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.
Simple Business Case Template
- Project details
- Strategic context
- Vision, goals, objectives
SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats)
- See if competitors are doing the same thing
- Look for gaps in their offerings, if applicable
- What risks are involved?
- Will these risks present opportunities?
- Do your consumers want this?
- How will this help your stakeholders?
- Economic analysis
- Specs and Requirements
If you have a new project idea for your company that requires a budget and resources, it might be a good idea to develop a business case to show your superiors that the project is worth taking on.