When starting a new project, all professionals know that a solid and convincing business caseis a must. Not only does a good business case inspire confidence in your project, it’s also the foundation to successful project delivery.
But where do you start? Now, you know exactly why your project is important, but to get the go ahead, you need to effectively communicate your project’s benefits to the company’s decision makers. That means clearly explaining your vision and precisely outlining why your stakeholders just can’t miss out on green lighting your latest pitch.
Don’t worry. If you’ve been tasked with writing a business case, but are stumped for inspiration, read on. Here are our 16 top tips on how to write a business case that will persuade and motivate, every time.
1. Link Your Recommendations To Business Objectives
Your company has business objectives, doesn’t it? Of course it does.
Whether you work in corporate finance, sales, retail or even aerospace, you understand that your company has overall business goals and objectives. They could be anything from expanding into new overseas markets, attracting younger customers, or reducing operational costs.
To write a convincing business case that everyone will understand and appreciate, first you need to clearly articulate exactly what your company’s corporate and operational objectives are. Once you’ve mastered that, you need to explain exactly how your project is poised to support them and help your company achieve those objectives.
Unfortunately, your superiors won’t always understand exactly what your project team do. That’s why you have to plainly set what the benefits of your project are to the overall business. Use this technique and your plan is much more likely to resonate with senior stakeholders, and get the buy in you need to proceed.
2. Identifying Business Need
Ask yourself now, what are the exact business needsyour project addresses?
Write them down carefully.
These can be anything from a need to attract new talent, support cultural transformations, or forging new relationships with suppliers or business partners. Has there recently been an effort to address the gender pay gap in your office, or has a recent departure left a specific team under resourced.
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Use your imagination and consider the ways in which your project can help address these challenges. Take time to clearly articulate them in your business plan, showing precisely how your objectives meet ongoing business needs.
3. Highlight Missed Opportunities
What scares businesses most (aside from bankruptcy)? Missed opportunities. They present an emotive trigger that will help you explain the consequences of not going ahead with your project.
If you’re stuck for inspiration, do some research into what your company’s chief competitor is currently doing. Find a successful example that relates to your project, and articulate what the consequences will be if your project is not taken seriously. While you don’t to point fingers at colleagues, think about the times that your company has missed opportunities and what could have been done to avoid them.
You could even provide impact assessments estimating exactly how much your organization could lose if your project doesn’t get the go ahead.
When composing your business case, build in these examples to support a persuasive narrative. This will grab decision maker’s attention and encourage them to take the product seriously, as it will be clear that inaction is not an option.
4. Ensure The Benefits Are Individualized
When opening your business case, it’s good to begin with the overall benefits your project offers to your company, whether it’s ROI or operational savings. However, make sure you don’t stop there.
It’s vital that you remember that business cases are signed off by multiple stakeholders, who will have their own vested interests.
Think about exactly what your key stakeholders are looking to achieve on an individual basis, and how your project relates to their objectives. Detail the benefits that your project will have for each individual team and interested stakeholders.
This is the easiest way to ensure buy in for your business case.
5. Justify Your Recommendations
You have a set task that you want to address. Great.
But if you don’t explain exactly why your recommendations are the best way to address the challenges faced, there’s nothing to stop someone else tabling a more convincing plan.
Make sure you have considered all the options available to you. Sometimes, when presenting your business case, you will be challenged, and people will try and take your ideas, and put their own spin on it.
Think about other approaches, and why your recommendations are better. You can do this by providing examples of more than one set of options, and then deconstructing these to set out exactly why your recommendations are right.
6. Present a Detailed Analysis
Have you ever presented on a topic and used figures that just don’t add up? It’s a nightmare. Situations like this can destroy your internal reputation, and will reduce confidence in your business case.
That’s why you need to make sure that you have an extremely detailed analysis that either you, or someone you know you trust can easily explain, and importantly is well communicated in your business case.
A mastery of your analysis will prevent you from compromising your position in the company, it will help offset awkward questions that you’re unable to answer. More, the whole process will help you better understand exactly how you can deliver your business case.
7. Look Beyond Tangible Benefits
Whether it’s an improved return on investment, reduction in staffing costs, or a slash in spending on IT, tangible benefits are always a strong sell.
But don’t be fooled. Tangible benefits are not the only benefits that should be in your business case. Remember that intangible benefits are also vital.
Look at the current challenges businesses face with staff retention, underwhelming productivity gains, and increasing challenges some large and small organizations have attracting new talent.
If your project will improve the office environment, employee’s work life balance, then it’s vital that you include them in your business case.
8. Eliminate Project Killers
Project killers take many forms. For your project it could be one stakeholder who’s mortally opposed to it, or an upcoming change in management. Maybe your project isn’t fully aligned to your company’s goals.
If you can identify a project killer, and know that it could jeopardize your business, you need to be honest and think about how you can resolve it.
It might be an awkward meeting with a colleague you don’t like, or a change to your proposed supplier. Just remember, it’s better to resolve any potential issues before you start presenting your business case.
9. Speak With Frontline Staff
Never forget frontline staff and how they will react to your project.
If it will have an impact on their work, whether it’s the sales team, customer service agents, or even engineers delivering a product, if they’re affected by a change, make sure you consult them .
There’s nothing worse for a project than frontline staff who are opposed to your project. They will lobby against you, and could kill your project in no time.
If you have spoken to frontline staff about the proposed changes, and taken their feedback into account, you can also reference this in your business case. If it’s clear that frontline staff are onboard, you will be more likely to get your project agreed.
10. Have a Benefits Realization Plan
There’s a big difference between benefits and realizing benefits. The first is a goal. The second is how you achieve that goal.
Unfortunately, there’s no shortcut to this. You need to have a clear benefits realization plan or your plan won’t be taken seriously.
A benefits realization plan means a clear path, with timescales, project milestones and project review points that will allow you and the company to track how the project is going
Inclusion of a benefit realization plan in your business case will build stakeholder confidence in your ability to deliver the project. It also gives you a great opportunity to comprehensively review your business case and set realistic goals.
11. Don’t Underestimate The Length or Complexity Of Your Project
Everyone dreams of a simple, effective project. But don’t kid yourself, these projects are often imaginary.
It’s better to identify and be upfront about potential challenges, and build them into your business case from the outset. Even if it makes the project seem more complicated, there’s nothing worse than losing face because your project is running over budget, and over time.
While you may want to leave worrying about complications to the future, remember, a project that seems too easy will raise eyebrows and may not inspire the same confidence as a realistic plan.
12. Seek Stakeholder Support
Remember when your colleague got clearance for a project? Remember when it concerned your work, but they hadn’t spoken to you? It probably didn’t help company relations.
That’s why it’s so important that before presenting your business case, you seek stakeholder support as early as possible.
It’s good practice and you can always reflect that you have consulted over teams it in your business case. This will help you identify roadblocks that you may have never considered, while helping you have people to count on in the boardroom.
13. Don’t Sell Technology. Sell Business Improvements
With great new user interfaces and snazzy display adverts, it’s no surprise that people often get carried away with technology.
But remember, technology companies don’t sell their products features, they sell their product’s benefits. It’s marketing 101 and applies to all walks of life.
If you’re making a case for the installation of a new inventory management system across a chain of restaurants, you’re not going to excite people about how fast the new software runs. People care about how the technology will drive employee productivity, reducing the time at tills, and save the business money with better stock management.
Remember, you can’t sell technology alone. It’s just a misnomer.
14. Propose a Solution & Strategy
Your business case should identify a problem, whether it’s a challenge that your company needs to address, or an opportunity that’s about to be missed.
To successfully sell your business case, you need to present a solution to the problem and have a clear strategy on how you will deliver that solution. It’s simple, but the more detailed your strategy and the more considered your solution, the more likely that people are going to take it seriously.
If you have a clear strategy for delivery, there’s nothing to stop you.
15. Identify Risks and Assumptions
No project is risk free. Period. More, however practical your project is, it will always be based on a set of assumptions. If you do not identify your risks, and clearly set out your assumptions for the project, someone will do it for you.
That’s why you should include details of your risks and assumptions in your business case. Doing this will help you build confidence with your business partners, and highlight that you’re being honest.
Transparency is always important for healthy business relationships. If you set out your risks early, if something does go wrong, you will be able to identify and rectify the issue quicker. This will save you face and encourage your peers to see you as a realist.
16. Use Business Language
There’s no point in writing a business case that decision makers don’t understand.
While this will be specific to your industry, you need to make sure that you are communicating in the language that the decision makers in your company will understand.
That doesn’t just mean using language they use, it means writing your business case in clear and plain English. Often decision makers will not be in the same team as you or necessarily working on the same project. That means it’s incredibly unlikely that they will understand all of the acronyms, specialist terms and jargon that you use daily.
That’s why it’s a must for business cases to use simple, clear language. Finally, make an assessment whether your business case is too detailed or long. If it is, consider using an annex to protect the narrative.
Business Case Bliss
Now you understand the 16 tips to writing an effective and impressive business case, it’s time to get started.
There’s nothing more intimidating than setting out to write the first draft, so make the most of these expert tips while they’re still fresh in your mind. It’ll have you writing a great business case in no time, and working on a project you believe in.