3 Keys of a Business Case

Photo by rochelle, et. al.

If you have to compete for resources or budget or sell an idea, one of the keys is a business case.  One way to think of a business case is “how big is the pie” and “what’s your slice.”  You use the business case either to argue for your project or in argument against other projects competing for the same resources and budget.

The Three Keys of a Business Case
Because the business case is such a critical piece of the project puzzle, I asked one of my mentors for their take on an effective business case.   Here’s the keys:

  • Key 1. Problem has to be apparent .  It’s apprehensible.  As a stakeholder, I can attach to it.   It’s real.  I relate to the examples.  I can see it, smell it, and can relate to instances of it.
  • Key 2. Compelling benefit.  It has to be meaningful to the stakeholders (spell out what’s in it for them.)
  • Key 3. Clear path to return.  How do I realize the path?  When do I start getting paid? Cut my staff by 1/2 when?  What actions happen that are specific to the stakeholders ?

The Fourth Key
My mentor was on a roll and added an additional key: 

  • Key 4.  Risk / reward “options.”  The key is to be able to chunk down the value or the risk into an acceptable size (right-size the risk.)  For example “I like your idea, but it’s too big a chunk to bite off.”

My Related Posts


  1. “What problem are we trying to solve here?”
    “What is the pain?”
    “What issue we have on the table?”
    These are simple questions help me identify whether I am involved with something that matters or just another waste of time and energy (and money). Why I am telling you this? Since “problem has to be apparent” seriously resonated with me. As a consultant it is so important to make sure that the problem is apparent otherwise when you bill the customer the later is confused why he was paying you in first place – that is sure sign he won’t call you again.

  2. Provide something that is meaningful to the stakeholders will give you a lot of leverage. Knowing that there is a significant and worthwhile reward will attach them to your idea. The other steps are often much easier to achieve after that.

  3. It’s all a balancing act. We have to decide what’s most important to us then go for it like a crazy banshee. That might sound a little crazy, but we have to believe that nothing will stop us.

    I really like the 4th key. The more we risk the higher the reward, but we have to be careful not too risk to much and have it blow up in our face.

  4. Hi J.D.

    I am a ‘Risk and reward’ kind of girl. I don’t take all risk, I do like to take a look of the risk vs reward in everything I do. Sometime I take on the risk, sometime I don’t. The point is I am very open to Risk and reward.
    Thank you,
    Giovanna Garcia
    Imperfect Action is better than No Action

  5. @ Alik

    I think the right questions are always the key. You can’t get to the right answers, if you don’t start with the right questions.

    @ Gennaro

    I agree. I’ve found that if you sell the vision, the rest falls into place. The trick is to know what’s valued.

    @ Karl

    Good point on the belief. It’s exactly that drive that makes things happen.

    @ Giovanna

    That sounds like a nice healthy perspective. Just even asking the questions helps.

  6. Luckily, with making music – the pie is as big as you want to bake it, and people are always hungry for tasty new song recipes! And a free slice (MP3) given out once in a while only serves to whet the appetite!

    Gee, did I just say all that? Once in a while I actually make sense!

  7. @ Jannie

    That makes a ton of sense and it’s a great outlook. I really like the way you put it “the pie is as big as you want to make it.” Dream big.

  8. […] D. Meier writes about Three Keys of a Business Case (actually, he lists four). I am left contemplating the applicability of some of these to missions. […]

Comments are closed.