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Do you want to get support for your new idea? Learn how to use a business case to make a compelling case and persuade leaders to act.

Finding solutions to a problem is only half the battle. You may have an amazing idea, but without support it’s hard to move forward.

A business case justifies your solution to all parties involved using data, analysis and information. And when you design a user-friendly document, both in structure and design, every stakeholder can easily assimilate it.

Before embarking on a new project, think about how a business case motivates your team, garners support, and reveals unforeseen problems.

Presentation: What is a business case?

Professionals use a business case to persuade leaders to make change. This is the first step in the admission process for your project. You can use a business case to explain why your company needs specific software, infrastructure improvements, or a new workstation. Its purpose is to explain:

  • business problem
  • Potential courses of action
  • Recommended Solution
  • Barriers to implementation
  • Benefits and opportunities
  • Cost-benefit analysis
  • Scope and schedule
  • Next steps

3 benefits of creating a business case

There’s no doubt that data-driven decisions support strategic growth and fuel creative problem-solving efforts. Your business case approach combines persuasive storytelling and facts to compel stakeholders to action.

1. Generates stakeholder buy-in

For a project to succeed, it needs people to support it. Your business case persuades leaders to allocate resources and funds.

A compelling business case provides data for informed decision-making, including things like:

  • The cost-benefit analysis: Compares costs, from implementation to maintenance, to benefits, such as increased profits.
  • Financial plan : Explains how the company is funding the initiative from the existing budget or through investors.
  • Return on investment (ROI): Describes your expectations and how you will measure return on investment and drive accountability.

2. Create a framework for project management

Just as a business plan guides your business, your project’s business case is a blueprint for change. This is the first step in the process of getting your project started, and managers use the data throughout the lifecycle of the plan.

Once approved, you’ll use key metrics to drive employee buy-in. You’ll also transfer metrics, timelines, and milestones to your project management (PM) software.

3. Reveals Barriers to Implementation

During your research, you will discover potential obstacles through a feasibility study of the project. These may relate to finances, employees or timelines. Often, these are the same concerns that stakeholders will bring up during your presentation.

By quickly identifying gaps, you can address stakeholder concerns in your document and speed up the approval process.

How to write a business case for your projects

Your main objective is to provide a factual narrative describing how you will solve a business problem. In 1945 mathematician George Polya wrote the book How to solve it. In his work, he outlines four principles of problem solving:

  1. Understand the problem.
  2. Develop a plan.
  3. Follow your project through to completion.
  4. Examine the results and generate ideas.

Developing your business case provides the building blocks required to solve a problem, including metrics and expected results. When done, you’ll turn your research into a compelling argument.

1. Identify and detail the problem

Develop a problem statement that explains the problem affecting your business. For example, your existing project management software can hamper creative workflows and reduce productivity; suggesting a better tool might eliminate these problems.

It’s a good idea to speak with the managers or employees involved to understand the problem. Consider sending out a quick poll or survey to gauge interest in the change. Use the data to answer questions such as:

  • What’s the problem?
  • Who does it affect?
  • How is this hurting your business?
  • Why do you need a solution?
  • What do you risk by doing nothing?
  • Why do it now?

2. Consider alternative solutions

Show stakeholders different angles by offering two or three other suggestions. One of your solutions should be to make no changes.

So if you want new PM software, you can briefly discuss the negatives and positives of your existing software while comparing a few other choices, including your recommended course of action. Use visuals to connect your problem to a solution.

Sample infographic template analyzing problem and solution.

Help stakeholders visualize results with infographics. Image source: author

3. Select your solution

Once you have described the possible actions, return to your main choice. Add additional details about why this option is superior. Explore the benefits, like how it adds value to your organization.

Develop statements about the benefits of using your solution. Include both quantitative (numerical) and qualitative (descriptive) observations.

For example, if your desired action is to switch from Asana to Basecamp, use instructions such as:

  • Quantitative: Increase team engagement in project management software by 20% while reducing expenses by 5%.
  • Qualitative: Improve collaboration between teams to increase productivity and employee satisfaction rates.

4. Evaluate the desired course of action

Of course, no business solution is without obstacles. Provide details of your project’s risk management strategy outlining potential difficulties.

Make a business case by evaluating:

  • Threats: Describe potential risks, such as downtime affecting customers or a lack of funds for proper training.
  • Obstacles: Consider barriers to implementation, including funding, infrastructure, or legal issues.
  • Emergency plan: Provide ways to overcome obstacles or an alternative if insurmountable obstacles arise.

5. Determine the necessary human and financial resources

Decision makers want to know how much a project costs. Itemize project expenses, such as the monthly software subscription amount or additional fees. Then detail the hours of work required of the different teams.

List the names of stakeholders, department heads and employees who will provide labour, resources or funding. Answer questions such as:

  • Can we apply the solution with existing staff or do we need to add more working hours via overtime or outsourcing?
  • Where will the funds for additional labor or project implementation come from?
  • What are the roles of the different leaders and how much time do you estimate for meetings or phone calls?

6. Sketch out your implementation plan

Give leaders a general overview of your process while reiterating the goals and scope of the project. Use visuals to show how your idea fits into existing workflows and discuss:

  • Overall project timeline with time management goals
  • Milestones for each phase of the project
  • Deliverables by phase or department
  • Communication and collaboration methods
  • Budget and Labor Guidelines
  • Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Example of integrating an Asana workflow with other software.

Create compelling visuals to explain workflow changes or process improvements. Image source: author

7. Business Case Structure: Write Your Plan

Just like telling a story, your business case has a beginning and an end. You’ll use your research from the steps above to create a compelling argument for why it’s crucial to implement your solution now. In addition to written content, include charts, slides, or infographics.

A typical business case structure consists of:

  • Summary: Define your initiative in a concise statement with a brief description of its context.
  • Desired result: Give stakeholders a taste of the future of your business once your project is complete. Discuss the goals of the project and its organizational value.
  • Current situation : Use the data to show where your business is today while highlighting how it differs from the desired outcome.
  • Solutions: Discuss potential courses of action, give your recommendation on the best choice, and back it up with data.
  • Key objectives: Describe the objectives of your plan and how you will measure the results. Add cost analysis data to demonstrate ROI.
  • Terms: List the resources needed to complete the project. Include the people who will be working on it, the estimated hours, and any tools or resources needed.
  • Chronology: Provide a brief timeline with milestones so readers or viewers can visualize the way forward.
  • Next steps: End with a call to action, outlining what each person should do next.

A concise business case leads to action

A well-researched and factual business case justifies the actions. But it’s the emotional appeal that generates buy-in within your organization. Combine data and storytelling to get the support you need to move forward.

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