How to Write a Strong Business Case in Project Management
Project Management Business Management

How to Write a Strong Business Case in Project Management

Scott Strandberg
Scott Strandberg

Ready to make your projects a hit every time? Whether you're in a traditional office or a fast-paced agile setting, knowing how to build a solid business case is your key to success. But what is a business case, really? How much does it really impact your project management, and what can go wrong if it's not well-crafted? Let’s take a closer look at the core concept of a business case and how project managers can write them effectively.

What is a business case in project management? 

A business case is a document that outlines the reasons for a project, the expected benefits, and the risks involved. You should use a business case to convince decision-makers to approve the project and to provide guidance for the project team, all while enhancing stakeholder communication by clearly defining roles, responsibilities, expectations, and projected outcomes.

Many brands deploy project business cases to ensure that target objectives align with an agency’s business strategy. A business case can help you justify a project’s existence, and including these critical elements can also help ensure that an initiative will be strategically valuable.

What are the elements of a strong business case? 

A well-written business case should include key sections, such as an executive summary, a risk analysis, and an implementation timeline. Let’s look at how each component can impact business case development.

The executive summary should provide a brief overview of the project, including the problem it addresses, the solution proposed, and the benefits you expect. Your project description will outline any existing problems that require attention, including their causes, results, and consequences, alongside the overall project scope and objectives. 

A well-executed cost-benefit analysis can help you weigh projected expenses and the required work time of your team against potential returns. This analysis is a simple framework that you can apply to any number of projects to determine how financially viable they are. In addition, conduct a risk assessment beforehand to present this information alongside your cost-benefit analysis so you can develop a well-rounded view of the project for all involved parties.

Next, you’ll want to consider the project's key stakeholders. Who’s investing, who stands to benefit, and who needs to be involved in decision-making? The stakeholders section should list the people who must approve the project before it can proceed. Finally, you’ll have your implementation timeline that concludes your project business case. The timeline should provide a realistic view of expected project turnaround times and be thorough enough to include regular check-ins, milestones, and reviews.

Common business case development mistakes project managers should avoid

Of course, much of your success in building a business case depends on doing it correctly. With any business initiative, there’s a bit of a learning curve. Luckily, plenty of project managers have made common mistakes you can learn from. For starters, what happens when your business case doesn’t align with your strategic goals? You could end up investing in a failed project, allocating resources to an ineffective process, or harming your brand image by promoting initiatives that seem out of touch with your strategy.

Beyond that, it’s all too easy to let a project business case become more burdensome and complicated than it needs to be. Be as concise as possible without omitting critical information. This includes any information that could benefit stakeholder communication and keep key members in the know.

Also, underestimating costs and poor risk assessment can both back you into a corner financially and creatively. Tighten up your cost-benefit analysis and use risk assessment to learn from past industry mistakes and your own brand’s missteps. Factor your brand’s current limitations into risk assessment to take a more holistic view of your business’s mitigation strategy.

Lastly, one of the biggest mistakes we see when developing a business case is a lack of flexibility. This includes applying a one-size-fits-all approach to different projects or failing to customize your business case for new initiatives. Be willing to listen to your data and respond to what it tells you.

What’s the role of the business case in agile project management?

Agile workflows are about adaptability and responding to data, market trends, or project needs. At a glance, this might seem different from a tightly structured business case in project management. However, applying a business case as an overarching vision and guidance tool can significantly benefit an agile environment.

On top of that, your business case development can identify the justification for project investment while simultaneously providing guidelines for task prioritization. Since Agile environments emphasize prioritization, collaboration, and communication, what better way to enhance all three than with a well-constructed business case?

Plus, since business cases should include rigorous risk assessment data, you can regularly revisit your strategy and adapt processes to mitigate emerging risks. Your business case can be a robust framework for any upcoming agile initiatives or agile-based project management when effectively issued.

Elorus can help you develop a more effective business case for project management

A business case is an essential tool for any project manager. It helps ensure that projects are well-planned and have a clear purpose with measurable benefits. Especially in service-based industries that thrive on new projects, processes, and initiatives, understanding how to deploy a business case can often mean the difference between brand growth and stagnation. For many businesses, understanding how to build a business case starts with the right tools and software platforms, like Elorus.

Elorus offers helpful business software so you can manage your projects more effectively. Our tools include cost monitoring and financial reporting features to make business case development a breeze. Get actionable insights into your project expenses, develop business cases that set your teams up for success, and use data-rich tools that help you grow your brand when you work with Elorus.

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