What is a project business case?

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Answered by: Karen, An Expert in the Project Management Category
A business case can be considered as the predecessor for any project. In brief, this is the "sales pitch" that is presented to management to acquire approval to proceed with the project. A business case can be presented in the form of a structured and defined document (many larger companies have project business case templates that must be used to comply with the business rules and processes). A business case for a project may also be in the form of a presentation or slide show. Or, a project business case may simply be a written document for presentation to management. In any case, there are some key components that must be included in any business case for a project.

First, you must describe the problem or issue at hand. Are you fixing an existing system or process? Are you improving or upgrading a system or process? Are you requesting to obsolete a system and remove it from use? Is this a brand new venture that does not currently exist within the company? One example might be to replace an existing online catalog with a more sophisticated search engine. You should describe what the reason would be for doing this. One reason might be that the current conversion rate for shoppers on the site is not high enough compared to other industries or competitors. Include in the project business case a description of the reason for the project.

Next, you should describe the research and how you arrived at this decision. Study all available alternatives and if you desire, document two or three alternatives as part of the project's business case. Of the alternatives explain the pros and cons of each and how your project choice is the best for the business. Be prepared to answer questions such as the effect on return on investment, productivity improvements, quality assurance, sales increases, or profit increases. The better you quantify these areas, the more likely your project business case will be approved and your project can begin.

Finally, document how you intend to execute this project. You should include all potential expenses including:

- Project team participation and time needed (include managers, full time employees, and any contractors who might be needed)

- Hardware acquisitions (include servers, network, peripherals, etc.)

- Software acquisitions (include operating systems, database, application software, client software, etc.)

- Post-implementation costs including software maintenance, staff resources, etc.

In your outline on how the project would be implemented, include a rough outline of the project milestones and deliverables. If the project can be completed in phases, document each phase and the expected deliverables for each phase. Be sure to note that these dates could change depending on a more thorough review as part of the project kick-off, but the dates in the project business case should be as accurate as possible. Also include a timeline of when the various expenses would be due. For example, if you do not need a contracted developer until six months into the project, be sure to note this in your project business case.

After your business case is completed, be sure to review it with one or two key stakeholders to insure all areas are covered appropriately. Include any supporting documentation including RFQ's, proposals, and proof-of-concept presentations with sample data. Dress up your work and present to the executives. With all your bases covered, your project business case can turn into a full-blown project in a snap!

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