A business case captures the reasoning for initiating a project or task and helps convince a decision maker to take action. A well-structured, formal document, the business case tells the story of an initiative from beginning (what problem or situation triggered the initiative) to end (what benefit, value or return is expected). Business cases are typically written at the project or initiative level as a way to secure funding and commitment.

The business case is a powerful vehicle for presenting the rationale and approach for change management because it helps address some of the most common objections or challenges to change management.

Using a business case for change management directly addresses these common challenges and objections.

There are four crucial questions you should ask as you build a business case for change management:

  1. What is the project or task? 

A business case proposes a specific project or task. Your “project or task” is to apply a structured change management approach on a particular project or initiative.

  1. What is the reasoning? 

A business case presents the reasoning and rationale for initiating the project or task. For the change management business case, the reasoning is that the ultimate benefit realization, value creation and achievement of results and outcomes for the specific project or initiative are directly tied to managing the people side of change.

  1. Who are we trying to convince? 

The audiences of a business case are the decision makers who can ultimately take action in terms of funding and support. For the change management business case, your likely audiences are senior leaders, project leaders and project managers.

  1. What is the action we need? 

A business case often is used to secure a level of commitment and funding for the project or task.

While the business case is a common tool when relating to projects and initiatives, few change management practitioners have taken the step of translating the rationale and approach for change management into a formal business case.

The business case tells the complete story of the proposed project or task. It should begin with an executive summary, which is a succinct and concise presentation of vital information.

It should also include a situational assessment and a problem statement, which directly connects the results and outcomes of the initiative to the people side of change.

A project description should inform on the scope and objectives for the project or task, which in this case would be applying change management. Once “applying change management” is defined, then the reader becomes confident that you will effectively address the situation presented.

Add a solution description, where you summarize your solution of applying change management and present milestones, work streams and measurements for change management. Use artifacts familiar to project leaders, such as milestones and work streams, to make change management tangible and less fuzzy.

Clearly present the costs and anticipated benefits of applying change management in a cost-benefit analysis. The benefits section should focus on the delivery of project results and outcomes and can include both the benefits we get from applying change management and what can happen if we do not apply change management.

Solidify the structured approach and build credibility by mapping change management milestones to existing project milestones, such as kickoff and go-live, in a clear timelines section.

Present a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) and dependencies for applying change management.

Finally, clearly articulate the “ask” (resources, funding, authorization, support, etc.) in a conclusions and recommendations section. This builds confidence that your solution solves the presented situation.