Published in For Teams

A guide to writing a business case

By Anabelle Zaluski


6 min read

Inspiration can strike at any time. 

One moment, you’re going about your regular tasks. Then, without warning, a lightbulb turns on and you think of a great idea for your next business project.

But an idea is only the first piece of the puzzle. You need to write a business case to get it off the ground.

In this document, you’ll highlight the benefits, identify risks, and create a project roadmap. Then, you present it to key stakeholders to get their buy-in and start working. It’s a proactive approach to managing expectations and starting off strong.

What’s a business case?

A business case is a document that communicates the merits of a business project. It outlines the rationale for the venture and what you hope to accomplish, along with details like basic costs and risks. The primary purpose is to convince internal stakeholders to support you. 

Typically, you create a business case when proposing a new business strategy, project, or investment. It only needs enough information for stakeholders to understand what you’re going for and sign off on it. Once they approve, you can move on to more comprehensive docs like project plans and risk assessments.

Why is a business case important?

A business case reflects the depth of your research and strategy, making a strong case for your project and selling your vision to stakeholders. It’s the document that helps you secure funding and support, so it’s a vital step in the launch process. Without it, you might not be able to start.

These documents also serve as high-level project roadmaps. You can reference your business case at any point during your project for a refresher on the purpose and goals.

Additional benefits include:

  • A clear vision — a business case provides clear goals to work toward. It defines the objectives, scope, and approach to ensure everyone understands the outcome you’re going for.

  • Informed decision-making — anyone can look at the business case to see the project's basic pros, cons, and costs, guiding you and your stakeholders to make informed choices.

  • Risk management — identifying risks involved in the project helps you develop strategies to mitigate them. Using the business case to take a proactive approach saves you from surprise costs later on.

  • Communication — when you present a project's details, you’re starting a conversation with stakeholders, setting the tone for your project, and opening the door to transparency throughout the process.

Business case versus business plan: What’s the difference?

A case justifies a single project or initiative, but a plan outlines the strategy of a business as a whole. 

Investors look at a business plan to make informed investment decisions. They use this doc consider the financial, strategic, and operational details behind a business and determine the odds of ROI. But a business case laser-focuses on a particular project or initiative. It guides stakeholders to decide how a specific project could impact the business — and ideally agree to support it. 

Both documents require careful research, writing, and presentation. Here’s more about how they differ:

Key components of a business case

A compelling business case is clear and organized, delivering a solid message without too much fuss. Stakeholders and team members should be able to find all the key details they need quickly — and leave feeling excited to support the initiative.

The seven key business case components include:

  1. Executive summary — this is a brief overview of the business case. It gives stakeholders a high-level view of the project before diving in.

  2. Problem — include a problem statement at the top of the doc to explain the project’s goals. The more specific, the better.

  3. Costs — provide a comprehensive estimate of the costs of the project. A project management triangle is a good starting point.

  4. Benefits this is a realistic preview of the benefits of the project.

  5. Risks identify any obvious risks and the basic steps you’ll take to mitigate them.

  6. Timeline — include a basic schedule. Deadlines should be realistic, but keep in mind that they might change when the project launches.

  7. Next steps — write down the approvals or resources you’ll need with suggestions on how to proceed.

How to write a business case: A step-by-step guide

Think of creating a business case like telling a story. You need a clear beginning, middle, and end to help stakeholders understand your vision, and it needs to be compelling enough to convince them to press play.

When you’re ready to get started, here are the six steps to create a compelling business case:

  1. Define the problem identify the need that your project addresses. The need of the project has to justify the rest of your plan, so this should be your first step.

  2. Gather data collect any data to help you create your business case. This could include market research, a cost-benefit analysis, or projected ROI.

  3. Propose a solution use your research to propose a suitable solution for the problem you stated earlier. Outline the basics of your plan, who will help, and what your ideal outcome is.

  4. Identify risks — look at potential challenges or uncertainties. If possible, propose solutions for dealing with those risks.

  5. Create a timeline the timeline includes milestones, deadlines, and a schedule for completion. Stakeholders need to be able to look at the business case and immediately understand when they can expect to see results.

  6. Get approval present your business case to relevant stakeholders and request their feedback. Be ready to address any questions, concerns, or suggestions, and adjust as needed.

A business case template for every idea

Looking at business case examples may be helpful, but using a template offers the structure you need — and you won’t have to worry about formatting or aesthetics. Notion’s business case template has detailed sections for your problem statement, pros and cons, and project scope. There’s also space to define (and tag) everyone involved for maximum transparency.

Business case best practices

To get the most from your business case, consider your audience and your proposed project's details carefully. Put yourself in the stakeholders’ shoes — think about potential questions you may receive, alternative solutions, and any risks they might worry about. Strategize answers to these concerns before pitching your ideas so you know how to handle any questions that come your way.

Here’s how to make sure your business case goes from idea to outcome:

  • Prepare thoroughly base your case on solid evidence. This includes market research, customer feedback, and financial data, along with relevant case studies if you can find them. 

  • Be clear stakeholders won’t have time to dig through a complex doc. Clearly articulate your vision and strategic objectives in as few words as possible.

  • Engage with your audience Ask questions and encourage interaction during your presentation. Involving them in the decision-making process shows you value their opinion and want to collaborate.

  • Use visual aids charts, graphs, and infographics can often communicate information more effectively than plain text. Provide the visual aids your audience needs to understand the details.

  • Follow-up after the presentation — reach out to the decision-makers after you share the idea. Keep the conversation ongoing and address any questions or concerns that arise, even after the fact.

Effective business case project management with Notion

Notion’s powerful project management tools make it easy to create a business case. You can create and track tasks, organize workflows, and collaborate with teams in real time — all while accessing the information you need in one place. 

Whether writing a project plan for a large-scale launch or a small business case, Notion has the tools you need to organize and share your work. Create an action plan, manage your project, and write a three-year roadmap for your business idea. It all happens here.

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