Government’s investment life cycle is made up of four phases: think, plan, do and review. A business case turns an idea (think) into a proposal (plan).
The four life cycle phases together create an ongoing dynamic as ideas are tested, refined and adopted or discarded within an agency and across government. Each phase has different implications for agencies and decision makers.
The Plan phase examines how to translate the Think to the Do. A business case is the vehicle to demonstrate that a proposed investment is strategically aligned, represents value for money, and is achievable. A business case turns an idea (think) into a proposal (plan). It enables decision makers to invest with confidence knowing that they have the best information available at a point in time. It is also a reference point during the “Do” phase to support delivery, and used in the “Review” phase to determine whether the benefits in the business case were realised. For more guidance on managing benefits from programmes and projects see below.
BBC should be used in a fit for purpose way
BBC has been developed so it can be used in a fit for purpose way no matter the nature of programme or project and the associated scale, risk and uncertainty. Eddie Obeng was one of the first to provide a useful way to look at managing projects that had differing degrees of uncertainty and ambiguity. In essence there are two axes to be considered. How much do I know about what I am trying to? And How much do I know about how I am trying to do it?
The differences between Programme and Project Business Cases
Programme Business Cases
Major investments that comprise of a set of related projects and activities will typically require a programme business case. Programmes are about managing change with a strategic vision and a roadmap of how to get there. They are able to deal with uncertainty and complex inter-relationships in a dynamic environment by being flexible.
Programmes typically comprise a number of related projects and activities that will be completed in several tranches over an extended period to achieve outcomes that are greater than sum of the parts. Examples of different types of change may be delivered by a programme are:
- Policy change focussed on changes and improvements in society, driven by desired outcomes but likely to be ambiguous and complex to define in terms of what it involves
- Fundamentally changing the way an organisation works – led by a vision of the outcomes and the benefits; typically some uncertainty about the change but clear delivery approaches can be used
- A highly complex, lengthy project that is best broken down into a series of related projects and managed as a programme
Project Business Cases
In contrast to a programme, a project is a set of interrelated tasks to be executed over a fixed period to achieve a set of objectives.
For significant projects, there are two key stages in the evolution of a project business case being the indicative business case and the detailed business case. For smaller and/or lower risk investments typically a single stage business case (which combines the indicative and detailed business cases) is used.