How to Structure a Business Case

Summary: A business case summarizes the rationale for a proposed project or initiative.

Use the following five pillars to structure your document: strategy, options, commercial viability, affordability, and achievability.


Use the following guidelines as a starting point for developing a business case.

They cover the five key aspects of the business case:

  • Strategic fit
  • Options appraisal
  • Commercial aspects
  • Affordability
  • Achievability

Adjust each section according to your respective project.

Download – Business Case Template

1. Strategic Fit

The Strategic Fit section shows how the proposal aligns with organizational goals and strategy.

Concisely explain how the proposed project or initiative supports the high-level strategic priorities and objectives of the organization. In other words, discuss how it will help move the organization in the desired strategic direction.

You can demonstrate strategic alignment by referencing relevant strategic planning documents or roadmaps. Include links to these sources in the appendices. Highlighting this strategic fit can strengthen the rationale and urgency for funding and implementing the proposed project.

In this opening section of the business case, discuss how the project’s scope aligns with your company’s current business and IT strategies. Outline the business needs and how the project addresses them. Explain the business objectives, including benefits, risks, success factors, and measurements.

Explore areas such as:

  • How the project meets business and IT requirements
  • Flexibility to change scope without impacting budgets or timelines
  • Stakeholder commitment
  • The impact of not undertaking the project

Showing a close strategic fit between the proposal and organizational strategies is key to justifying the project and securing buy-in.

2. Options Appraised

The Options Appraised section analyzes alternative approaches to meet the business objectives.

In this section:

  • Briefly summarize the different options that were considered to address the business needs or issues driving the proposal.
  • Outline the pros and cons of each alternative, providing high-level analyses of feasibility, cost, risk, and other factors.
  • State the recommended course of action along with a rationale for why it is superior to the other options.

The goal is to demonstrate that the proposed solution is the best available choice after thoroughly vetting the alternatives. This shows that an effort was made to identify and evaluate other options before arriving at the recommended approach.

Keep this section concise – avoid excessive detail on rejected options. Precise analyses can be included in the appendices if needed. The emphasis should be on showing due diligence in selecting the best path forward that meets the business goals.

3. Commercial Aspects

The Commercial Aspects section presents the business model, revenues, and costs associated with the proposal. It lays out the financial details and commercial viability of the proposed project.

Use charts and graphs to illustrate the expected revenues the effort will produce along with a breakdown of the major costs like labor, materials, equipment, and facilities. Show the projected return on investment (ROI) along with relevant financial metrics like payback period and net present value. The goal is to demonstrate the monetary feasibility and value creation potential.

For projects requiring external procurement, discuss the proposed sourcing options, rationale for selection, and key commercial terms such as contract length, payment schedule, and performance incentives. Explain how value for money will be achieved through discounts, existing licenses, bulk orders, performance benefits, etc. Show how the proposal can attract funding from other departments who may use the systems.

Keep the core Commercial Aspects section concise, focused on the main financial viability factors. Move detailed statements and projections to the appendices. Demonstrating a sound business model and strong ROI potential will help build a compelling case.

4. Affordability

The Affordability section evaluates whether adequate funding exists to undertake the proposal.

Analyze the total costs and determine if sufficient budget and resources are available for implementation.

Show how the initiative can be funded through existing monetary sources or new revenue streams. If additional funding is required, state the needs and options like loans, investments, or grants.

Identify any potential funding gaps and demonstrate realistic affordability given current fiscal constraints. The goal is to proactively address concerns that the proposed project can be properly resourced.

Link the proposed expenditures to available budgets and existing commitments. Expand on funding details by including a statement of available capital and estimated costs for the full project lifecycle.

Finally, address how to obtain the required budget, reduce scope or timeline if funds are insufficient, and secure outside funding if needed. Demonstrating a viable funding plan is key to justifying the investment.

5. Achievability

The Achievability section assesses the likelihood of successful delivery and adoption of the proposal.

In this section:

  • Evaluate the feasibility of implementation within reasonable time, cost, and resource parameters.
  • Consider potential organizational change management challenges and risks that could impede execution or user adoption. Provide a credible implementation plan and risk mitigation tactics to build confidence.
  • Highlight key assumptions, constraints, and dependencies that could impact delivery timelines. The goal is to realistically determine potential barriers and demonstrate that the proposal can be operationally actualized.

You can illustrate achievability by including project plans, milestones, and role responsibilities. Outline major risks categorized by level with proposed resolutions. Develop contingency plans for system failure, budget issues, resource gaps, or lack of user adoption. 

Address how the project can leverage current capabilities and acquire additional capacity if needed.

  • Discuss managing risks like scale, complexity, and uncertainty.
  • Explain how scope or timelines can be monitored and adjusted.
  • Demonstrating a viable implementation plan is critical to justifying the proposal.

Review and Proofread

After completing the core sections – Strategic Fit, Options Appraisal, Commercial Aspects, Affordability, and Achievability – you will have covered the key components of a formal business case.

Ensure the sections flow logically with natural transitions between topics. Double check any cross-references for accuracy. Have a colleague proficient in proofreading review the document before finalizing. It can be helpful to step away briefly and revisit the draft with fresh eyes to catch any final issues.

The goal is to convey the rationale and viability of the proposal as clearly and concisely as possible for decision-makers. Avoid excessive length or extraneous details – keep the writing tight and focused. With a well-structured, persuasive business case, you can secure approval to move forward.


A well-structured business case clearly states the background and business objectives upfront. It then presents a cost-benefit analysis, analyzing the investment required versus the expected financial return and other impacts. Next, it describes the proposed solution and implementation plan while outlining associated risks. Finally, it provides conclusions and recommendations, summarizing the rationale for why the project should proceed.

Throughout the business case, use clear, simple language to convey the essential information to decision-makers. Precise financial and operational details can be moved to appendices. The goal is to highlight the most critical information while keeping the document concise and accessible. A persuasive, focused business case can drive informed approval of the proposed initiative.

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