The Business Case is the backbone of our approach to programme and project management. It is a dynamic document that should continue throughout the life of the project to demonstrate that your project:
contributes towards at least one of the Corporate Plan Strategic Outcomes;
will help us deliver on our legal or statutory commitments; or
will deliver a Portfolio budget saving commitment.
In addition, the business case will show how the project:
meets the business need;
is feasible and achievable in the time allowed;
has been chosen after exploring risk and other options;
will deliver clear benefits and/or provide value for money.
At the beginning of a project, it is the business case that helps the Project Sponsor to decide whether or not to invest resources (people as well as funding) in a project, or whether to choose one project over another. A business case is not a static document.
It must be continually updated as new information is discovered or the situation changes. In large projects, this updating process is more formal, starting with a Strategic Business Case, then an Outline Business Case and finally a Full Business Case as the detail becomes clearer.
This iterative process means that the Project Sponsor and Board can continue to assess whether a project remains viable and worthwhile. As a result, the business case is at the heart of the regular project reviews that all our projects must hold.
The level of information that you include will vary depending on the level of scale and complexity of your project. Some business cases can be completed quite easily, others will be complex and may take weeks or even months to finish.
More complex business cases may also require specialist help, for example with financial issues. It is the Project Manager's responsibility to ensure the business case is completed and that it all stacks up, through co-ordinating input from others.
Also consider what evidence you have to support the business case. In some cases, feasibility studies, research reports or economic analysis will have already been carried out and will be useful in supporting the direction of the project.
Try to create the first draft of the Strategic Business Case as soon as you can. The best time to do this is immediately after the Project Assessment Workshop. You will have discussed and recorded a great deal of its content (e.g. scope, benefits, initial high level risks and stakeholders etc.) so you can use these as a basis whilst they are fresh in your mind.
The important thing at this stage is not to get worried about knowing the answers to everything! At the beginning of any project, there is a lot of uncertainty, all that might be known is the broad project scope, overall objectives and why it contributes to our overall goals.
In large projects such as a PFI, this early business case can be more formal, even base lined as a separate document. However, in most cases this will just be an early draft of your full business case. The aim of a Strategic Business Case is to set out the strategic level argument for why the project should move forward to the Planning Phase and why any significant investment is worthwhile.
Regardless of what stage your business case is at, or if you are producing a separate business case for each stage, there is only one template that you must use.
At the Strategic Business Case stage you will probably focus on what the project is, why we need it and the alternatives or options.
This first business case will take you to Review 1, which reviews the Start Up phase of the project and takes an early look at the Planning phase. Review 1 is discussed next.
Download the Business Case template
Download the Business Case guidance