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 Waka Kotahi investment advisor first.

The ‘5 whys’ problem definition technique [PDF, 52 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.

Watch the video below to find out more about how to develop good problem statements.

Information sheet 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 Waka Kotahi 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

Refining the problems and benefits

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
  • current and future state networks can be classified using the ONF tool (via the Future Network Planning Process), and the future state view will provide information to support business case development
  • 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 Waka Kotahi
    Crash Analysis System
  • other data sets held by Waka Kotahi, 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.

Reporting evidence

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:

  • 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 Waka Kotahi investment advisor or email the Business Case Process team at