This section captures experience pooled from within the DPC on what makes a good business case. Use this to avoid obvious pitfalls and take advantage of approaches that have been successful for other DPC Members.

What makes a good business case?

What makes a bad business case?

Using the correct format

Many institutions use an established template for business cases, and ensuring it is submitted at the correct time in the organization’s planning cycle will avoid needless rejections.

Not understanding organizational requirements

This can lead to a Business Case which is structured or scaled inappropriately for your institution and/or scope of your proposal.

A clearly articulated statement of need

State what you are asking for, why you are asking for it, and why you are asking for it now.

No groundwork

Failure to prepare and smooth the way for the case, and a lack of explanation of the business case context or need for change.

Use of clear and concise wording

Clear, concise wording, an easily understood structure, language appropriate for the audience should be used, and visual aids employed where needed. An Executive Summary should be included to provide a quick overview of the key points. A glossary can be useful if further detail must be provided.

Dense text

Long sentences, paragraphs or jargon and notes that detract from the readability of the document. Lack of an engaging hook or narrative to connect with the audience and make a convincing case for acceptance.

Fit with the organization’s mission

A proposal with a strong fit to the organization’s mission and key strategic priorities.

No fit with the organization’s mission

Deviating from the core mission or aims of the organization will make it more difficult for your business case to persuade stakeholders and decision makers.

Tightly defined scope of proposal

Be precise about what exactly you are asking for, including how you will avoid scope-creep. Be clear on what exactly will be achieved by implementing your Business Case, and any success criteria that will determine completion. Bear in mind that benefits may be different for different stakeholders.

Undefined or insufficiently defined scope boundaries

This may be interpreted as a proposal that is likely to lose focus and/or not deliver its aims. If the deliverables of your business case are not clear (or seem open-ended) this is likely to impact its chances of success.

A clear, phased (if appropriate) and realistic implementation plan

Include reference to human resources, infrastructure, and other support, as well as timescales and how you will manage the risks associated with implementation and avoid unnecessary disruption across the organization.

Unrealistic implementation plan

Great proposals but unrealistic timescales, budgets or an unclear plan.

A clear analysis of the implementation costs

Consider additional infrastructure, IT services/ equipment, human resource etc. The costs afforded to implementation should be realistic. The distinction between any capital investment and recurrent costs should be clear. Including costs of inaction can also be persuasive.

Vague, estimated costs

Costs which are obviously too high (on the basis that they will get haggled down) or too low (on the basis that they will get through, but will then incur extra costs along the line).

Risks and benefits

A balance between a frank statement of the risks faced by your project and the benefits or opportunities it will deliver, and how these relate to organizational strategy.

Poor consideration of the risks and benefits

Try not to skew your analysis in favour of either benefits or risks and provide a realistic picture.


Identification of any assumptions which have been made in the planning of implementation as well as any dependencies (on infrastructure, other teams, external factors etc.)

Lack of consideration to the assumptions

Failing to identify the dependencies which underpin implementation could lead to issues further down the line (if the Business Case is accepted at all).

Evidence to support the case

This can include evidence of demand, authoritative external sources, case studies to demonstrate how this has worked well elsewhere or modeling to show how efficiencies and benefits can be realized.

Insufficient research

This will leave your business case without the evidence or backing to succeed.


Persuasive arguments in favour of collaboration (with trusted third parties) if that is the organization’s preferred approach. And similar if the organisation prefers to build in-house.

No collaboration

Where collaboration with others is key to the business case but not properly justified. Cost savings, efficiency gains, improved reputation etc. are all good reasons to collaborate; lack of capability, internal resistance to change, or fear of failure, are not.


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