How to Create an Effective Business Case Template

You have a great idea for your organization. However, it needs approval from key stakeholders, and they need relevant and accurate information to be convinced of the value of your proposed project. That’s where a business case template comes in. A business case covers all the required data and information for stakeholders to decide the viability of your project idea.

 

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What Is a Business Case?

A business case is a project management document used to evaluate the benefits of a proposed project—consolidating essential information into a single presentation to facilitate the decision-making process. A solid business case will include the financial implications of a new project or a proposed business change.

To write a business case, it’s common for teams across an organization to collaborate on a proposed project. However, it’s usually the project sponsor who leads the creation of the business cases.

Why Is It Important to Create a Business Case for Your Finances?

A business case details all the reasons why a proposed project fits into the organization’s vision. It serves as a justification for the project or business change, outlining its benefits to the organization and providing insights into the methodology of its implementation.

The finances behind a business case are a crucial part of showing how it provides strategic value. Many stakeholders look to the financial appraisal to determine whether a business case is viable or not. Developing a business case for your financial plan is essential to persuade stakeholders that your project will contribute positively to the company’s financial well-being.

How to Create a Business Case Template for Your Finances

Organizations may benefit from creating a standardized template for business cases, incorporating specific points they intend to address. When tasked with writing a business case, utilizing a well-structured template can be a valuable strategy, saving your organization time and effort by providing a clear framework for determining the essential components to include in the document. Let’s explore some of the key elements that are frequently included in a business case template.

Executive Summary

The executive summary should be no longer than one page and should take no more than a few minutes to read. For many stakeholders and other interested parties, the executive summary is the only part they read.

This high-level summary includes the business problem and its solution, research findings, potential costs, ROI, and how the project will be executed. While the executive summary typically appears first, it’s usually written last. Crafting an executive summary can prove difficult until the other components of the business case are defined.

Finances

The financial section of a business case may be the most important part to convey to decision-makers. If they aren’t convinced of the profitability of a business case, they won’t sign off on your project. It’s crucial the financial modeling clearly shows how the project costs are less than the financial benefits.

Here are a few items to consider adding to your financial section:

Cash Flow Forecasting

Prediction on the cash flow coming in and out of the business over a specific period.

Cost-Benefit Analysis

Comparing the estimated costs and benefits of the business case.

Financial Appraisal

A financial appraisal evaluates the viability of the proposed project based on financial modeling and forecasting.

Sensitivity Analysis

A sensitivity analysis is a type of financial model that covers how independent variables can affect profitability and possible alternative solutions.

Depending on the business case, it may include financial models like leveraged buyout (LBO) or mergers and acquisitions (M&A).

Project Definition

The project definition section in your business case template offers a comprehensive overview of your business proposal. Typically the largest segment, it addresses all questions pertaining to the why, what, and how of the new initiative and its benefits to the organization. The project definition will usually include the following:

Background Information

Share the project plan and why it solves a business problem.

Business Objective

Discuss the business objective and how the project aligns with it.

Benefits and Limitations

Explain the financial and non-financial benefits of the project. You also want to include the limitations of the business case. For stakeholders to make an informed decision, an objective pros and cons list should be presented. You may also want to share why this business case is the recommended project over other alternatives.

Project Scope

Share the project scope, including project deliverables and possibly all the tasks necessary to complete the project.

Project Plan

Cover the major milestones and project activities that will need to be accomplished for project delivery.

Market Assessment

A market assessment provides context on opportunities in the industry and potential threats from competitors.

Risk Assessment

A risk assessment covers the potential risks of the project plan and how the organization can manage risks.

Timeline

Provide an estimated project schedule covering each stage of the project.

Project Organization

This section is most relevant to teams executing proposed initiatives—providing a detailed overview of how the project is structured and how it will be managed. Project organization is essentially an action plan on what will happen once a project is approved. This section may include the following:

Project Governance

Cover information like roles and responsibilities of the project scope and the decision-making process.

Progress Reporting

Share the plan on how the project performance is recorded and what metrics will determine the project’s success.

How to Present a Financial Business Case

Effectively presenting financial data is often challenging in a business case. While understanding how to forecast cash flow is crucial, representing that data clearly to stakeholders is equally important.

Given that presenting an Excel sheet may appear complicated to the average person, teams may find it beneficial to transfer financial data to a presentation for better readability. However, using native Office linking can be limiting, making it challenging to transfer links and formatting seamlessly into a presentation-worthy document.

Using a tool like Macabus’ Presentation Automation can easily link Excel data and charts and insert them in PowerPoint presentations and Word documents. Presentation templates make it easy for stakeholders to understand your organization’s finances.

Your business case template provides a strong foundation for a persuasive presentation. Clear visuals of financial modeling can aid in your pitch for why a business case will ultimately support long-term business success.

Tips for Crafting a Persuasive Business Case Template

Creating a business case template for your organization can ensure teams are aware of what they need to present to make their argument.

Describe the Vision

You’re pitching more than a project plan. Your presentation should describe why this business case is the preferred option to solve a problem facing customers or the industry. Your vision needs to convey why the business case adds value to your organization and what benefits it will bring if approved.

Keep the Business Case Template Concise

Although a business case template is designed to address a broad swathe of information, it should ultimately remain brief. Its length may extend based on the scale of the proposed change, but the aim is to keep it concise, ideally spanning only a few pages.

Consider an Appendix

There’s a fine line between detailed and overwhelming. A business case template is best viewed as an outline of why a project plan is beneficial to a company. If more detail is necessary, you can opt to include an appendix to provide additional supporting information.

Use Clear Language

Like any other type of writing, it’s important to keep the audience in mind when writing a business case. Using jargon or highly technical language can make understanding the business case difficult for stakeholders who aren’t familiar with the subject matter.

Teams should also prioritize maintaining a consistent style, eliminating grammar errors, and ensuring readability throughout the business case. This helps minimize distractions for readers.

Use Visual Aids

When creating presentation slides, prioritize an appealing and easily understandable design. This visual appeal can significantly impact key stakeholders, so ensure that your graphics enhance and support your case effectively.

Use Data to Support Your Claims

Data-driven insights form the bedrock for effective decision-making. Your business case needs to have strong data to reinforce proposed solutions as genuinely beneficial to the organization.

Valuable financial data can be obtained from accounting teams, while marketing or sales teams may have data on customer problems or industry opportunities. Additionally, sourcing insights directly from consumers can uncover their pain points, providing valuable information to incorporate into your business case.

Use Past Examples

If your organization has previously executed successful business cases, teams may find it valuable to reference these examples. Pointing to past successes can instill confidence in stakeholders, especially when reviewing similar project plans supported by robust data.

Provide an Objective Analysis

Maintaining objectivity is crucial in constructing a business case. While a project sponsor may be inclined to emphasize the positive business outcomes of a proposed solution, it’s equally essential to explicitly highlight any potential risks. An objective analysis will give stakeholders key insights into project plans and help them determine their viability for the overall business strategy.

Seek Feedback from Colleagues

Writing a business case is a collaborative effort, and it’s challenging to do it justice without input from various teams or departments. For instance, you might require financial models from the accounting department. We recommend engaging with subject matter experts across your organization to gather their input and ensure the information contained within the business case is accurate.

Periodically Review the Completed Business Case

Once a business case is approved, it’s crucial for teams to revisit it regularly as the project unfolds. Regular reviews help ensure that the project stays on course and remains a valid and worthwhile endeavor.

You may want to review the business case and project progress before starting a new phase to avoid spending unnecessary time and money on a project that no longer holds value to the company.

Key Takeaways

A business case is an essential document to prove to relevant stakeholders and investors the value of a proposed project or business change. The business case should establish the project’s goals and opportunities while shedding light on its strategic alignment with the company vision.

Many organizations write a business case template to provide structure for teams on what they should research and present to key stakeholders. The business case template ensures all required information is included for informed decision-making.

Create Financial Models 10x Faster with Macabacus

Gain access to 100+ shortcuts, formula auditing visualizations, easy Excel-to-PowerPoint linking and productivity tools to help you accelerate financial modeling and presentations.

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