The document itself is aimed at people who will make the decision but who may not have technical or detailed knowledge of the subject. So, assume no prior knowledge, and avoid jargon or references to previous papers on the subject.
The document should lead the decision maker through the problem, considering all aspects and relevant factors, maybe proposing various solutions, and then illustrating that the proposed solution is the best.
It will benefit from a clear structure, with headings and sub-headings to guide the reader and allow them to skim the parts less relevant to them.
There may be an accepted layout or template, used by your business. If so it is best to use that.
This is a suggested outline only, the detail will vary with every piece of work, the circumstances surrounding it and the data available; –
- The executive summary
- The problem statement
- Analysis of the situation
- Solution options
- Project description
- Cost-benefit analysis
As with all reports, the first section presented is the executive summary, but this is best written last.
The executive summary
The executive summary is an overview of the business case document.
It summarises the project or proposal that is being addressed, the major factors considered, the resources required, targeted outcome, predicted return on investment, and an estimate of when that return should be achieved.
As with many reports, some people will only read the executive summary, so it should be designed with that in mind. Include any information that is key to an informed decision.
Introduce the problem and the solution for which you are proposing to make the business case
The problem statement
This section is an explanation of the problem the project addresses. It may refer to how the issue fits into the company goals or strategy. It identifies the issues that are to be examined, e.g. Inefficiencies, threats, missed opportunities, poor performance.
Analysis of the situation
This section gives some background to the problem and how it arose. It considers what would happen if the current situation persists. Finally, it provides projections about what would happen in that instance.
Use relevant facts and figures wherever you can here. Include the data and research we mentioned in the early stages of the work that you used to evaluate the business case.
In this section, identify potential solutions to the problem. Describe your proposed solutions and give enough detail for the reader to assess the proposal. Often there will be a number of solutions available, and in this case briefly explore them all and identify your favoured solution.
You may opt not to go into details here if your brief does not include delivery of the project, but just the production of the Business case itself.
But if you do opt to consider the project, use this section to describe the project. Define the project stages, including a review after completion.
Detail the resources needed, the project budget and duration.
It is a good idea in any project to establish milestones and goals for each of them.
Specify any assumptions made.
Identify any related events that may affect the project, such as other urgent work, or the availability of key personnel or experts.
Discuss any known risks and the plan to deal with problems that arise from them
Give financial projections such as budget, allowance for overspend, cost breakdown, expected return, savings, financial benefits, forecast profit.
Include criteria to measure the success of the project.
This section defines the costs and benefits for each potential option, including your proposed solution, and also taking no action
If you can, use data from similar projects to illustrate yours, and show charts and graphs if you have any.
Include the estimated financial benefit, and a projection of the timing of the benefits.
This is where you make your recommendations about the best solution, how to effect it, and your belief that the project should be implemented. Build your case from the cost-benefit analysis figures.
Some people will only read the summary and recommendations,so be sure to restate and define any key requirements, such as the involvement of certain personnel, or the purchase of certain machinery. Refer to relevant sections in the report.
Revisit the reasons why it is important to address the problem and the action that you recommend to decision makers. Make clear why your proposal is the best way of dealing with the issue