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The Case For The Business Case

Posted on | February 1, 2010 | 6 Comments

The business case document… How wonderful if it was developed every time there was a business need if only for the benefit of the business itself. The hard truth is that this document is not being produced in the majority of the projects that see the light. The business case document is the only document that supports the business need and reasoning for initiating a project or not. How long or short it is has no relevance; the relevance lies in its existence. The most compelling business cases adequately capture tangible as well as intangible characteristics of a proposed project.

Wikipedia has this very good example: “a software upgrade might improve system performance, but the “business case” is that better performance would improve customer satisfaction, require less task processing time, or reduce system maintenance costs.”

An effective business case must, at least, contain the following:

• Detail the problem to be solved

• Detail the proposed solution

• Advantages and disadvantages of the proposed solution

• Proposed process flow (if known)

• Proposed technical flow (if known)

• Estimated or approximate cost of the proposed solution

• Benefits of the proposed solution

• Risks of the proposed solution

With the above information, the performing organization is certain to be able to establish priorities between this project and the many others. This document is now the instrument for receiving funding and approval to move forward or not.

Who is responsible for writing the business case document? This is asked over and over again, even in mature organizations. So, let’s clear this up once and for all and allow me to answer this question with another question: Who has the need? If you can answer this question you would know who is responsible for writing it. The only one(s) who can write a business case document is the one(s) who has the need.

Without a business case the organization may be wasting valuable resources on things not really needed by the business at the moment. Don’t you think so…? Well, I do.

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6 Responses to “The Case For The Business Case”

  1. Ray Almonte, PMP.
    February 1st, 2010 @ 8:20 am

    Excellent post! I've been advocating business cases for years here & am only now making some headway. I've often felt that some of my projects were not the best use of our precious resources, but without a business case, or access to enough strategic information to build my own business case, there wasn't much I could do about it.

  2. Anonymous
    February 2nd, 2010 @ 12:22 pm

    150% agreement. I have seen too many projects, especially when it requires signficant use of external firms, become troubled due to the lack of clarity a business case would address. I worked with one customer and at the end of a 2-3 hour workshop, proved that the project was a mistake and what the better answer really was. Saved over $200K.

  3. Anonymous
    February 2nd, 2010 @ 1:53 pm

    Completely agree. I always feel that if there is a real need, writing the business case should be a breeze. So, why is it such a struggle to secure this information?

  4. Anonymous
    February 3rd, 2010 @ 5:09 am

    We have a standard business case format and our issue is to get all the projects to use it propoerly. Our business case looks to get the project objectives clearly listed and articulated and to explicitly link the benefits to the objectives.This is in addition to the items listed in your post. This thinking was influenced by Cranfield's Cassandra approach.

  5. Luiz Miguel
    February 3rd, 2010 @ 7:43 am

    every organization need a information. The Business Case may a solution for that and this is a real need that need to be written

  6. John A. Hager, PMP
    February 10th, 2010 @ 7:08 pm

    Good post, I agree with the need for a business case or some similar document to establish the basis for spending corporate resources. We deal primarily in external projects and us a go/no-go process to evaluate potential projects. Our process contains many of the essential elements of that you suggest a business case should contain.

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