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.

Defining problems and benefits with stakeholders

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:

  • a series of conversations
  • a workshop with stakeholders
  • a formal investment logic mapping (ILM) process.

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.

Investment logic mapping

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.

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 NZTA investment advisor first.

The ‘5 whys’ problem definition technique [PDF, 344 KB]

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.

Read the following practice note to find out more about how to develop good problem statements.

Practice note about how problem statements are used in the BCA [PDF, 78 KB] 

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:

  • Benefits should usually be drawn from the NZTA Land Transport Benefits Framework, which provides a consistent set of benefits and measures and which helps to manage benefits over time.
    Land Transport Benefits Framework
  • Because a business case must demonstrate how the benefits from investment will be tracked, you must identify and agree on at least one measure benefit, which should also be taken from the benefits framework.
    Land Transport Benefits Framework measures manual

Find out more about benefits and measures in our benefits management guidance.

Benefits management guidance

What level of detail is needed for problem and benefit definition in each phase?

A key principle of the BCA is that business cases are developed progressively, one step at a time. You may need to refine the problems and benefits at each step, so that each phase has a clear understanding of the issues that need to be addressed, and the outcomes that are sought.  

Within each phase of a business case, the work needed to define problems and benefits will depend on several things, including:

  • the business case phase you are in
  • the pathway being used to develop the business case from start to finish, and
  • the complexity, risk and uncertainty associated with the business case.

The table below illustrates how the focus and level of detail for both problems and benefits can change as the business case progresses from one phase to the next.

Focus of problem and benefit definition in business case development

Phase Problem definition Benefit definition

Point of entry (PoE) phase


Focus on providing a brief outline of the type of issue you believe will need to be addressed.

The PoE does not require an in-depth analysis of the problems – this will be done in the next phase.

Give a brief description of the main type of outcome you believe the investment will achieve (for example: a safer system; improved resilience; greater freight efficiency).

The PoE does not require an in-depth analysis of the benefits – this will be done in the next phase.

Note: sometimes there will be existing work that describes the problems and/or benefits.

Use the PoE phase to think about whether any existing definitions are fit-for-purpose, and the extent of any work that might be needed to address gaps. Avoid simply copying and pasting lengthy descriptions into the record of the PoE – instead, provide a brief summary and a reference to where this information can be found.

Programme business case phase

 Focus on developing:

  • a clear definition and description of the evidence-based problem(s) that the programme will address
  • problem statements that are at a system or network level, including root causes and end consequences. 

Focus on developing:

  • clear definition and description analysis of the benefit(s) that must be realised for the programme to achieve its goals
  • benefit statements that are at a system or network level
  • supporting information to show whether benefits are measurable, meaningful and achievable, and attributable to the programme. 

Indicative business case phase

or early single-stage business case phase

 Focus on developing:

  • clear definition and description of the evidence-based problem(s) that will be addressed by the activity
  • problem statements at a level of detail appropriate to the activity, and demonstrate a detailed understanding of root causes and end consequences.
If the IBC was preceded by a PBC phase, you will probably still need to do some work to define the problems at an activity level. Simply using the problems from the PBC is unlikely to provide the detailed understanding of causes and consequences needed by an IBC. 

Focus on developing:

  • clear definition and description analysis of the benefit(s) that must be realised by the activity
  • benefit statements that are detailed enough to inform the selection of investment objectives for the activity
  • supporting information to show whether benefits are measurable, meaningful and achievable, and attributable to the programme. 

Detailed business case phase

or late single-stage business case phase

Focus on checking the problem definition(s) from the IBC to see whether anything significant has changed. Focus on checking the benefit definition(s) from the IBC to see whether anything significant has changed.

For further information on what’s involved in each phase, select the relevant link from the first column.

Finding and reporting evidence

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:

  • information on the One Network Framework (ONF), a tool that is used to help establish transport network function, performance measures, operating gaps and potential interventions for each road and street type – this is done by classifying transport networks in terms of their movement and place function (understanding the ONF category of a transport link, and connection of the surrounding network, can provide valuable insights into problems and potential benefits)
    One Network Framework
  • the Future Network Planning Process, which will classify current and future state networks using the ONF tool – the future state view will provide information to support business case development
    Future network planning
  • monitoring data that is routinely collected, for example data used for the continuous improvement of an activity management plan (AMP)
  • the Crash Analysis System (CAS) maintained by NZTA
    Crash Analysis System
  • other data sets held by NZTA, including those accessible through the Geographic Information System (GIS)
  • census data.

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.

In writing your strategic case, you will need to describe the evidence including:

  • how it relates to each problem or benefit
  • how reliable the evidence is.

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:

  • Make sure the reference is specific enough for an interested reader to easily find the relevant content without having to read large documents in their entirety.
  • The source must be readily available to readers, especially stakeholders and decision makers. Think about how long online references will be available for, and if there are any limitations on access.

Resources and further information



Information sheets

Need support?

Contact your NZTA investment advisor or email the Business Case Process team at