Have you ever been in a meeting where the business case is referred to directly or indirectly as Project Management bureaucracy? The view being that it’s just something the project manager does – and once done, can be dropped into a bottom drawer, never to be seen again and everyone can get on with delivering the project or programme.
While it is true that the business case is a written document, and true that it can be printed out on paper, this is not the sum of its value. The process of creating and signing off the business case creates a number of key foundation stones for the project to build upon. These include:
Leadership statement – the ‘why’
The vision and the objectives are usually the recorded words of the management team. They set the direction and can be used repeatedly in low level decision-making when designing or deciding configuration points.
Justifies the effort and spend
The benefits vs the cost and effort to achieve them should be clearly laid out.
How the project will be delivered, who will be required, when does it all start and when do I see something tangible. This is all useful management information for stakeholders and for the managers within the governance structure. The management team may come back to this statement as the project evolves through its life cycle.
Defines the contract
The business case is the contract between the sponsor and the governance board. As with any contract, the business case sets out the boundaries of the scope and impact.
Explains the delivery vehicle
Large projects are like new departments that spring into life within an existing organisation. The business case explains this new structure, who will be engaged on what, and when and why certain planning decisions were made.
Assesses its impact in the business
All impacts should be understood. This includes the existence of the delivery team, what support the project or programme needs from others and when it will need to be considered.
Provides a lens on early planning
The level of detail in the plan, the cost plan and risk mitigation activity is an indicator of the project team’s knowledge. High or low levels of contingency point to the amount of unknowns at that stage in planning.
Finally, the business case is an auditable record of management approval and holds the signature to account for the success of the project or programme.
A good business case is essential to the successful start and ongoing delivery of a project. As with so many things a business case is most noticeable by its absence. Projects that start without a business case are consequently weak in all of the above areas. These weaknesses can sometimes be overcome but to do so often eats into management time, slows down delivery or, in extreme cases, results in project failure.
Business case – where to find out more
If you would like to know more on the importance of the business case or how to write a good business case please contact us.