Many businesses have had to pivot to accommodate the ever-evolving and flexible modern business climate. Companies thrive and flourish because of good ideas executed at the right time. However, when a solution to a problem or opportunity requires big changes to how things are usually done, those changes aren’t always welcome.
Hence, project managers and entrepreneurs need to communicate their strategic vision effectively and efficiently. This is where a business case can help individuals advocate for their proposed course of action. A business case describes the feasibility and functionality of a proposed solution or the benefits of grabbing an opportunity to expand the business.
In this article, we’ll guide you in writing a business case. We’ll also walk you through what to include and how to make a strong business case.
What is a business case?
A business case explores and explains the value of a proposed project. It starts when a stakeholder identifies a business problem or has a chance to pursue an opportunity. The business case contains assessing how big the problem or opportunity is, the benefits of problem-solving or pursuing the opportunity, and the costs and risks associated with the proposed initiative. For the sake of exploring all options, a business case will also include the costs and risks associated with doing nothing.
Consider this scenario: A product manager or project manager involved in marketing a new product could use a business case to let key stakeholders know that advertising costs are too high, and they don’t see any return on investment (ROI). In a business case presentation, the project manager would explore the options the company can take to increase sales and reduce advertising costs.
The writing of a business case is not limited to a few people in a company or organization. Anyone who wants to advocate for change in and around business practices should be encouraged to create a business case for their proposal. Therefore, it’s a good idea to know how to write a proposal that can convince a client or stakeholder that your product or project is a sound investment.
Below are the characteristics of a strong business case you should try implementing in your proposal.
Characteristics of a strong business case
A strong business case must communicate the why, what, how, and who of a proposed initiative clearly and concisely to get a project approved.
- Clarity of vision: Your business case should describe what your proposed initiative solves or targets, how you will execute your idea, and its potential impact on the company.
- Brevity: Be brief in your presentation—both in person and on paper. Provide only the information your audience needs to make an informed decision.
- Rooted in factual content: Your business case should include input from team members and subject matter experts in all other departments, such as finance, human resources (HR), and IT. Consult with as many team members as you can to minimize guesswork.
- Thoughtfully structured: Your business case is potentially a visual aid to help project sponsors decide on a complex plan. Ensure it’s interesting and attention-grabbing while substantiating your proposal’s value and benefits. Design a memorable presentation, whether as a PowerPoint, PDF, or Word document. The goal is to create a concise, clear, and compelling proposal. Additionally, learn your material for a smooth-flowing presentation.
6 things you need to include in your business case
A business case outlines a proposal to help those with decision-making power decide if the benefits of a project are worth its costs and risks. However, a business case doesn’t need to hold all the answers, as details can be added as the project progresses. Here are the essential components to include in a strong business case document. You can follow the order in this article or present them in a way that makes your case more compelling.
1. Executive summary
The executive summary is a crucial part of your presentation, but you should write this part of the business case last. Here are the five questions that you should aim to answer in this section:
- What is the problem or opportunity?
- What are the benefits of solving the problem or pursuing the opportunity?
- How much will it cost to solve the problem or pursue the opportunity?
- What are the risks associated with the proposed solution or opportunity?
- When will stakeholders start seeing results?
2. Problem statement
Address the problem or opportunity again in this section with more detail. Include any research or conversations with team members that can expound on how big the problem or opportunity is. Connect how the issue impacts the overall goal of the business.
3. Financial plan
The financial plan discusses how much money is needed to move forward with the project. Depending on the project’s scale and cost, you may need to do a cost-benefit analysis and a sensitivity analysis. You might also need to draw up a cash-flow forecast.
A cost-benefit analysis starts with listing costs and benefits associated with the project—anticipated or otherwise. Next, you’ll assign monetary and quantifiable values to the costs and benefits. From then, you calculate your total costs and total benefits and compare whether your benefits outweigh your costs.
A sensitivity analysis, also known as a what-if analysis, is used to predict the outcome of a specific action when performed under certain conditions. So, if your project plan is to pull advertising money and use the funding to reach customers another way, create different scenarios to reflect your plan’s outcomes by changing a different variable in each scenario.
When presenting your idea, it’s important to acknowledge that the numbers are estimates, as actual costs can’t be determined at this stage. However, you want to include numbers nearest to the approximate costs as much as possible.
4. Project definition
In this section of the business case, you’ll discuss your project plan in detail. Provide a summary and draw a timeline for the project. Divide the project into stages. For each stage, describe the resources needed, the people and activities involved, and the expected outcomes.
This is also where you’ll review and summarize the financial and nonfinancial expected benefits of your plan. Your goal here is to show the decision-makers why your project is needed. You may enumerate positive outcomes like reducing cost, generating revenue, increasing market share, improving customer loyalty, etc.
You’ll also want to include any potential risks or limitations of the project in this section. These risks may include pushback from team members when changing a marketing strategy, anticipated delays in deliverables, or incurring large capital expenditures.
This section is where you’ll discuss the most viable potential solutions to the problem you’ve identified. Present the risks and benefits for each possible solution. Enumerate the requirements needed for the project to be successful, which may include infrastructure, a team, and a system.
A complete business case will also include a “do nothing” option where you’ll discuss the risks and benefits of not going forward with any course of action.
Specify your recommendation and explain why you think it’s the best course of action. You may also choose to note the next step if the project sponsors decide to go with your recommendation.
From making the case to making it work
A business case outlines a proposal to help decision-makers decide if the benefits of a new project are worth its costs and risks. It can help you enlist the support of decision-makers and other stakeholders.
Utilize Upwork to build a team of independent professionals who can contribute to the success of your business case.
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