How to Build a Business Case

How to Build a Business case

Improving operational efficiency and reducing waste are important goals of any large organization. Opportunities for improvement can exist in many forms, and can be recognized by anyone—not just by those at the executive level. In fact, it is often those that are closest to clinical and administrative workflows that can provide the most useful insights into what is and what is not working well within the organization.

But wide-scale change poses risk, as resources are often in finite supply. As such, any clinician, staff member, or manager wishing to affect positive change must learn how to build a business case.

The following is a step-by-step guide that covers the basics of how to build a business case for any project within your behavioral health practice.

First, ask the right business questions

In order to build a business case, some honest introspection must first take place.

  • What is the goal of the project?
  • What sort of challenges are preventing the realization of project goals?
  • What is needed to overcome the challenges?
  • (And most importantly…) What evidence supports the need for the project and the value it will bring to the organization once the project concludes?

Walking through some preliminary questions will help identify the urgency of the project. If, for some reason, the answers don’t come naturally, or if there isn’t a ton of evidence to support the need for change, there probably isn’t much cause to continue the project any further.

Build a business case using the correct structure

Business cases are meant to give the organization visibility into a business problem or opportunity. They should clearly and succinctly convey the benefits of pursuing a solution, a strategy for execution, any pertinent risks, and a comprehensive financial assessment. The general structure of a business case can be broken up into the following four sections: Executive summary, Financial assessment, Project definition, and Project organization.

Executive summary

Executive summaries provide a high-level summary of the project. This section of the business case should actually be the last thing written, though it is the first thing the reader should see. A good executive summary is brief, though substantial enough to cover the most critical details of the project, including a description of the problem, the intended solution, and why the project is important now. Readers will often make up their minds about whether or not to endorse the project based on the quality of the executive summary, so it’s very important to make a good first impression.

Financial assessment

When creating a the financial assessment for the business case, consider all of the project’s financial implications. Compare the cost of the project to the projected value it will bring, accounting for both direct and indirect forms of expenses and revenue. This could mean anything cost-related that doesn’t necessarily appear on an itemized receipt—productivity gain, improvements to staff training, effective data reporting to increase reimbursements, and so on. It is equally important to create an assessment of not moving forward with the project. What kind of inefficiency or lost opportunities exist that would continue to cause strain on the organization’s resources? Account for the total cost of ownership in both scenarios, and let the figures speak for themselves.

In addition, include a sensitivity analysis in the assessment. Understand and communicate the risks associated with the project. Entertain different possible scenarios that might transpire, and come up with measurable outcomes.

Project definition

The project definition is where all of the project information is provided in fleshed-out detail. Though it should be comprehensive, it should not read like a thesis—stay on topic without straying off into non-essential details. A good project definition should include at least the following five talking points:

Business objective – What is the goal? What is needed to overcome the problem? How will the project support the business strategy?

Benefits and limitations – Describe the benefits of the project in terms of financial or otherwise, the purpose being to explain why the project is needed.

Scope, impact, and interdependency – Describe to the full extent where work of the project begins and ends, including any peripheral resources that might be needed (finance, materials, departments, etc.).

Plan outline – Describe the stages into which the project will be divided. The outline plan should cover who does what, what is required, how things are done, and when things will happen.

Purchasing strategy – Describe how the project will be financed, and whether any decisions to buy, lease, or outsource should be made before committing. Also describe the procurement process (when relevant). Having some kind of documented purchasing structure will help reduce risks.

Project organization

The last section of the business case describes governance. Who on the project team is responsible for whom and for what tasks? How will progress be measured, recorded, and reported to organizational leadership? Documenting roles and expectations will go a long way in eliminating confusion, particularly if the project is large and involves a lot of people.

Good ideas don’t come to fruition on their own. Often times, they need a champion, and they will either live or die based on the quality of business case presented. Taking the time to build a business case in a thoughtful, organized manner is crucial in keeping the project on track and providing ongoing value for the organization.

Additional resources to improve your own practice

Now that you have the tools needed to build a business case, it’s time to take a hard look at your own practice and see where there might be opportunity to improve. Here are some resources that might help identify and prioritize your improvement opportunities:

If you’re interested in learning more about Valant’s Behavioral Health EHR, let us know! We would love to answer any questions you have and show you ways that Valant might help improve the operation of your practice.


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