A business case is a concise document that sets out in simple yet thorough detail the business goals, risks, time lines and timeline for a specific business operation or project. By planning and developing this detailed plan, business executives are better equipped to gauge the needs of their customers and anticipate their own future profits. However, it can be easy to become confused by the many business case types. Which one should you use?
Outline: An outline business case provides a clear starting point for decision-making. A basic outline lays out the business problem and the potential solutions. In this format, all the assumptions and limitations that the company has about the problem are laid out. Then, the strengths and weaknesses of each solution are listed.
Critical Review: Critical reviews are a collection of additional recommendations regarding the scope of the business plans. These are typically made by senior management and are very important to stakeholders. The critical reviews should cover both the strengths and weaknesses of the business plans. They provide information to decision-makers so they can make the best decision possible.
Design: A design business case provides an alternative to the basic outline type. In this document, the strengths and weaknesses of the business case are described. It presents data and other supporting recommendations that help the decision-makers to determine what actions should be taken. This format is very flexible and can be adjusted as needed throughout the life of the plan. However, many companies find it easier to use this format when they have completed their evaluation and have a clearer sense of direction.
Investment Appraisal: An investment appraisal business case provides information relevant to the investment decisions of the management team. It includes the financial case, business case, operating case, revenue assumptions, cash flow assumptions and other necessary information. These types of documents should be used in addition to the other business case types. They should not be used as a standalone document.
Overall, I would say the key to effective document organization and documentation is to know what the goal is, know who you’re talking to (or reading from), have a system in place for collecting and organizing the data, and include some kind of test automation to verify the logic and the information. If you do those three things, you’ll have no trouble writing an APM Body. The next time you’re looking at business case samples… read them all! They’re enlightening and will help you become a better software & systems engineer.