Consider the Business Case for a programme


One of the key factors to a successful programme is the formulation of a sound, pragmatic Business Case.

The Business Case is an essential document of the programme. It is not just created to facilitate the programme, it is a living document. It should be revisited at agreed times throughout the programme, updated as required to reflect significant changes, then used to seek confirmation to continue to invest in the programme.

The Business Case is used by senior management to assess the feasibility and viability of the programme. Not only at programme formulation but throughout the life-cycle. Senior management will use it to endorse the strategic context in which the programme is required and how the proposed programme investment fits within that strategic context.

This senior management assessment utilises perspectives from multiple business areas. When complete, the Business Case document enables senior management to make an informed judgement on whether or not the programme is a worthwhile investment (or should continue to be funded if assessment is performed on an inflight programme) and the change proposed in the Business Case offers potential value for money.

The Business Case is used to obtain management commitment and approval for the investment in the business change that the programme will deliver. The Business Case provides a framework for planning and management of the business change and the on-going viability of the programme will be monitored against the Business Case.

The programme Business Case is used for the following purposes:

  • To gain agreement on the scope and business success criteria of the programme
  • To obtain approval of funding and resources for the programme planning and implementation
  • To obtain approval to proceed from the definition phase to the planning phase of the programme life cycle
  • To evaluate a programme against other programmes in the organisations portfolio
  • To test the on-going viability of the programme

The programme Business Case consists of the following elements (these are the key ones; others are added dependent upon the organisation’s requirements):

  • Description of the business opportunity and overall concept
  • Detail of the programme alignment to overall goals, including strategic, operations, technology, and market
  • Detail of the business success criteria
  • Detail of the cost versus benefit analysis
  • Detail of the risk analysis

It is paramount to seek early approval of the Business Case decision-makers in order to commence development of subsequent project-based business cases.

Useful tip: Before submitting the Business Case or when evaluating a Business Case, I use a criteria checklist. It provides some sanity and fitness for purpose checks on what the document contains:

  • Is the business need clearly stated?
  • Have the benefits been clearly identified?
  • Has the alignment to overall goals, including strategic, operations, technology, and market, been documented?
  • Are the reason for and benefits of the programme consistent with the organisation’s strategy?
  • Is it clear what will define a successful outcome?
  • Have options been considered and documented?
  • Is it clear what the preferred option is?
  • Is it clear why this option is the preferred one?
  • Where there is an external procurement is it clear what the sourcing option is?
  • Have external procurement options been considered and documented?
  • Is it clear why the preferred sourcing option is the preferred one?
  • Is it clear how the necessary funding will be put in place?
  • Is it clear how the benefits will be realised?
  • Are the risks faced by the project explicitly stated?
  • Are the plans for addressing those risks explicitly stated?

It is crucial to test the on-going viability of the programme.

As a living document, the Business Case should be revisited at the end of each key stage. It must be updated to reflect significant changes. This is vital where successive programme stages (and those projects due to start) are dependent on the successful delivery of projects from preceding stages. A failure of one or more of these earlier projects may have dire consequences on subsequent projects. The updated Business Case is then used to seek confirmation to continue the investment in the programme.

I hope this helps get things started. If you have any suggestions or additions to the list, then I welcome your contributions.

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