.

What is a business case?

A business case (or opportunity study) is a document that specifies the envisaged business initiative and the investments necessary to carry it out. This document also clarifies the added value and benefits brought by this project to the company. Different types of initiatives are possible: communication operations for the launch of a new product or a new feature, proposal to increase investments for an ongoing initiative or making a significant investment in a new agency or a new new subcontractor, among other examples. To convince, your business case must underline the expected benefits following this significant investment. Key stakeholders will use your document to determine whether or not to approve your initiative and get to work.

Have you never written a business case? Don’t worry, this looks like other project planning documents. Here are some explanations to see more clearly:

Business case or business plan?

A business case proposes a new strategy or a major initiative. It must present the reasons which justify the continuation of the project in question and the benefits that your company can derive from it.

In contrast, a business plan (or strategic plan) is developed when a new business is born. Thus, it is common to write this type of document to define the business strategy, mission and vision of your organization, but also to specify the way you will use to achieve your goals. Note that it is possible to create a business plan for an active company: if necessary, you therefore want to open a new chapter and change the trajectory of your organization.

Business case or summary?

A summary is an overview of a document. You should include all the information that your readers and key stakeholders need to know, in case they don’t have time to read it all. The summary, which therefore brings together a certain number of key and relevant data for your project, constitutes the last step in drafting your business case.

Business case or project charter?

If you need to prepare a teaser for your project, but don’t need to do an exhaustive opportunity study, go for a project charter (sometimes called a project plan). Like the business case, the charter contains the key information of an initiative. This document specifies in particular three essential elements of the project: the objectives, the scope and the main stakeholders. Once drafted, the project charter is sent to your management for approval.

In the end, do I need to write a business case?

It is not useful to write a business case (or even a charter) for all projects. This document, however, can be useful for initiatives or investments that require significant business resources. One thing is for sure. You need to consider all lessons learned when writing a business case.

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