Four Steps for Developing a Business Case and Putting it to Work

In previous posts, we’ve provided best practices for your capitalizing new projects and becoming a champion for change in your organization. Today, we’ll address the process of building your business case—where to start and how to develop it. 

The basic steps are:

  1. Build your team, including sponsor and stakeholders
  2. Develop and evaluate your financial analysis
  3. Communicate and socialize the business case vision across the organization
  4. Implement by setting up the governance framework and working team meetings that will support the project through each stage

1. Build Your Team

Start by clearly identifying the sponsor. The sponsor (sometimes called project sponsor or senior responsible owner) is responsible to the business for the project’s success. Among other things, the sponsor owns the business case, helps keep the project aligned with the organization’s business strategy, governs project risks, and recommends opportunities to optimize cost/benefits. 

Consider the sponsor’s motivations, subject matter expertise, and influence within the organization and how those characteristics might impact the persuasive power of your business case. For example, your stakeholder landscape might look something like this:



Subject Matter Expertise



Preventing downtime; delivering tools to their workforce; managing labor costs

Labor, tools, processes, and procedures

Workforce management, tool adoption, field safety, and standard operating procedures


Move from IT efficiency to value creation; overcoming barriers to digital adoption

Digital transformation, systems integration, and IT financing

Technology adoption and process improvement


Preventing safety failures; reducing costs per hour, mile, or structure flown

Aerospace, aircraft hardware, remote sensing

Aerospace safety and standard operating procedures


When selecting a stakeholder, think about your greatest obstacle to delivering a winning case. If it’s integrating new technology with legacy systems, an IT sponsor might be a powerful champion. If you experience friction gaining adoption of new tools within your organization, an operations leader could strengthen a process mandate that incorporates aerial intelligence.

Once you’ve engaged a sponsor, you’ll need to fill out your team with other stakeholders. It is critical to include stakeholders outside your department or operations group for the detail, perspective, and buy-in they can provide. This means engaging stakeholders from departments like accounting, purchasing, IT, maintenance, aviation, safety, and legal.

It’s never too early to assess how your plan supports overall business strategy. While internal stakeholders can help, we recommend you also get advice from a consulting expert, such as an analyst or service provider that has experience with enterprise software applications in your industry. They won't only guide you in what works and what doesn’t, but also help you with cost and benefit inputs.

2. Develop and Evaluate

You begin by conducting a comprehensive financial analysis. Create your spreadsheet model of the tangible benefits of the proposed product or service. This involves activities like validating valuations of costs and benefits, determining hurdle rates for investment, calculating the benefits realization timeline, and assessing and quantifying risks. As you progress, you will need to find the best ramp rate for the implementation, one that realistically allows for company-wide absorption of the changes. 

While the project sponsor is responsible for writing and preparing the business case, key stakeholders should contribute to its development. This includes your software and data service provider of choice. Likewise, subject matter experts from other functions―finance, HR, IT, service delivery, and so on―can provide specialist information. What’s more, those writing the business case should have a thorough understanding of the project’s aims and be able to merge the varied and potentially complex plans into one document or presentation. 

It should only contain enough information to help decision making; the document should be brief and convey only the essentials. Make it interesting, clear, and concise, eliminate conjecture and minimize jargon, and describe your vision of the future. Be sure you demonstrate the project value and business benefits and keep the number of authors to a minimum to ensure consistent style and readability. 


3. Communicate

Socializing the business case vision across the organization—up, down, left, and right—is also a must. Start with your manager, peer, and subordinate groups first, then move up the executive ranks. When communicating up, it's typically about the monetary value and key organizational strategies. When communicating down, it's about giving people the tools they need to be able to focus on the “higher value” work. 

When communicating with peers, it’s about facilitating decision making and gaining consensus on the scope and timing of the project. Here, you’ll want to evaluate again the benefits and risks of the “build, buy, or both” options. This means actively seeking stakeholder thoughts and opinions, especially prior to making decisions that impact their work. 

You’ll experience fewer surprises along with greater stakeholder engagement and productivity if you consistently encourage others to think and provide their input to help you and your team make the best decisions possible. 

Best practice is to ensure subsequent groups understand how others’ input has changed the case. Make it a high priority to provide timely updates and celebrate milestones--especially when you receive approval for the financial investment.

Consider using rich media, such as video, to demonstrate the solution to stakeholders.


4. Implement

In this phase, you first set up the governance framework and working team meetings that will support the project through each stage, taking into account the business case KPIs you established to evaluate program progress and performance. 

Usually, the project manager communicates performance against KPIs by preparing and regularly updating a concise progress report. The completed business case provides structure for the project throughout its lifecycle and should be referenced routinely. 

Accordingly, the project sponsor and project board should review and update the business case at key stages to confirm it remains viable and the reasons for support are still valid. Ideally, these reviews should take place before starting a new stage to avoid unnecessary investment in time and money.

Screenshot 2020-09-15 080623

Conclusion and Next Steps 

We’ve defined what you need in an effective business case, recommended some best practices, and provided a template. We’ve also addressed how you go about creating a business case and initiating the project’s implementation. It makes sense, if you haven’t done so already, to involve your data acquisition and analysis partner and seek their input in building the business case. 

Chances are good that your provider has witnessed and been involved in many different business cases and many different companies, and can provide seasoned perspectives, advice, and guidance. Ask them how they can help overcome the challenges associated with implementing innovative solutions in major enterprises. It’s best if that solution includes data collection, processing, and reporting in a streamlined platform. It’s also best if the resulting reports can be referenced directly to resolve issues, or can be incorporated into asset management or enterprise resource systems to automatically prescribe action.

Looking for a specific example? Download our white paperMaking a Successful Business Case for Drone Technology to learn how to develop a drone business case from start to finish.

Want support in building your own business case? Get in touch with an expert on our team here.