How to build an effective Business Case

4 June 2018 | Chris Marshall

To begin, we’ll strip it down to the basics. What is a business case?

A business case is a well-structured document which has been created to convince a key decision maker or stakeholder to approve some kind of action and/or change. It’s a communication tool, a document made up of well-outlined and research-supported arguments for justification of an intended project. It is also an essential part of due diligence.

What should a business case do?

A successful business case should highlight the benefits and targets, financial impact and, probably most important of all, how the intended project will lead a journey resulting in a pleasing return on investment (ROI).

The end goal of any business case is to achieve a buy-in and commitment from key stakeholders usually including the CEO, the CIO and CFO. A great way to get these people on board is by giving them a chance to contribute to the journey of the proposed project.

Let’s look at the outline for a well-structured business case and the steps that should be included. A business case can be used for any number of proposed projects, here we will reference how to build a business case for a new Intranet, or Digital Workspace solution.

How to structure your business case

A business case needs to be concise and easy to understand. A key factor to remember is that not everyone who needs to read your business plan will have as much knowledge of the subject matter as you do. Steer clear of technical jargon as much as you possibly can and focus more on presenting facts and figures. Doing this will make your business case easier to digest. We suggest you structure your business case using the following headings:

  1. Executive summary – a brief summary of the business case and underline your business solution, for example Fresh Intranet.
  2. The opportunity – what is an Intranet / your business problems / benefits of an Intranet / how it can solve problems / financial impact / summary.
  3. Potential solutions – List available options / compare and contrast / summary.
  4. Proposed solution – Identify the option you propose / explain why it is the best option / summary.
  5. Plan going forward – Set out timeframes and budget / identify risks/ detail responsibilities / summary.

Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue are a great example of how including colleagues in research can lead to a successfully received business case. Learn more about their story.

Laying down the groundwork for your business case

Before you even begin to write your business case there are some factors to consider. Think about which stakeholders are going to be involved in this project, and/or making the final decision. You need to ensure your arguments appeal to the interests of those people. For example, your CFO will be interested in the financial impacts and ROI.

This next step is crucial – research! For every benefit you think of, find a supporting fact, figure or statistic.

Next, list and prioritise these benefits in order of how much value they add to the company, these are the points which will become the spine of your proposal.

Another step that could help with future engagement, if all goes well and your business case is approved, is to involve all employees. A quick survey which identifies pain points, factors which could improve work lives and current experiences etc could prove beneficial.

Outlining the opportunity

It’s now time to highlight which potential benefits your proposed project, a new intranet in this example, will bring to your organisation. An important thing to remember is to ensure these benefits are as specific as possible to your organisation, always keeping in mind your company’s unique mission and values.

You’ve already completed the research, so now use that to support and give more weight to your arguments. Wherever possible, try to include financial value. If this isn’t your usual field of knowledge, this is the perfect chance to involve your finance stakeholder.

They can provide you with current figures, which you can then use to show how your proposed plan can improve these and also, by how much. Once completed this makes up “The Opportunity” section.

Weighing up your options

By this point you’ve most likely already got your preferred solution in mind (if I say so myself Fresh is a great Intranet choice), but you need to provide some evidence that you’ve looked at the alternatives.

This will help to further support your argument. Pick just three or four options to compare, then look at the functionality and also the cost-benefit of each. So that will cover your “Potential Solutions” section which leads comfortably onto your “Proposed Solution”.

This is your chance to shine and really show off the research and hard-work to make your final case for your chosen solution. You may think you’ve already done that in “The Opportunity” section but that was a general overview, here is where you go into specifics and make your solution relevant to company problems.

Create a plan of action

You’ve highlighted the benefits of your option, now for a plan of action. Here you’ll detail the resources and timeframe for getting your proposed project up and running. This doesn’t need to be massively in-depth, after all your project hasn’t been signed off yet, you’re just trying to show a clearer picture of the project requirements.  Be sure to factor in time for engaging and training employees and potential risks and their solutions.

Follow these steps to success and you’ll have those stakeholders fighting to help you get your project running successfully.[vc_row][vc_column][vc_cta h2=”TEMPLATE: Building a Convincing Intranet Business Case” style=”3d”]Looking to build an Intranet Business Case? Download our Free template that will help you do just that. The guide will help you build out everything from defining a strategic case, benefits and risks, right through timescales required.

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