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A key principle of the Business Case Approach (BCA) is fit-for-purpose effort. This is fundamental when selecting the pathway for developing your business case, that is, the level of effort depends on its complexity, risk, uncertainty and cost.

In practical terms, that means that proposals with low to medium complexity, risk, uncertainty and cost will likely progress straight from the activity management plan (AMP) or a programme business case (PBC) to a single-stage business case (SSBC), or even implementation.

The SSBC is a phase that has a high degree of flexibility so it can be structured to suit the problem owner’s specific situation. Careful contemplation of ‘right-sizing the effort’ has real advantages, for example:

  • bringing forward elements that would normally reside in the pre-implementation phase in situations of high complexity, risk, and/or uncertainty
  • an SSBC lite (a pared-down version of the SSBC). Business case developers can use a modified business case template to present the key components of the proposal without going into the same level of detail required in a full SSBC.

The following criteria must be met in order to use the SSBC lite:

  • the activity has been assessed as low complexity, low risk and low uncertainty, from an endorsed point of entry (PoE), and
  • the activity has a small number of potential options, requiring only an appraisal summary table (AST) for options analysis
  • the activity has an estimated whole-of-life cost less than $15 million, or
  • for public transport services, there is an undiscounted funding gap in the first three years of less than $15 million.

Watch the video below to see how activities identified in a previous phase of the BCA can be advanced.

The following diagram shows some potential paths for business case development.

SSBCs, and indicative business cases (IBCs) and detailed business cases (DBCs) are sometimes called activity-level businesses cases, because they focus on the details of an activity.

What are the requirements of an activity-level business case?

Activities indicated in a previous phase of business case development will need to be developed further to demonstrate that:

  • the strategic assessment and context have been reviewed and confirmed (and modified as appropriate)
  • the appropriate range of options has been considered and evaluated to identify a preferred option that represents a value for money approach to delivering the intervention
  • a detailed analysis of the costs, risks and benefits of the preferred option has been carried out, including detailed reporting of the financial, commercial and management aspects of the activity
  • measures for monitoring the performance of the investment when it is implemented have been finalised.

When is a single-stage business case appropriate?

At the end of the strategic case or PBC phase, you need to think through the levels of effort and detail involved in the investment proposal in terms of cost, risk and complexity to determine whether:

  • you need to develop a separate IBC, followed by a separate DBC, or
  • you continue developing the business case in a single stage.

An SSBC may also be appropriate for an individual activity that has been identified:

  • as part of a preferred programme of activities in a PBC, or
  • in an activity management plan (AMP), for example a road maintenance programme.

Note that it is anticipated that the majority of business cases will be able to be developed through to implementation in a single stage. However, in some instances it is expected a business case will need to be progressed as separate IBC and DBC phases, for example because:

  • it involves high risk and/or complexity, for example because of uncertainty, political and/or public interest or technical issues it involves high cost, or a likelihood of a very wide range of options that includes high cost ones
  • it triggers your organisation’s significance policy
  • other circumstances where seeking a formal decision from Waka Kotahi at the end of option selection will help to manage investment risk.

You can use the BCA Q&A tool to guide your critical thinking about the phase of the BCA you should progress to next.

Go to the BCA Q&A tool

The table below summarises the requirements for each phase.

Low–medium risk and/or complexity proposals

High risk and/or high complexity proposals

Summary of requirements

Single-stage business case

Indicative business case

The purpose of the indicative business case (IBC) is to provide decision makers with early indication of the preferred option (activity level) by:

  • confirming fit with strategic context
  • developing a longlist of options
  • determining potential costs, risks and dis-benefits of options
  • identifying a shortlist, including a preferred option
  • demonstrating the effectiveness of the activity in achieving programme objectives
  • identifying requirements for further development of the business case
  • developing a funding application to proceed to detailed business case (DBC), unless following the single-stage business case (SSBC) path.

Investment decision gate

Required for high risk and/or high complexity activities.

Optional for SSBC, for example, if the problem owner wishes to use the Investment Assessment Framework (IAF) to check alignment with the Government Policy Statement on Land Transport (GPS) and receive an investment signal from Waka Kotahi.

Detailed business case

The purpose of the DBC is to confirm the preferred option through more detailed analysis of the costs, risks and benefits by:

  • revisiting the IBC case and confirming strategic need/outcomes sought
  • confirming and developing the preferred option
  • completing whole of life analysis of costs, benefits, risks and uncertainties
  • confirming benefit–cost appraisal
  • preparing delivery, consenting, procurement and property strategies
  • establishing risk allocation
  • confirming affordability/funding availability
  • developing a funding application to proceed to implementation (or pre-implementation if required).

What are the investment decisions for low to medium risk and complexity proposals?

Waka Kotahi expects that, where risk levels show it is appropriate, most activities seeking National Land Transport Programme (NLTP) investment will follow the single-stage business case path, which applies the principle of fit-for-purpose effort to help keep development times and costs to a minimum. In these cases, a single NLTP funding decision will be made by Waka Kotahi to enable the activity level business case to be developed up to (but excluding) the implementation phase.

Although this is referred to as a single-stage business case, it effectively includes the same broad requirements that would typically be carried out as part of an IBC and a DBC (summarised above). However, in an SSBC, there is no formal NLTP funding decision requirement following identification of a preferred option.

Although funding for an SSBC will include work up to (but excluding) the implementation phase, a hold point will normally be required at the end of shortlisting. This is to enable the problem owner to check with Waka Kotahi, before further costs are incurred in developing detailed analysis of the preferred option(s), that:

  • the proposed investment is still aligned with GPS priorities, using the IAF
  • risks are adequately understood and measures are in place to manage them effectively
  • decision makers are informed following option selection and a ‘no surprises’ approach is being followed.

In this sense, the hold point is being used as a tool to manage investment risk.

The hold point will not require an application via the Transport Investment Online (TIO) system, although Waka Kotahi may request specific information to accompany the proposal. Essentially, this information will need to address the requirements shown in the indicative business case section of the table above, and should be guided by the 16 business case assessment questions.

As a guide, use the ‘What does a good indicative business case include?’ document to ensure you have included the information required at the hold point.

Read ‘What does a good indicative business case include?’ [DOCX, 65 KB]

What are the investment decisions for high risk and complexity proposals?

In some cases, for example where high levels of risk or complexity are associated with the activity, either the problem owner or Waka Kotahi may require a further investment decision before releasing funding to develop the DBC. This will normally be once options have been shortlisted and a preferred option (including a do-minimum option) has been identified at the end of the IBC.

In such cases, Waka Kotahi will have made an initial funding decision to cover the work needed to develop the IBC, but the decision regarding further release of funding to complete the DBC phase will be subject to the problem owner demonstrating that:

  • an appropriate range of options has been considered
  • there is at least one preferred option that represents value for money, is aligned with the strategic context, and has the potential to meet investment objectives as assessed through the IAF
  • the risks and uncertainties associated with the preferred option are acceptable (to the extent they are defined at this stage) and can be managed effectively.

How should a single-stage business case be presented?

Think about how you will present your business case to investors, demonstrating that you have built the case for investment progressively. You need to tell the investment story in a clear, logical and compelling way so that investors understand the cause and consequence of the problem or opportunity, the benefits of addressing it, how alternatives and options have been evaluated and why the preferred option has been selected.

Find out more about the SSBC [DOCX, 1.2 MB]

Tools and templates


Note that this is for guidance only, and should be adapted as necessary.


Learning modules

Online learning modules have been developed by Waka Kotahi, and are available to our partner organisations. To request access to the modules, email with your name, title, organisation and manager’s name.  

The ‘Activity-level business cases’ course covers single-stage, indicative and detailed business cases.

Go to the activity-level business cases learning module(external link)

To open the course, click the link above and then click ‘enrol’. You will be prompted to enter your log in.  Once you have logged in, you should be taken directly to the course. You can also find it by going to the catalogue and searching for ‘activity-level business cases’.

Information sheets

This information sheet is designed to accompany the learning module.

Other relevant information sheets:

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