A business case is one of the most important tools in a business leader’s toolbox. A business case is your opportunity to present your product, service, or idea as the best solution to a problem that needs to be solved or a need that should be filled.
Often, you only get one opportunity to present your case. So, you need to make your business case compelling—even at a glance. Knowing how to write a business case effectively is critical to success.
Reach Your Goals with Effective Communication
Let’s discuss what to include in your business case, what format to follow, how to make it convincing, and tips for double-checking your document before you share it.
Is a business case the same thing as a business plan?
No. While many people mistake one for the other, a business plan outlines a company’s strategy for success and the projected outcomes. It is a big-picture, company-level document. A business case, on the other hand, focuses on a single issue. It is a close examination of a specific problem or need and how it can be addressed effectively.
Table of Contents
What to include in a business case | When to use a business case | Formatting your business case | How to write a convincing business case | Finalizing your business case
What to include in a business case
Regardless of the case’s specifics, all business cases follow the same basic format:
- Executive summary
- Problem statement
- Problem analysis
- Recommended solution
- Financial overview
- Implementation timeline
The executive summary is a brief overview of the contents of your business case. This is your “hook.” Whether the executive reading your summary will read the rest of your document or toss it aside depends on how effectively you communicate the necessity of your project in this section.
Although this section should appear first, it is often best to write it last. Writing the other sections first will allow you to organize your thoughts and get a feel for which points are the most important to include in your summary.
This section, like the executive summary, should be kept short and sweet. This is a quick introduction to the problem you are trying to solve or need you are trying to fill. This should be no more than a few sentences to a paragraph in length; you will be able to describe the issue in more depth in the following section.
This is a more detailed description of the issue your proposed solution will address. In this section, you’ll want to include all the necessary evidence to support that
- This is an important problem to solve
- This problem needs to be solved now or in the near future
- The benefits of solving this problem will outweigh the costs of doing so
Here is where you present your recommendation for addressing the problem you described in the previous section. You’ll explain exactly how your solution will need to be implemented as well as how it will solve the problem. You should also include potential obstacles to implementing your solution and how they can be addressed. Additionally, you’ll want to provide an overview of alternative solutions and explain why the one you’ve chosen to present is the best option.
Use charts, if applicable, to illustrate the structure of your project and be sure to include evidence whenever possible to support your claims.
This section should thoroughly outline the projected financial and resource costs of your recommended solution, and then weigh them against the benefits you expect your solution to provide. The idea here is to convince your audience that your solution is worth the budget it requires. Use a table or chart as necessary to clearly define individual costs as well as the total cost of your project.
If you are not a financial expert, it may be worthwhile to consult with someone like a finance executive to ensure your estimates are realistic.
In this section, you’ll need to break down how long you estimate your proposed solution will take to fully implement. Clearly define each step of your solution and how long it will take, placing extra emphasis on major milestones and dependencies.
Be sure to consider both the ideal timeline and the extra time you may need to address the potential problems you included in the recommended solution section. The less time your project will require, of course, the better—but first and foremost, be sure to keep your estimates realistic.
Wrap up your business case with a brief but persuasive conclusion re-reviewing the problem, solution, and scope of your project. Place special emphasis on the benefits of solving the problem you’ve proposed, and end with a reminder as to why your solution is the ideal one.
When to use a business case
A business case document is appropriate whenever you need to justify the necessity of a potential project. Usually, your intended audience will be your project sponsor, though other interested parties may read your business case too.
Here are a few examples of when a business case may be necessary:
- A marketing executive might use a business case to propose a new ad campaign that will require a marketing budget increase.
- A financial team lead may need to present a business case to justify reallocating resources from one department to another within a company in order to promote overall success.
- An HR manager would likely need to use a business case to obtain permission to launch a new wellness program within the company that would require both time and money to implement.
In short, a business case is ideal if you’re seeking approval for a project that will require time, money, and/or effort to implement.
Formatting your business case
While there is no universal format that you must use for your business case, your document should be laid out in such a way that the sections are clearly defined and the text is easy to read.
A good rule of thumb is to always follow a logical progression when choosing the order in which to present your information. For example, always introduce the problem before you dive into your solution. Any other context that is needed to understand your proposal should likewise be included early in the document to minimize confusion.
How to write a convincing business case
You now know everything you need to write a professional business case. But how do you write one that actually generates results?
Clarity is key to writing an effective business case. In order to approve your solution, your audience needs to know exactly what you are proposing, what it will cost, and what the benefits will be. Keeping your document concise and straightforward will ensure your audience remains focused on the pros and cons of the proposal itself, rather than being distracted by poor presentation.
- TO DO: Make sure your language and sentence structure is simple and to the point. Keep an eye out for mistakes in diction as well as spelling, grammar, and punctuation—a perfectly spelled but poorly chosen word can sometimes create even more confusion than a misspelled one.
Tone influences how an audience perceives (and reacts to) a proposal. Choosing the right tone will increase your chances of success. For a business case, you’ll want to keep your tone confident and direct—especially when presenting the estimated costs and benefits of your solution.
- TO DO: A persuasive business writing style is perfect for business cases. Avoid hedging and hesitant language like, “probably,” “most likely,” “generally,” “I think,” and other similar phrases. Keep it simple and focus on your strengths.
Audience is another core consideration. While planning and especially while drafting your document, be sure to tailor your information and how you present it to your specific intended audience.
- TO DO: Before you begin writing, ask yourself: What is most important to my readers? What benefits will they value most? What costs will they be most concerned about—and how can I alleviate those concerns? The more closely you align your content with these considerations, the more compelling it will be.
Finding ways to maintain your audience’s interest from start to finish is the final, secret ingredient in the recipe for a successful business case. Write with a sense of urgency while taking care to remain realistic.
- TO DO: Emphasize not only why this problem needs to be solved, but also why your solution needs to be implemented sooner rather than later. Support your argument with verifiable data, and illustrate it with graphs and charts as necessary to drive your point home.
Once you’ve finished writing your business case, it’s time to review your work before submitting it.
Finalizing your business case
This step may be tempting to skip when your schedule is already full. But a little extra time spent finalizing your business case could be the difference between acceptance and rejection.
Reread your work—aloud, if possible—to ensure you have covered all your bases. Keep an eye (or ear) out for words or sentences that sound awkward, and see if your tone matches up with the one you intended to use. Having someone else read your work can also help eliminate mistakes you might otherwise overlook, and a new set of eyes will be better able to discern your actual tone versus the intended one.
For an even more effective—and efficient—option, try implementing a helpful business writing tool or two into your workflow. A digital writing assistant can speed up both drafting and editing time by analyzing documents instantaneously. For the best results, look for a multifunctional program like Grammarly Business that can go beyond simple spelling and grammar checks to analyze tone, word choice, and alignment with any special internal guidelines your brand follows. It provides suggestions in real time, increasing productivity while simultaneously bolstering your writing skill set.
Whenever the need may arise to create a business case, just remember: Your written execution is the key to obtaining the coveted stamp of approval.
Grammarly is an AI-driven digital writing tool that can help you write a business case that’s as professional as it is persuasive. To learn more, contact us anytime or upgrade to Grammarly Business now!