What is a business case?


A business case provides justification for undertaking a project, programme or portfolio. It evaluates the benefit, cost and risk of alternative options and provides a rationale for the preferred solution.

Definition from APM Body of Knowledge 7th edition  📖

Five elements of a business case

A common way of thinking about a business case is using these five elements:

  1. Strategic context: The compelling case for change.
  2. Economic analysis: Return on investment based on investment appraisal of options.
  3. Commercial approach: Derived from the sourcing strategy and procurement strategy.
  4. Financial case: Affordability to the organisation in the time frame.
  5. Management approach: Roles, governance structure, life cycle choice, etc.

The business case is reviewed and revised at decision gates as more mature estimates and information become available. The approved business case provides a record of the decisions made by governance about how to achieve the required return on investment from the work. It documents the options considered and it is normal practice to include the ‘do-nothing’ option as a reference. Through this approach, the business case becomes a record of the recommended option with rationale and evidence to support the decision.

The presentation of the business case, if approved, results in the formal startup of the project, programme or portfolio. The sponsor owns the business case.

It brings together the investment appraisal with evidence of how the investment is intended to lead to realisation of the intended benefits. All projects must have a business case that demonstrates the value of the work and it is outlined during the concept phase of the life cycle.

Related reading

Lies, damn lies and ... business cases    BLOG  
How do you feel when you’re asked to write a business case? If you are like most people, you see it as neither a pleasant, nor a worthwhile task. Most people see the business case process as a form of medieval torture administered by accountants... read more

How to nail your business case    BLOG  
Business cases can be tricky to get right. It calls on a lot of different skills – writing, presentation, budget management, even sales skills – to create a strong case for the project, its scope, benefits and the funds allocated to it... read more

The case for a business case    NEWS  
The case for a business case was delivered by Peter Langley for the South East Branch at BAE in Rochester... read more

From Business Case to Benefits Realisation: Theory and Practice in UK Government Projects
In UK government Projects, HM Treasury Green Book and Five Case model provide a structured approach to making and appraising investment proposals... read more

Developing Compelling Business Cases a product and a process Webinar    NEWS  
There’s an increasing requirement, across both the public and private sector, to ensure that investment decisions are based on sound reasoning and with clear spending objectives... read more

Find resources to manage projects

APM Body of Knowledge 7th edition

Read more about business cases in chapter one of the APM Body of Knowledge 7th edition.

The APM Body of Knowledge 7th edition is a foundational resource providing the concepts, functions and activities that make up professional project management. It reflects the developing profession, recognising project-based working at all levels, and across all sectors for influencers, decision makers, project professionals and their teams.

The seventh edition continues in the spirit of previous editions, collaborating with the project community to create a foundation for the successful delivery of projects, programmes and portfolios.

APM Body of Knowledge

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