What Is a Business Case?

3 min read
  • Information Technology

Anytime you want your organization to dedicate resources to a particular project, you need to make a case. You have to figure out the best way to capture an opportunity or solve a problem, not just try to get others to support your ideas—and developing a business case will help you generate and evaluate ideas, as well as help your leadership team make a wise investment decision.

No matter where you work or what type of idea you’re pitching, you should follow the same basic process for any business case you develop.

What’s the business need?

Define the problem faced by your organization.

First, identify your problem. This is the business need you are trying to solve. For example: Is Accounting struggling to pay invoices in a timely manner because of tedious manual processes?

You have to help people decide whether or not they should invest resources in your idea to solve this problem. Those people may be your boss, a city council, your boss’s boss or a management team, but they all have a few things in common: they will expect you to address their chief concerns. They will expect a thoughtful analysis of the impact, the ROI and the risks so they can intelligently weigh the costs and benefits of what you’re proposing.

Who’s involved?

Identify the key players within your organization.

Next, identify the key players in your problem:

  • Your stakeholders have the authority to approve or reject your business case. If you are in municipal government, your city council might also fall into this category.
  • Beneficiaries are those who will gain from what you’re proposing. You’ll usually have more than one beneficiary, and these people may be inside or outside your organization (for example, customers or citizens). If you are trying to solve the invoice problem I mentioned above, beneficiaries could be the accounting team as well as the department heads involved in the process.
  • Subject-matter experts have insight into what it will take to solve your problem. They will help you create your business case. In the case of our invoice problem, subject-matter experts could be your IT department (who may have knowledge of automation or enterprise software), experts in your professional network who have solved a similar problem, or a trusted vendor.

How does your project support strategic goals?

The fate of your project will usually lie with a small group. Look at each member of the committee. Whose goals and concerns will your project address most directly?

Once you know who the decision makers are, the next step is to discover what they care about most. If you can speak with stakeholders yourself, ask them a few simple questions:

  • What are your department’s objectives this year?
  • How do you measure success?
  • What are your barriers to success?

Then use their answers to inform your case.

Remember, even if your stakeholders have decision making authority, they’ll have to justify their choices to someone else. So think carefully about your audience’s audience: If you pitch to the CEO, she’ll be thinking about the board of directors. Your city council may think about what the press might say, or how voters will react. Put yourself in your stakeholders’ shoes and give them what they need to convey the value of your idea to those above them.

Building a business case for your organization doesn’t have to be complicated. Check out the Document Management Software Justification Toolkit and discover how other organizations like yours have successfully built the business case for Document Management software!

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