Putting Together a Business Case for the Project

Most projects rise out of a need...that's a given.  But likely there is a financial analysis and a need analysis component to the decision making process.  The financial decision will likely be based on the business need, the return on investment (ROI), the estimated cost of the project, the available skill set to run the project, and a few other things that vary depending on the project, industry, etc.  The list can go on and on.  

Often, one essential piece of gaining the approval of any decent sized project is the business case.  Making a case for the project as a viable means to solve a business need or fix a problem that needs fixing or add functionality that needs added.  Someone, somewhere…usually starting with the project sponsor…must make a business case for the project.  It can be a formally documented business case, it may be somewhat informally documented if it’s a smaller project or a more informal organization or it may even be a verbal discussion – but the powers that be need to hear about the project concept and be convinced that it deserves to  have money thrown at it.

As projects are costly exercises, it is imperative that senior executives within the organization approve spending money on the project prior to undertaking the initiative. The way in which they are made aware of the project and commit themselves to this project is through the business case. Without a formal business case, the project is likely to be cancelled within a short period of time and will have resulted in a lot of wasted effort. The business case document therefore defines and assesses the proposed project. The business analyst develops the business case with help from identified groups, departments, and subject matter experts, and continues to update the business case in parallel while development takes place. The business analyst and project manager, together with executive involvement, should review and refine the business case into a workable document. 

Some likely inputs or components of the business case may include:

  • Risk management
  • Project requirements
  • Project definition
  • Functional diagrams
  • System functions
  • Operational concept
  • Customer responsibilities
  • Project or end solution characteristics
  • Functional interface definitions
  • Projected cash flow and/or ROI
  • Legal constraints
  • Specifications and standards
  • Methodologies required
  • Preparation for delivery
  • Maintenance and support

Summary

Whether this is put together in a formal business case or through an informal process, if you need to show that the project needs to happen, then it's a good idea to follow process similar to this.  The customer may even be coming to you to help draw this up – in which case it is very worth it for you to do so because it means revenue for you if the business case is approved.  Just be sure to get paid for helping to put the business case together. How you choose to document the business case will likely depend on several things:  who you are doing it for (you management or the customer), what your customer wants or needs, what your executive management wants or needs (if applicable), what your PMO requires (if applicable), how large and mature your organization and processes are, and the size of the project.

Most projects rise out of a need...that's a given. But likely there is a financial analysis and a need analysis component to the decision making process. The financial decision will likely be based on the business need, the return on investment (ROI), the estimated cost of the project, the available skill set to run the project, and a few other things that vary depending on the project, industry, etc. The list can go on and on. Often, one essential piece of gaining the approval of any decent sized project is the business case. Making a case for the project as a viable means to solve a business need or fix a problem that needs fixing or add functionality that needs added. Someone, somewhere…usually starting with the project sponsor…must make a business case for the project. It can be a formally documented business case, it may be somewhat informally documented if it’s a smaller project or a more informal organization or it may even be a verbal discussion – but the powers that be need to hear about the project concept and be convinced that it deserves to have money thrown at it. As projects are costly exercises, it is imperative that senior executives within the organization approve spending money on the project prior to undertaking the initiative. The way in which they are made aware of the project and commit themselves to this project is through the business case. Without a formal business case, the project is likely to be cancelled within a short period of time and will have resulted in a lot of wasted effort. The business case document therefore defines and assesses the proposed project. The business analyst develops the business case with help from identified groups, departments, and subject matter experts, and continues to update the business case in parallel while development takes place. The business analyst and project manager, together with executive involvement, should review and refine the business case into a workable document. Some likely inputs or components of the business case may include: • Risk management • Project requirements • Project definition • Functional diagrams • System functions • Operational concept • Customer responsibilities • Project or end solution characteristics • Functional interface definitions • Projected cash flow and/or ROI • Legal constraints • Specifications and standards • Methodologies required • Preparation for delivery • Maintenance and support Summary Whether this is put together in a formal business case or through an informal process, if you need to show that the project needs to happen, then it's a good idea to follow process similar to this. The customer may even be coming to you to help draw this up – in which case it is very worth it for you to do so because it means revenue for you if the business case is approved. Just be sure to get paid for helping to put the business case together. How you choose to document the business case will likely depend on several things: who you are doing it for (you management or the customer), what your customer wants or needs, what your executive management wants or needs (if applicable), what your PMO requires (if applicable), how large and mature your organization and processes are, and the size of the project.

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