Criteria for the Business Case Report
A compelling business case has to be articulated and presented to the steering committee for approval. The following criteria should be addressed to ensure that the case is given serious consideration:
• The report has a definitive structure as set out in the next section. In other words, it follows a structure traditionally found in business reports such as background information, executive summary, analysis, and so on.
• The main purpose of a business report is to outline how project objectives will be met. An analysis is completed from which recommendations are derived. The analysis and recommendations are presented to management in a manner it can understand and evaluate.
• The merit of a business report is judged by management. They have to be satisfied with the analysis that was carried out so that they can decide with confidence whether or not to accept the recommendations of the report. They have the option to accept all, some or none of the recommendations.
• A business report is written in a language that reflects the professionalism and business knowledge of the writer. It should be addressed to senior management and adhere to a formal approach. It should avoid technical jargon that is not familiar to the readers of the report.
The Structure of a Business Case Report
The format of a business report can vary, but essentially it has the following structure:
Cover. Title of report, to whom it is addressed, who has written it, date.
Background information. A brief overview of the situation provides the rationale for the report. It provides information about the origins of the project and its context, and the terms of reference for the business case and how it was conducted.
Executive summary. This summarises the total report. It is not background information or an introduction. By reading this summary, the reader is given an overview of how the analysis was done (approach), what was covered (scope), what were the main findings and recommendations, and what were the limitations of the report. The executive summary should appear early in the report because it is the section that will be read first.
Analysis of the investment. This demonstrates the skill and knowledge of the analyst in evaluating the potential of the project. They should demonstrate both technical (project) and business (organisational) skills. The analysis is shown in two sections: in the body of the report to describe how the analysis was carried out and the analysis itself, and in appendices to provide worksheets containing details of facts and figures.
Recommendations. These are derived from the analysis that was completed and therefore there has to be a logical connection between analysis and recommendations. Usually there are two or three primary recommendations and a number of secondary recommendations that support each of the primary recommendations.
Limitations. This section covers the shortcomings of the analysis, for example that the report relied on the cost information provided by vendors. It is not about the limitations of the project itself but the report.
• Appendix. This includes detailed material such as worksheets and diagrams which were used to develop the analysis of the case. Because the business report should be in narrative form to make it readable to management, detailed workings are best placed in an appendix.
Figure A2.1 visualises the construction of the business case report. Following the professionally prepared cover, the background information section 'sets the scene' for the report. Similarly, the executive summary covers the content of the complete report as it is a 'summary' by definition. The analysis is the core of the report to which are linked the estimates of costs and benefits, and the impacts of risks and change. The evaluation considers alternatives, including the option of not doing anything. Recommendations flow from the evaluation, and limitations acknowledge the shortcomings of the completed business case.
Figure A2.1 Visualising the business case report