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Putting together consistent and cohesive business cases that can withstand independent scrutiny and meeting HMT requirements

For those working in the public sector – who are involved in creating business justifications for major spending proposals, the task of putting together consistent and cohesive business cases that can withstand independent scrutiny and meeting HMT requirements, often present them with extremely daunting prospects.

For those, whose task is to scrutinize the said business cases, in order to establish their validity or otherwise, ensuring their decisions are based on sound and robust business justification is equally challenging.

The reason for these challenges, on the part of both the producers and the approvers, of the public sector business justifications, is the fact that, until recently, there wasn’t a clear methodology for creating a robust and well-structured business justification, that could address all aspects of a well-reasoned business justification and, at the same time, be acceptable to HM Treasury and/or independent audit bodies, internal or external to the organization.

Hence, many public sector organizations have hitherto been left to their own devices, to create their own version of a robust and all-embracing business case, when putting forward justification documents for major projects. This has led to a multitude of interpretations of what constitutes a ‘well-reasoned’ approach to producing, and the content of, public sector business cases. This has resulted in a situation whereby it is believed that a great deal of public money is being wasted and many poor decisions are being made, based on deficient and inadequate investment justifications.

The solution to the above mentioned problem has now been devised by HM Treasury, in the form of a Green Book, titled ‘Better Business Cases’.

Better Business Cases, is a ‘best practice’, based methodology for creating well structured and robust business justifications, encompassing the five key dimensions of business investment decision making process.

A guide to the Better Business Cases Green Book has been created by a number of experienced and knowledgeable individuals, with many years of experience in public sector organizations and in the HMT, in both developing and authorizing major business justifications.

The methodology is a best practice approach to addressing the five key facets, or five cases, of investment proposals, which are: 

  • Strategic Case – does the proposal offer  a good strategic fit for the organization, the region and UK?
  • Economic Case – does the proposal offer best value for money?
  • Commercial Case – can the proposal be procured?
  • Financial Case – is the proposal affordable?
  • Management Case – is the organization able to manage the resulting project?

For each of the five cases, the methodology provides clear and concise list of actions, that should be carried out, in order to arrive at a robust, comprehensive and ‘best practice based’ business case that would enable the approving and auditing bodies to gain full understanding of the spending proposal and their justifications, in order to arrive at a ‘well informed’ decision.

The methodology provides public sector organizations with a clear and straightforward procedure to create very concise and well thought-out business justifications that are easy to create, by the producers, and decipher, by scrutinizers.

The learning of the methodology is facilitated by a well-structured course, devised by APMG International. The Better Business Cases certification consists of two learning stages – Foundation and Practitioner, providing those who wish to equip themselves with the understanding and application of the methodology. The Foundation stage covers the basics of the entire subject. The Practitioner stage provides the method to apply the methodology to real life projects and programmes.

Special thanks to guest author Dr. Fatollah Youssefifar, Programme Management Consultant.


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