We identified three audiences:
- Your investors. These people are the obvious target of your business case. You are writing it to 'sell' your project to them so you gain their approval and funding. PRINCE2 calls these investors the Project Board; more specifically it is the Project Executive or sponsor. In MSP it is the Programme Director and the Sponsoring Group. These people will make the investment decision.
Questions they will ask are: "How likely is it that I will get a return on my investment?" "How does this support our strategy and critical is it to that strategy?" "How can I compare investment in this initiative against another?" and "What risks are there to the achievement of this business case?"
- The second audience is, perhaps, a surprise: You. The very act of writing a business case will help you clarify your thinking. "Thoughts untangle themselves as they pass through the fingertips," is one of my favourite quotes.
Most project managers I know are reluctant to begin writing a business case, let alone to review it occasionally. However, if you do, you will find you begin to shape your project or programme design based on where the strengths and weaknesses are of the business case that emerges. For example, a case where benefits are predicated on early or time-constrained 'quick wins' is bound to influence you towards a shorter solution, or perhaps a phased delivery.
- Other stakeholders. A stakeholder is usually defined as "any individual or group with an interest in the project/programme or its outcome". Other stakeholders will be influenced by the reason why we need the project, its meaning and purpose, perhaps much more than the appeal of what you will deliver. In your business case will be reasons and benefits that are relevant to each one of these stakeholders.
So you might be writing for quite a wide audience. Although these other stakeholders may never see the Business Case as a document - because it is usually fairly commercially sensitive - it needs to be mined for meaning, as the source of answers for all stakeholders' 'why' questions. Thus our business case becomes a key input into crafting our influencing and engagement with stakeholders.
So next time you have to write a business case, think of the audience, in that order. You may find it motivates you to write a better one.