When building a business case and making a decision about whether to invest in the environment, or in any project, it is crucial for you to go back to the central question of -whether you have approached the decision from the right place. It should not be the case that you have made a decision which you then justify by making a business case that fits. Through your business case you will need to explore your options and show that the decision you have made is the right one and you can deliver it.
Depending on the nature of your project and what stage you are at, this information may be more or less applicable. We’re presenting it here both because the principles of covering the different aspects of project planning are always helpful, and because it is a good overview of how a project plan develops over time.
The 5 Cases
The 5 cases that give the model its name are the different aspects of a project plan that need to be considered. They are summarised on the right and you can see that they range from justifying the need for a project and showing you have chosen the right approach, to demonstrating that you can manage the project through procurement to delivery. In this guide we have focused on the first 2 cases, and given some information about developing these cases for environmental projects. You can use the menu on the right, or the text links below to learn more about these areas.
The 5 case model
- Strategic case: demonstrating how your project fits into wider aims, programmes and policies; justifying the need for a project.
- Economic case: demonstrating that the project will create as much benefits for the costs as possible; that it is the best possible option and that this option is desirable to society
- Commercial case: if the project is expected to raise revenue, demonstrating that this will be managed well and appropriately
- Financial case: showing that the funding and resourcing arrangements for the project are in place, are realistic and sustainable over time
- Management case: showing that all aspects of the project will be managed appropriately over the whole life of the project
The 3 stages of plan development
The other dimension that this model encourages us to see it that our planning changes over time and with the scope of our project. Whilst we really don’t expect all projects to undergo these phases, we do think that outlining the approach here will be a helpful reminder that our requirements of a business case do change depending on context.
There are 3 stages of plan development, with a different emphasis on the 5 cases at each of these stages. These stages are:
Strategic outline case
This is about showing that your project is strategically necessary, and so puts the greatest emphasis on the strategic and economic cases. It is the first business case to prepare and it demonstrates that you have adequately scoped the project within the wider context, made the case for change and explored the way forward.
The SOC will focus in on the broader justification (strategic case) and demonstrating that it is worthwhile. In some cases – if the project is small or simple enough for the funder to accept it – the SOC is all that is necessary for a business case as it does cover all the aspects, but focuses on the big picture questions in the strategic case and the options appraisal part of the economic case.
Outline business case
This is where you show that you are planning for the successful procurement and delivery of your project. The outline business case is needed for more complex and larger projects. It builds on the SOC by developing all aspects of the project plans, but really starts to add emphasis on the commercial, financial and management cases.
The necessary components of an OBC are that you have shown the project is the best value for money way of achieving your goal (economic case), preparing the scheme for procurement (commercial case) and showing your scheme will be ran well (financial and management cases).
Outline business case
This is the phase where you move from planning the project into delivery. All 5 cases should be fully developed. It revisits the OBC and looks at how procurement was carried out, at what has changed since the OBC and puts in detailed plans of delivery, management and evaluation of the project.
Each of these builds upon the previous case, developing the information and analysis, and allowing decision makers to intervene at key points in the process. If it is not clear how much detail your funder or source wants in a business case, it would be good to discuss with them using a framework similar to that presented here.
One important consideration is always to remember who you are trying to persuade through your case: Is it your trustees, the private sector or the government you are trying to attract investment for? If there are existing protocols/guidance you have to follow, then follow these, but remember it is all ultimately about making a strong and clear case for justifying and resourcing your project.