Critical Insights (4) We don't do business cases to justify the project - we do projects to deliver business cases!

We Don't Do Business Cases To Justify The Project - We Do Projects To Deliver Business Cases!

Often the only connection between a business case and the project plan is the same project name on the cover page!

Business cases are used to ‘justify the project’ to get approval and funding. Then their work is done and they’re put on the shelf. They may be taken off the shelf again if a ‘post-implementation review’ goes out to search for any benefits, but that’s about all.

Many projects even set up a small team to ‘generate the business case’ so that this job doesn’t get in the way of the project and its delivery.


Talk About Upside Down Thinking.

The business case should not be seen as peripheral to the project rather it should be seen as its focal point — it defines the value that is what the project should be delivered.

The problem is - most business cases don’t define ‘what you’re trying to deliver’. Instead, they define the costs with just enough (financial) benefits to justify the investment.

As a result, the business case is largely irrelevant to the project.


  1. we’ve got to change the business case and make it value-focused; centered around the Value Equation.
  2. Then we’ve got to make the project plan value-focused; focused on delivering the value equation.
  3. Then we’ve got to track and measure the value’s realization, but that’s another story for another post. 

We’ve got to go back to basics and reinvent the business case, to restore it to its original purpose, which is to define in detail the rationale, in terms of the business outcomes, benefits and value to be delivered for investing in the project and what are all of the change activities required to achieve those.


  1. We can plan our project to deliver this value.
  2. We can easily compute how much it costs to deliver each business outcome and its associated benefits and thereby optimize the investment — eliminating low value/high-cost outcomes. We can objectively apply the 90-60 rule (obtaining 90% of the value for 60% of the cost).
  3. We can then track the realization of each agreed outcome, benefit, and value through the project plan and from the business case.

The result - we can generate more net value for less cost. Sounds sensible, doesn’t it?

Focusing on value wins. It’s that simple.

You can read more about the TOP Value Equation here

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© Jed Simms, Australia 2009.

Topics: Strategy Execution, Business Case, Fifteen Critical Insights


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Revision History

First published: Simms, J. (Feb 2009) as "Critical Insights (4) - Why We Do Business Cases"

Updated: Chapman, A. (March 2020), Revisions and Corrections