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03 February 2016

Top 10 tips for building a successful IT business case

Profile shot of David Guest.
Written by David Guest

We all know that feeling of dread when you’re asked to build an IT business case.

It’s a daunting prospect that’s becoming more and more common in business today.

Yet, while it’s a requirement at many companies, employees tend to lack the know-how – and ultimately the confidence – to pull such an important document together. Without a business case, your IT project is never going to get off the ground.

But where do you start?

How to create a business case for that important IT project

1. Do your research

Pull all your information together into one place

You’ve probably already done most of the research you need to put a business case together. This will form a big part of your decision-making process to get you to the business case stage. Pull this information together into one place. Your project team will be able to help you.

2. Seize the opportunity

The benefits of a business case

Putting a business case together could be to your advantage. Not only does it give you the chance to showcase what you bring to the business, but also it forces you clarify in your own mind why you are pursuing the case. By putting a business case together, you will need to consider things sooner in the decision-making process than you normally would. The more effort you put into the business case, the more successful the project will be.

3. Don’t reinvent the wheel

Find out if there’s a company template in place

Does your company already have a business case template in place? If so, use this from the start. It’ll save you having to adjust your pitch as you go along, and will likely be better received by decision-makers.

4. Get help

Speak to your suppliers

Speak to your supplier(s) or technology partner. If you have a preferred IT supplier in the relevant field, ask them for support in writing the business case. Chances are they’ll have had a great deal of experience in writing business cases. They can can offer you support and insight to strengthen your case.

5. What to include

  • Summary of the proposal and your recommendations
  • Introduction to the current situation and the proposal to be discussed
  • Overview of the problem faced
  • Impact of the problem
  • Overview of the various solutions available
  • Recommended solution
  • Risk assessment
  • Next steps

6. Goals and objectives

What does success look like for this project?

Whilst return on investment (ROI) is key to any project, don’t forget to look at other factors that contribute to its success. What about more intangible factors like employee satisfaction, customer retention, or environmental benefits? A positive ROI won’t automatically guarantee funding will be made available. You’ll be competing with other business cases, so you’ll need to make your case stronger than just the financials.

Be realistic when it comes to the potential return. Err on the side of caution and present your low-end estimates.

7. Tone and message

Keep it brief, clear and concise

Think about who will be reading your business case. Adjust the tone of your pitch and the content of your message to the needs of the person who will be reading it.

If they’re in a commercial role, like procurement, keep the technical jargon to a minimum, and focus on the financial benefits from the project. But whoever you’re writing for, keep it brief, clear and concise.

8. Make a recommendation

Support your recommendation with evidence

You will most probably have your recommended course of action in mind before you get to this stage of the business case. To ensure you present a fair, impartial and rational viewpoint, present solid evidence to support your decision-making.

This could be in the form of case studies and testimonials to represent your preferred supplier. Some examples of where this type of project has succeeded in the past will help persuade your audience to get on board.

9. Make it visual

Present your pitch face to face

Don’t just rely on the written word to get your business case accepted. While you might have a specific template to follow for the formal document, be creative and put together a more visual supporting presentation. Invite the decision-makers to a session where you can go through your pitch face to face. This will give you the opportunity to answer any questions and to elaborate on any key points.

Your decision-makers will appreciate the opportunity to explore the project in more detail.

10. What if the case is rejected?

Don’t panic. It’s not the end of the road

It’s unlikely that a business case will be rejected without some constructive feedback. When you receive your feedback, review it objectively and then make the recommended changes. At this stage, it might be useful to request a face to face discussion with the decision-makers. That way there can be no ambiguity as to their requirements.

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Profile shot of David Guest.

About David Guest

Solution Architect and Technology Evangelist

As ThirdSpace’s Solution Architect and Technology Evangelist (yes, he knows it’s a long title), Dave has a background in IT that goes back to installing a piece of kit called a Microsoft Softcard in...


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