Often in life, we're in a position where we need to make a strong case for something we want. Maybe you need to convince your boss to invest in a new project, or you're trying to get a bank loan to start your own business. Whatever the situation, you will likely come up empty-handed if you can't make a strong argument for why something is worth doing.
Therefore, learning how to write a business case is an important skill for anyone in business. Whether you're a freelancer pitching a new client or a large company trying to secure funding for a new product, being able to put together a persuasive business case is essential.
This article will give you a step-by-step guide to writing a business case so you can get the green light on your next big project.
A business case is a written document that outlines the justification for a proposed project, initiative, or decision. Typically, a business case is used when major decisions need to be made, such as investing in a new product or service, hiring a new employee, buying a new piece of equipment, or relocating to a new office – you get the idea.
The goal of a business case is twofold:
In other words, a business case is an analytical and communication tool. It's used to determine what makes the most sense for a company and then sell that decision to the relevant stakeholders.
If you're wondering why you should bother going to the trouble of writing a business case, there are actually quite a few reasons. Here are some of the benefits:
These are just a few of the benefits that can come from writing a business case. As you can see, it's not a document to be taken lightly – if done well, it can impact your business.
When writing a business case, you'll want to ensure that it has all of the following components.
Serving the same purpose it does in any other document, an executive summary is a brief overview of the most important points in your business case. It should provide a shorter version of each section of your business case, and stakeholders who only have time for a quick read should be able to get the gist of your argument from the executive summary.
This section of your business case should outline the proposed project, initiative, or decision. What are you trying to do? Why is it important? How will it benefit the company?
Provide general information about the project here, so decision-makers clearly understand what you're proposing. It also helps if you provide a project plan outline to understand what will be involved and how long it'll take.
Every project should have a vision – a statement of what you hope to achieve. Once you have your vision, you can start setting goals and objectives. Goals are the broad, long-term outcomes you're hoping to achieve, while objectives are the specific steps you'll take to get there.
For example, if your goal is to increase sales by 20%, your objectives might be to increase marketing spending by X%, launch a new product, and so on. Goals and objectives give decision-makers a sense of what success looks like for your project and help them understand how you plan to get there.
Your vision, goals, and objectives will also shape your project scope and determine your project deliverables – the specific outputs of your project– so it's important to get them right.
The project scope is a detailed description of all the tasks and deliverables that will be executed in your project to serve your vision, goals, and objectives. This is where you'll get into the nitty-gritty of what needs to be done and when.
The project scope should be as specific as possible, so there's no confusion about what needs to be done and who is responsible for each task. It's also important to ensure that the project scope is realistic, so you don't set yourself up for failure.
If someone reading your business case isn't familiar with the current situation, this is where you'll provide some background information to give context for your proposed project.
For example, if you're proposing a new marketing campaign, you might explain the current state of the company's marketing efforts, the current market landscape, and the exact challenges that your proposed campaign is meant to address.
So let's say your previous marketing campaign had a low ROI. You might explain this in the background section before going on to sell your new, improved campaign idea.
It's also essential to showcase how your proposed project aligns with the company's vision and strategic objectives. So if your proposed project is a social media campaign, and one of your company's goals is to boost brand awareness, you'd want to explain how your campaign will help the company to achieve that goal.
Based on the nature of your project, there will be different success criteria and stakeholder requirements. Your job is to figure out and articulate those in your business case.
Success criteria are the specific conditions that need to be met for your project to be considered a success. They should be measurable so you can track progress and demonstrate success when the project is complete. For instance, if you're launching a new product, your success criteria might include sales targets or a certain number of sign-ups to your mailing list.
Stakeholder requirements are the specific needs and expectations of the people affected by your project. It's important to understand these requirements early on, as they can have a major impact on the success of your project, starting with getting the initial permission to proceed.
When all the pieces are in place, it's time to start developing your project plan. This is a high-level overview of all the tasks that need to be completed and when they need to be done by.
Your project plan will help you to keep track of progress and ensure that your project stays on track. It should be as detailed as possible, so everyone knows what needs to be done and when.
Remember to include flexibility in your project plan, as unforeseen bumps will inevitably occur along the way. And make sure to involve all the relevant stakeholders in the planning process so that everyone is on the same page from the start.
Based on the project plan, you'll need to create a budget for your project. This will include all the costs associated with completing the project, from start to finish.
Include all the necessary costs, such as materials, labor, overhead, and marketing. It's also important to build some contingency for unexpected expenses, like last-minute changes or unforeseen delays.
Once you've put your budget together, it's time to start thinking about how you will finance your project. This might include seeking out investors, applying for grants, or using company funds.
While the project plan outlines all the tasks that need to be completed and by when, the schedule goes into more detail, mapping out exactly when each task will be done.
The schedule will help to keep the project on track and ensure that all the deadlines are met. It should be updated regularly so that everyone knows the latest status of the project. Ideally, use graphs or charts to visualize the schedule so it's easy to understand at a glance.
Many projects start with good intentions, but things can quickly go off the rails if communication breaks down. That's why it's so important to have a communication plan in place from the start.
The communication plan should outline how and when stakeholders will be updated on the project's progress. It should also include a mechanism for addressing concerns or resolving conflicts.
Aim to set up milestones for check-ins and status updates, and be clear about how stakeholders will stay aware of the progress over the project life cycle. For instance, you might send out a monthly newsletter or host regular conference calls. Whatever it is, just be sure to communicate early and often.
Aside from the regular communication with stakeholders, you should also put together processes for progress reports at key points throughout the project.
These reports provide a more formal way of documenting and tracking progress and can be used to identify areas where things are falling behind. They also provide a written record of the project, which can be useful for reference later on.
Progress reports should compare the actual progress to the planned progress and identify any areas of concern. For that, you'll need to use project management software or task tracking tools to automatically monitor and track progress and produce reports.
This is one of the most crucial stages of writing a business case. Here, you'll need to assess the financial viability of your project and determine whether or not it's worth pursuing.
You'll need to calculate your project's expected return on investment (ROI). This will give you a clear idea of whether or not the financial benefits of your project outweigh the costs (they should).
You can also do a sensitivity analysis, which will help you to identify any risks or uncertainties that could impact the success of your project. For instance, what would happen if there was a delay in the project? Or if the costs ended up being higher than expected?
And finally, you'll need to do a cost-benefit analysis, which will compare your project's financial costs and benefits to demonstrate how it will create value for the company.
Particularly if your project involves launching some sort of new product or service, , this is where you'll need to assess the potential market for your project and determine whether or not there's a demand for it.
Start by conducting market research to gather data on your target market. This will help you understand their needs and wants and any trends affecting them.
You should also assess your competition and identify any market gaps that you could exploit. And finally, you'll need to make some assumptions about the market's future and how your project might impact it.
Even for more internally focused projects, such as hiring personnel or forming a new department, you still need to know if there’s demand for what you’re proposing, especially since you’ll likely be competing for budget dollars with others who might have different ideas, so don’t discount the importance of a market analysis just because your project might not involve typical product-centric considerations.
Using the data from your market research, you should now have a good understanding of the competition. Identify who your direct and indirect competitors are, and assess their products, strengths, competitive advantages, and business strategy.
This will help you understand the competitive landscape and identify areas where you have a competitive advantage. It will also give you ideas on positioning your project in the market.
Bringing it all together, you should now understand your project, the market, and the competition. The next step is to do a SWOT analysis, which will help you to identify any strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, or threats that could impact your project.
A SWOT analysis is a simple but powerful tool that can be used to assess any business venture. It will help you ensure your project is feasible and has a good chance of success. The strengths and weaknesses are internal factors, while the opportunities and threats are typically external factors.
Now that you've researched and assessed, it's time to start thinking about how you will market your project.
Your marketing strategy should be based on your target market and the competitive landscape. It should also take into account any budget constraints that you might have. Focus on the 4 Ps of marketing: product, price, promotion, and place.
Describe each element in detail and explain how you will use it to achieve your marketing objectives.
Risk assessment is an important part of any business venture. You need to identify and assess the risks associated with your project to mitigate them.
Many different types of risks can impact your project, so it's important to categorize them. The most common categories are technical, financial, schedule, quality, and legal risks.
For each type of risk, you need to identify the potential impact on your project and create a mitigation plan. This will help reduce the risks materializing and impacting your project.
Finally, you need to provide a description of the alternative solutions, no matter how much you believe in your original idea. This is important for two reasons:
First, it shows that you've considered other options and are not blindly committed to your own solution. Second, it provides a fall-back option if your original idea doesn't work out.
Remember that there may be more than one possible solution to a problem, so make sure you describe each option in detail and justify why it would work well in its own right.
Also, consider which options would be best for different circumstances and explain why. This will show that you've thought about the issue in-depth and can provide a flexible solution that can be adapted to different situations in case things change.
Once you've done all of this, you should have a well-rounded business case covering all your project's important aspects. This will give you the best chance of success when pitching your idea to decision-makers.
That's a lot of information, so let's break it down into a more manageable format. Yes, you need to incorporate all of the above points into your business case, but those aren't "sections". Here's a suggested structure for your business case:
This is a brief overview of your business case. It should include the problem that you're trying to solve, your proposed solution, the benefits of implementing your solution, and a brief overview of the costs.
This section should be no more than one or two pages long and written in plain language so anyone can understand it.
This is where you'll go into more detail about the costs of your project. Include a breakdown of all the costs, both upfront and ongoing, as well as any revenue that you expect to generate.
You should also include a financial analysis that covers the payback period, return on investment (ROI), and net present value (NPV). Anything related to your project's financial aspects should also be included here.
As mentioned above, this is where you'll describe your project in more detail. This section should include an overview of the problem you're trying to solve, your proposed solution, the objectives of your project, and the timeline for implementation. Also, don't forget to include a project management plan.
This section can be as long or as short as you need, but make sure you include all the relevant information.
Finally, you need to provide information about who will be responsible for implementing your project and how it will be structured. This includes creating a project team, defining their roles and responsibilities, and outlining the management structure.
You should also include a communications plan so everyone knows what's happening and can provide feedback at different project stages.
This section doesn't need to be too long, but it's important to make sure that you have all the bases covered.
If you're looking for an example of a great business case, you can't go much higher than the one used to justify the usage of a next-generation air transport system, also known as NextGen. From sufficiently convincing arguments to a well-organized structure, the business case for NextGen serves as a great template for what a business case should be.
Now that you know all the essential business case elements, it's time to start writing your own. Before you do, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
First and foremost, remember that the purpose of the business case is communication. If it doesn't communicate the key points effectively, it's not doing its job.
With that in mind, make sure you tailor the language and style of your business case to your audience. For example, if you're pitching to investors, you'll need to use different language than pitching to customers.
Investors will be more interested in the financial aspects of your project, while customers will be more interested in the product or service itself. Similarly, if you're pitching to a technical audience, you'll need to use different language than if you're pitching to a non-technical audience.
With business cases, you need to do your homework. This means researching your target market, the competition, and alternative solutions. You need to base your business case on facts, not assumptions, so take the time to gather the necessary information.
Different business cases will require different approaches. For example, a startup will have different needs than an established company. Once you've decided on the right approach for your project, compare it to the alternatives and finalize your decision on which one to use.
It's not enough to simply have all the necessary information; you also need to present it in a way that's easy to understand. Start by compiling all the relevant data, then distill it down to the most important points. Once you've done that, you can start presenting your strategies, goals, and options to your audience so they can make an informed decision, too.
The implementation approach may be clear to you, but it's not necessarily clear to everyone else. Make sure you describe the implementation approach in detail so there are no misunderstandings. You want everyone to visualize the project the same way you do.
It can be tempting to include everything you know in the business case but resist the urge. The goal is to be brief and to convey only the bare essentials. You can always provide more information later if it's needed. The goal at this point is just to get the key points across and to generate interest in the project.
If not done right, business cases can be dry, boring, and, most importantly, confusing. Make sure yours is none of those things. Use clear language and simple sentences to get your point across. And if you can, find a way to make it interesting so people will actually want to read it (visuals, for example, can help with this).
There's no room for conjecture in a business case. Data should back up every statement. And when it comes to jargon, less is always more. Use only the necessary technical language, and explain it clearly so everyone can understand. You don't want anyone to be left in the dark.
People love transformations, so don't be afraid to paint a picture of what the future could look like. Describe how your project will change things for the better and why it's worth investing in. The more concrete and specific you can be, the better. It's more effective to say "we'll increase sales by X%" than to say "we'll be more successful."
Related to the previous point, you need to demonstrate the project's value and benefits to the business. This will ultimately convince people to invest in your project, so make sure you're clear about the value proposition. Again, be as specific as possible.
Sometimes, you must go deeper than "we'll increase sales by X%". Explain why that percentage is important and what it means for the business. Will it allow it to tap into new markets? Will it help it to better compete against its rivals? Whatever the case may be, make sure you explain the value and benefits of your project in a way that's easy to understand.
The worst business cases are the ones that are difficult to read. They're often filled with dense blocks of text and long, complicated sentences. To ensure your business case doesn't fall into this trap, ensure that it has a consistent style and is easy to read.
Use headings and subheadings, for example, to break up the text and make it easier to scan. Leverage bullet points and lists to make key points stand out. And above all, keep the language simple. The goal is to make your business case as accessible as possible.
While the project sponsor is the one who ultimately owns the business case and is responsible for preparing it, it's important to allow appropriate team members to contribute. After all, they're the closest to the project and have the most intimate understanding of it.
Make sure you involve them in the process from the beginning and that their input is actively sought out and considered. The more buy-in you can get from the team, the better.
Now that you know what should be included in a business case, it's time to start putting one together. As mentioned above, there's no set template for a business case, so you'll need to decide what information to include and how to present it depending on the project you're working on.
But if you cover the bases outlined in this article, you'll write a strong business case that will get everyone on board with your project. And if you need help writing a well-thought-out and comprehensive business case, CopyAI can help you articulate your thoughts and transform them into a convincing document. Get started today and give your project the push it needs to get off the ground!This article is part of an ongoing how-to-write series. It covers topics such as writing essays, a recommendation letter for a student, cold emails, or that winning resume to attain that dream job you’ve worked so hard to achieve.
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