Business Case Templates for Project Management

So you finished a project on time, on budget and within scope. So what? Professional project managers who define quality solely in these terms could be falling short in realizing key business benefits by over-focusing on daily details and not looking at strategic alignment.

According to a poll reported in PMI's Pulse of the Profession report, The Strategic Impact of Projects: Identify Benefits to Drive Business Results, 74 percent of the initiatives undertaken by organizations that regularly identify business benefits before the start of a project meet their goals and business intent. Conversely, when organizations don't regularly identify business benefits prior to starting projects, only 48 percent meet goals and business intent.

What do the organizations that meet goals and business intent do differently than the others? They use business case templates during the project initiation phases.

What is a business case template? And how do I make one?

A business case template helps organizations measure benefits, costs, and risks and can help stakeholders evaluate options as it makes investment decisions. It is comprised of information gathered to help:

  • Measure financial impact

  • Identify Risks

  • Determine time, money and resources needed

  • Explain the need for a given project

  • Recommend business solutions

  • Define Benefits

The best and most well-delivered Business Cases always include cooperation from organization leadership and other stakeholders. The ability to agree on assumptions about outcomes and goals prior to starting a project can help ensure success.

In general terms, a good business case template will include the following sections:

  1. Standard Questions

  2. What needs to be done?

  3. What is recommended approach?

  4. Will this initiative impact, benefit or change how business is done?

  5. If so, how?

  6. Identify

  7. Decision-making stakeholders

  8. Project team and staff needs

  9. Dependencies- what needs to be done before the project can start

  10. Provide Framework

  11. Fiscal impact

  12. Milestones and completion dates

  13. Possible alternatives to approach

  14. Lists

  15. Risks, Assumptions, Constraints

  16. Training needs and expectations for who will provide training

  17. Descriptions

  18. How will performance be measured? Utilize a Balanced Scorecard or other measurement tool sets

  19. Technical business functions that will be modified and enhanced by the project

In all cases, project leaders must challenge assumptions and ask the tough questions about the business benefits of their projects. Sometimes, the best business decision involves not taking on the project at all if no benefit or a negative benefit can result from the process.

Organizations should expect that their project management teams will place a high priority on business benefits, and project managers should be expected to lead discussions on business case analysis. This aspect of a project manager's skill set is critical to an organization's ability to derive long term value from its projects.