Do you have an idea that will increase revenue, lower costs, seize an opportunity, or solve a problem? Great! But before you can move forward, you have to convince decision-makers that your idea advances key organizational priorities so they will commit resources to it.
You can’t just say that an idea will create value: you have to prove it. In an environment of competing demands for limited resources, a proposal requires a compelling “business case” to back it up. You have to demonstrate that your recommendation will create superior value. The goal is to help decision-makers make an informed decision to get their approval and funding.
A business case documents the rationale for the recommended action to address a business need. A business need may involve seizing an opportunity, solving a problem, creating something that doesn’t exist, investing in something new, or improving or changing something.
Here are certain elements, tied to clear business needs, which decision-makers will be looking for in a business case:
Executive summary – a concise, high-level identification of the strategic priority, the related business need, the recommended solution, and the expected benefits and Return on Investment (ROI). A positive ROI means that the net benefit (total benefit – total cost) exceeds the total cost.
Business need and solution – the background and/or causes of the business need, the recommended solution, how the solution positively impacts strategic priorities, why the recommended solution is the best option, other alternatives considered, and why those options are not being recommended.
Project overview – a high-level overview of the actions needed to implement the solution, the scope and impact of the project, and the specific outcomes sought.
Project plan – a concise, high-level overview of deliverables, timelines, milestones, and core project team members.
Benefits – the project’s impact or benefits, quantified as precisely as possible, and who will benefit when, to what degree, and in what way.
Risks and opportunities – the major risks of proceeding, and not proceeding, with the project and what might positively and/or negatively impact the project.
Closing – a concise restatement of the business need, the solution recommended, and the anticipated ROI.
A business case must clearly, credibly, and convincingly connect a strategic priority that decision-makers care about with a solution that delivers superior benefits and a positive ROI. An effective business case helps decision-makers make informed and sound strategic investment decisions.