Do you have a great idea that will save your company time and money? Then you'll need to prepare a project business case to obtain funds and implement it.
 
Also known as a capital expenditure application, capital request or a request for capital, a project business case is essential for getting your idea across to the ‘powers that be’. It will ensure you are putting forward the best case to get the capital you need.
 
If you are struggling with what to include in your project business case and how to present it, don’t worry. Outlined below are six key elements you should include to ensure it doesn’t fall at the first hurdle. 
 
Follow these steps and you will significantly improve the chances of getting your request for capital approved by senior management.

Why Implement Capital Projects?

The best thing about capital funding is you can preserve your operational budget, whilst getting the benefits the extra capital delivers.
 
There are a number of reasons why you would implement capital projects. These are outlined below. Predominantly they are benefits which focus on two important areas, safety and production.
  • Obtain safety and production benefits for little or no cost impact to your operational budget.
  • Annual production targets are easier to meet.
  • Increased safety performance. Nothing impacts production more than a serious safety incident on your site.
  • Your site has been allocated $20M in capital funding. If you don’t spend it, you’ll lose it!

Writing A Project Business Case

Before you make a start on your project business case, check if your company has a standard template for requesting capital. Most companies do.
 
Your business case should outline the costs and the benefits of the project clearly and succinctly, containing sufficient detail to satisfy management. 
 
The idea is to make it as easy as possible for your manager to get the buy-in of those higher up the company hierarchy – this will increase your chances of success.
 
Although the content and length of a business case proposal will vary according to the scope and complexity of your project, there are usually some common elements that you should consider including:
  • Clearly state your value proposition upfront
  • Briefly describe the way you have developed your business case
  • Describe any technical changes and relevant planning issues
  • Outline the key costs and benefits of the capital project
  • Mention key project risks and how you will mitigate them
  • Involve stakeholders who are integral to the project and document their approval
Each of these elements are described in more detail below.

1. Your Value Proposition

Your proposal should commence with a concise summary of your project. This might include information on:
  • What your project aims to do
  • Key financial and other benefits, including payback period or NPV
  • The funding and resources you are asking for
  • Links between your project and existing business priorities.
In some cases it may be appropriate to mention potential project risks and how they will be managed. For example, if you know the person considering your proposal has a particular concern.

2. Your Business Case Process

Briefly describe the process you have followed in developing the proposal and mention the name and title of anyone who had input. For example, it might have been developed with the assistance of external expertise or key internal stakeholders, such as the operations or finance manager. 
 
For highly technical projects, you could include an appendix describing the experience of key internal or external experts. If the project has been reviewed progressively at management level then it will be useful to mention this as well.
 
This information will show that the project has internal support and give the decision-maker more confidence in the proposal.

3. Technical Changes and Planning Issues

You will need to explain the technical changes that are required for implementation of the project, as well as how your project will be monitored and reported – both internally and externally.
 
Include a brief timetable, as well as a description of who will manage the project. 
 
Planning issues might include timing implementation of the project to align with major events such as formal shutdowns or to correspond with leasing changes in a commercial building.

4. Key Costs and Benefits

Briefly describe the costs and benefits of your project, including key financial measures, making sure you clearly state any assumptions you have made. You can do this in a table format and include graphs and figures if these enhance your message.
 
The level of detail required will vary, but make sure you have either included all relevant data in the appendices, or provide a link to where they may be found on your company intranet.
 
Ensure the level of accuracy of your data is appropriate to the type of investment required. In some cases you may want to use externally verified data to add weight and credibility to the proposal.
 
Remember to always be mindful of key benefits that contribute to business improvement such as performance, process control, safety, risk management, compliance, corporate reputation, social responsibility and cost savings.

5. Key Risks and How You Will Mitigate Them

As you compiled the data and supporting information for your project business case you will have identified any potential concerns of decision-makers.
 
In your business case it is important to clearly describe these and how they will be managed. Again, you could do this in a table format.
 
In some cases it may be sufficient to clearly state that you have developed your proposal in accordance with internal risk management and other procedures.

6. Engaging Your Stakeholders

No matter how great your idea is, if your key users are not on board the project will fail. It is therefore very important to include in your proposal who the key users are and why they support the project. If you can't do this, don't put the project forward.

Tips For Writing Your Project Business Case

Use a concise, clear format. Be factual and to the point, clearly stating any assumptions you have made. Always write with a sense of urgency.
 
Use statistics and verified data to add weight and credibility to the proposal, while ensuring all information is relevant.
 
Use graphs and diagrams but ensure they are clear and easy to interpret.
 
Include other types of information if it will support your case. For example, case studies or scenarios; benchmarking information comparing sites or competitors; interests of external stakeholders such as the community, customers and investors.

Are You Currently in the Process of Requesting Capital?

Get in touch with us today to discuss the viability of your capital project. Engenium are experts at assisting our clients with operational improvements as well as sustaining and enhancement projects. We will help you to increase production and safety, whilst reducing operating costs and product wastage. 
 

Contributor:

Paul Young

Project Manager, Engenium Pty Ltd