3c. Business Case in Detail


The Business Case in Detail

This section of The AmbITion Approach helps you to construct a detailed Business Case, acting as notes to the Business Case Outline document.

The Opportunity

If you are developing a business case it is because you are already well-advanced in your thinking around your need to digitally transform. More than likely, you have an opportunity. This could be one or more of the following :-

  • the board or trustees or SMT has made funds available for digital transformation
  • a particular need (e.g. moving to a new building)
  • change of circumstances (e.g. a new chief executive)
  • as part of a regular review of your ongoing “business plan”

Does the digital transformation project need a name? Would it help you to embed it in your organisation if you branded it, to establish it in people’s minds? Do you need to officially lodge it in company documentation as a project?

WWWWWH Elevator Pitch: can you sum up what you are going to do as an elevator pitch? Think of snappy answers to the What? Who (for)? Why? When? Where? How? questions, pull them together in a pitch that’s less than 90 seconds long, and there’s your pitch!
What are you Going to Do?

Through your audit and diagnosis of needs you will have identified the key areas that you want to develop digitally to achieve your digital transformation. These may include one or more pieces of work. For instance, you may have decided that it is a priority to develop a new mobile website. We will use this as a simple example throughout the following sections.

Developing a new mobile website might be what you are going to do but the business case will help you justify your decisions. It might be that through developing a new mobile website you also identify that you need more mobile devices available to customer facing staff, or that staff need training. In other words, you might want to include several different work packages within your business case.

The Benefits

Benefits can be many and varied, and will depend on the sort of organisation you are, and on the nature of your project. Key to any business case is the benefits. After all, you have already put a lot of work in to deciding what it is your organisation needs, and you will need to justify the project to SMT and stakeholders. This is where you need to define what is the value offer of your digital development and how its fits with your company value proposition. If you’ve already done some prototyping and testing, then you know that your customers will accept the offer, and this makes it more feasible. Make sure you share the results of any prototyping or testing.

If we go back to the four categories we identified in the diagnosis section of The AmbITion Approach we can see how there might be a range of benefits, that are both “hard” (e.g. saving money, or increasing revenue) and “soft” (e.g. improving reputation, better connections with users on devices they use). You may additionally be wanting to achieve a range of different benefits (social, and/or environmental – as well as economic).

Let’s have a look at this simple table. For each of the types of project we have identified an example benefit.

Organisational More efficient systems providing staff with more time to work on developing new products, services, and experiences and better customer relationships.
Product/service/experience An improved offer to customers which will enhance the profile of the organisation and lead to more sales.
Customer Development Widening participation so that more people are able to access our services via the digital devices they have – increasing revenue.
Business Development Developing new revenue opportunities through new income streams, leading to increased turnover.

The “benefits” listed here are generic, as are the types of project. Something like a new mobile website may primarily fit into the “customer development” category, however a good business case will identify all the benefits.

Developing a new mobile website

Organisational benefits – the website will have a content management system which will allow staff to be able to regularly update the website with new content which is optimised for mobile devices, rather than having to contact the web developer.

Product/service/experience – there will be opportunities on the new mobile website to purchase and to engage with our social channels.

Customer Development – our current website doesn’t allow people using mobile devices to do much. With the new mobile website, they will be able to sign up for a newsletter to receive regular updates, and make purchases. The new mobile website will make it easy for users to engage with us, and for us to engage with customers.

Business Development – Currently our customers primarily contact us via the venue, which is only open Monday 9-5, but the new mobile website will have online shopping open 24/7, leading to increased sales.

Some SMTs, investors or boards may prefer to see this kind of benefit analysis as a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats listed in a 2 x 2 matrix). Here’s an example template:

Download this document (PDF, 148KB)


Options Summary

Most business cases will include an options summary. This is a short paragraph that explains, not what you are asking to do, but why you chose this option rather than any others.

One of the options should always be “Do nothing!” – this option may appear to be risk free, yet for most projects, particularly digital ones, “do nothing” is the easiest one to reject. “Do nothing” may mean that you fall behind your competitors, or start losing audience, or fail to develop in line with the expectations of your users. For digital developments, the options summary should explain why you have chosen the particular route. For a the mobile website example development, the options might be straightforward :-

  • Do nothing!
  • Redevelop existing website with current developer
  • Appoint a web developer to develop the website in-house
  • Design a brief and specification for a new future-proof mobile website to go out to tender

You are not just comparing the costs of the various options, but the benefits that each option offers.

Budget Requirements

The budget is an important part of any business case. At some point in developing a business case you are going to need to find out how much the work is going to cost. Can you calculate costs and revenues? What’s the potential profit therefore? Run some financial scenarios based on different assumptions.A well-argued business case should include a budget that is as accurate as you can make it. Obviously there are constraints on funding for arts organisations, however, providing a reasonably accurate cost of a project will enable stakeholders and funders to weigh the benefits against the costs. You might want to think of the following :-

  • salaries;
  • consultancy/project management support;
  • specialist skills;
  • marketing & publicity;
  • technology (hardware & software);
  • training;
  • overhead; and
  • contingency.

The aim of The AmbITion Approach is to ensure that you are able to justify both the time and the investment in the digital developments your organisation needs to digitally transform. They have to align with your company’s value proposition and core capabilities.

Resource Requirements

By the time you have identified the budget and are looking at the resource requirements of a project, your business case is quite highly developed. What about ongoing resource requirements? A digital development may require ongoing digital technology resource – hosting, cloud services, security, back-up, data management, support services. Will costs rise as the digital development gets older/more successful (will you accrue more data which will need safely hosting? Need more processing capacity?)? Factor these costs in.Resource requirements may also include staff time and availability to oversee this. By thinking of the resources at this stage you will have shown that you have considered the impact on your organisation, which brings us to “risks.”


Traditional project management techniques talk of “risk” and “issues.” An issue is something that arises during the course of a project, a risk is something that should be included in your business case, that you have already identified. You shouldn’t be scared of identifying risks. The whole point of thinking what the risks on a project might be is so that when issues occur, you have already thought about an action plan, that will not derail the project. When you develop your business case, it is good practice to identify the risks to the project across broad categories:

Budget – this is an ambitious project for which we require the budget asked for. Because this budget comes from 2 different sources, if one or the other is not forthcoming then the project is at risk.

Time – the project needs to be completed in a particular timescale. Any delays in starting the project will impact on the delivery.

People – the need to hire (or keep) key staff is vital to the project.

Technology – the technology needs of the project should be appropriate for delivering the activity. If new technology comes in during the project we will need to reconsider the options.

Develop a standard risk matrix for projects – that can be easily adapted for any new projects. You might want to think about creating a PESTLE analysis of risks external to your organisation. Note what Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal and Environmental factors or changes could happen, and what impact they might have. Also, refer back to your SWOT analysis. Note all the risks emerging from these analyses. Are the impacts of the risks high, medium, or low? Are they short-, mid- or long-term? Are they highly likely, somewhat likely, or unlikely? How can you mitigate the risks?

What’s Next

All being well, your business case will convince your SMT and be agreed by your board. Once you have the go ahead you can begin your implementation. The business case itself should then form the basis of your implementation planning and work programme. Remember, as well, that external funders are likely to return to your business case to ensure that you’ve delivered the project that was agreed. You should review your business case at key stages of the implementation to ensure that not only is the work on track, but that the benefits you identified are still relevant.