Impact Technical Publications Typical Contents
Are business cases and business plans similar?

No. They are both used to generate financing. That's all they have in common.

A business plan is a method to achieve the goals of a business. A business plan is used to:

  • Develop ideas about how to conduct a business
  • Finance the business
  • Evaluate the performance of the business

Typical sections include:

  • Executive Summary
  • General Business Description
  • Products and Services
  • Marketing Plan
  • Competitive Analysis
  • Operational Plan
  • Management and Organization
  • Capitalization and Structure
  • Financial Plan

We've taken this information from The Ernst & Young Business Plan Guide by Siegel, Ford, and Bornstein (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, 1993). Buy the book.

Typical business-case topics include:
  • Executive Summary
  • Business Opportunity
  • Alternatives
  • Benefits
  • Costs
  • Financial Analysis
  • Assumptions
  • Constraints
  • Market Analysis
  • Organizational Considerations
  • Sensitivity Analysis
  • Project Description
  • Implementation Plan
  • Recommendations

The executive summary highlights the key points in the business case. These include important benefits and the return on investment.

The business opportunity describes the motivation for the project that the business case will propose. The business opportunity includes a definition, a statement of scope, and a discussion of objectives that the project will help the organization achieve.

A business case analyzes the alternatives to a proposed project. For example, an online learning business case might compare the benefits and costs of classroom learning. All business cases involve at least two alternatives: doing or not doing a project.

Benefits and costs are discussed in the next tip.

Financial analysis compares benefits to costs (tip 2) and analyzes the value of a project as an investment (tip 3). The analysis may include a cash flow statement, return on investment, net present value, internal rate of return, and payback period.

Assumptions are events that a business case assumes will happen. For example, a business case might assume approval from a regulatory agency. Critical assumptions must occur for a project to succeed.

Constraints are schedule, resource, budget, staffing, technical, and other limitations that may impact the success of a project. For example, a project might require that all employees have access to a central database.

Market analysis examines changes in the business environment that impact the success of a project such as technological innovations and shifts in customer demographics.

Organizational considerations examine how a project impacts an organization. A project’s success might depend on management support and employee acceptance.

Sensitivity analysis evaluates the probability that a project can be implemented successfully and the risks involved in undertaking the project. Risks also may result from not undertaking the project.

The project description should provide enough information that the people who must approve the business case can decide whether the project is both viable and worth doing. If a project involves complicated technologies, the audience may not believe the financial analysis until it understands how the technologies enable the benefits.

Don't neglect the implementation plan! The rest of a business case is meaningless if the project cannot be implemented successfully.

The recommendations summarize the main points of a business case and offer suggestions on how to proceed with the project.

Go to the next tip: Costs versus benefits.

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The material on this page has been taken from the Business Case Primer.
opyright © 2006, Impact Technical Publications.
All rights reserved.