CIO brings you a new series on project management from Jed Simms on a vital component of any project: the business case.
For a document that has been around for many years, it is surprising how bad and how misunderstood business cases are.
The business case should tell a story, make a ‘case’ for your project or program; yet too many business cases are just a collection of topics with no apparent order that the reader has to decypher. This is one reason why so many business case evaluations are reduced to “What’s the ROI?”
The business case is a selling document; it is the means by which the Project Sponsor (not the project team) argues his or her case for their project; what THEY will deliver in return for the time, funds and resources invested in their project.
The business case is a ‘contract’ in that the Sponsor is contracting to deliver the business case’s value proposition in return for the organization contracting to deliver the funds and resources required. Failure on either side of the contract spells doom for the project and its value.
However, the business case is often thought of as a ‘financial document’; it isn’t. It is a strategy document. The first question to be answered in any business case is, “What and where is this project contributing to our strategy?” Projects are about implementing strategy, not delivering something on time and budget. If your business case is not linked to your strategy, it is of little value.
Often the business case is seen as primarily the means by which the project is justified, the funds and resources acquired and then its job is done. Wrong. The business case’s value proposition is the central focus of the project; nb the project exists to deliver the value proposition.
If we don’t understand the nature and reason for a business case then we’re unlikely to have an effective business case process that selects the right projects.
Subsequent articles in this series will take you through the necessary elements of a business case.
How does your business case process compare? Tell me: Jed_Simms@capability.com.au
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