Creating a Business Case for Your Projects

Resources are limited therefore it is always prudent to try to make the best out of it. This is why business schools often encourage their students to develop a business plan before embarking on carrying out the business idea. The importance lies not in producing the business plan but the process of actually sitting down, thinking through the issue on hand, developing the solution and how best to work it out with your limited resources. Once you go through these issues, it gives you a better idea of the business idea and whether you should go ahead with it.

Now back to project management. Organisations have limited resources and it is prudent to use resources carefully and ensure that returns are maximised. Organisations have different ways to decide if a project should go ahead. Some organisations prefer to carry out projects as and when an idea arises. Some organisations like to carefully evaluate a project before giving thumbs-up to the project managers. No matter what type of organisation you are in, it is important that you as a project manager carry out your role well by planning well. Think about it. Some projects suddenly get shut down due to lack of resources. Some projects were stopped because the management said that they are no longer useful. All these could hint at bad planning. Were too many projects launched at the same time without taking into consideration existing resources? Were projects not properly evaluated for their business impact and given approval almost immediately? Bad planning can lead to wastage of time and resources. It could also have a demoralising effect on the staff.

Project managers sometimes may or may not have a say in the planning process and selection of projects. More so in function-based organisations compared to project-matrix organisations. In both cases, you must learn to create an important document known as the business case. It is very similar to the business plan that I wrote about in the first paragraph. The business case is the sale pitch to the management, explaining why it makes business sense to launch this project. It should contain details such as the existing problem and how it might disadvantage the organisation in the future. More importantly, it must be able to convince the management that the chosen project will be able to solve this issue. Many people also include the project selection matrix in the business case. The business case would be able to show that the project manager had done proper due-diligence and selected projects with the highest returns.

Many organisations already have a template uploaded on their intranet which you can download and use immediately. The business case is an important document because it reminds the team why the project was started. It also forces the manager to sit down to think through his decision. This process can clarify certain issues and provide new perspectives. The lack of a business case does not mean that the project will fail but it certainly can aid in making a more informed decision.