Strategic cases need to include a clear and concise description of the problems that the investment will address, and the benefits that can be expected.
Collaborating with stakeholders to agree on the problem (or opportunity) and the benefits of addressing it is at the heart of the strategic case. When defining problems and benefits, it’s important to use the key Business Case Approach (BCA) principle of gathering information through informed discussion. In practice this means that, depending on the complexity of the problem, you could use:
We strongly recommend using the ILM process, especially for more complex issues. It involves a series of structured workshops with stakeholders, and the creation of investment logic maps and benefits maps.
Even if you’re not using a formal ILM process, its format and techniques provide an effective way of defining problems and benefits, and creating buy-in and agreement.
Workshop facilitators play a key role throughout business case development. It is essential to engage a facilitator who is experienced in the BCA, brief them on the particular issue, and ensure they are familiar with Waka Kotahi ILM requirements. Facilitators are expected to be ‘content-free’, that is, have no stake in the outcome of the discussions, and to:
They may be trained or accredited ILM facilitators, as appropriate.
The core BCA requirement is that every business case must clearly identify the problems that the investment is required to address, and the benefits it needs to achieve, in order to be considered a success.
While use of ILM is highly recommended, it is not mandatory. For small, low-complexity business cases, there are other problem definition tools that may be more appropriate. An example is the ‘5 whys’ technique, which can be well-suited to very simple investments where the problems are relatively well-understood from the outset. If you are considering using a technique other than ILM in your business case, you should discuss this with your Waka Kotahi investment advisor first.
Whatever method you use, it is essential to understand the underlying, or root, causes and consequences of problems, and describe them clearly and concisely using plain language.
Acknowledge any uncertainty about root causes in the strategic case, and identify steps to address the gaps. Again, the ILM process provides a straightforward and effective means for achieving this.
Remember that discussions or facilitated workshops with stakeholders are only a starting point. It may become apparent as you develop the strategic case, and consider evidence outside of stakeholder engagement, that the nature of the problems or the benefits of investment are not reflected well enough. If this happens, it’s appropriate to develop some alternative wording, with stakeholder agreement, that better reflects either the sentiment of the agreed conversations and/or the evidence.
Some key points to consider:
Find out more about benefits and measures in our benefits management guidance.
Think about adding extra time at the conclusion of any benefits workshop to work with a sub-group of key stakeholders, including the investor(s), to map out or ‘storyboard’ the strategic case, key points and messages. These are stakeholders who are likely to contribute to the strategic case directly. You can also use this as an opportunity to understand where evidence is most likely to exist for each problem or benefit and identify upfront any gaps or potential conflicts in the case.
Initial work in creating the strategic case will involve pulling together and considering existing and known information.
Sources of existing evidence can vary widely depending on the context of the investment, but readily available ones include:
Once you have worked with stakeholders to define the problems and benefits, it’s important to check these against the evidence base. At this stage, you should identify any gaps in the evidence, and decide how they will be addressed. This may involve gathering information from new sources, or even commissioning evidence-gathering or analysis aimed at testing the problem and benefit statements. Some may rely on informed assumptions, which are then identified in the uncertainty log and then tested through scenario or sensitivity testing.
The problems and benefits in the strategic case must be supported by evidence. In writing your strategic case, you will need to describe the evidence including:
To keep the strategic case focused, think about how you can present evidence meaningfully rather than an overload of information. Consider using graphs, infographics, photographs, quotes from stakeholders etc to collate the evidence. However, you should reference supporting documents and source data, either in appendices or by linking to external data sets. When doing this, there are a few things to keep in mind:
Contact your Waka Kotahi investment advisor or email the Business Case Process team at firstname.lastname@example.org