Published here February 2007.

Introduction | Original Text: Role of the Business Case
OT: Updating the Business Case | OT: Development of the Business Case: 1
OT: Development of the Business Case: 2 | OT: Use of "Stages" in the Project Life Span
OT: Transfer of Product | PART 2

Original Text: Role of the Business Case[1]

According to the project manager's role description:

"The Project Manager is also responsible for the project producing a result capable of achieving the benefits defined in the Business Case."[2]

What if the concept described in the Business Case is not viable, that is, it is incapable of producing the designated benefits? Or, what if the subsequent development and planning conducted in the pre-PRINCE2 project execution phases is badly flawed? We have seen many examples of such projects, especially those politically motivated. Given the role of the Executive and Project Board, all as a part of the project team, and the consequent limitation of the project manager's freedom of action, it seems to us that this imposition on the project manager is an unreasonable one.

Colin Bentley:

The preparation of the Business Case with its benefits is not the responsibility of the Project Manager. The manual clearly states that it is owned by the Executive. The Executive and other Project Board agree it in initiation and review it at every stage end. If the Project Manager doesn't agree with it, he/she can say so, even to recommending project closure. But the owners of the project are the Project Board members, so if they say there are benefits, the Project Manager has to go along. I don't believe that the Project Manager has the authority to cancel a project. That would be against all PRINCE2 philosophy, but the Project Manager can make it difficult by ensuring that the benefits are put into measurable terms. Surely the concept of checking the Business Case at every stage end offers a solution to the flawed development and planning that you mention?

Max Wideman:

All of this is agreed. However, the text does say that: "The Project Manager is also responsible for the project producing a result capable of achieving the benefits defined in the Business Case." I think that this is an unreasonable imposition. What if the Business Case turns out to be flawed? At the end of the day, the project manager can only deliver what the Executive has prescribed and if the product fails in terms of benefits, then whose fault is that?

Colin Bentley:

What's the answer? You can't take something sensible out of the method just because a Project Board may want to push through a flawed Business Case. The method has enough checks and balances in it to ensure that the Project Manager and Project Board are agreed that the Business Case can be achieved, otherwise there are plenty of sub-processes, such as SU4, DP1, IP2, DP2 where the point about a non-viable Business Case can be raised by the Project Manager. If the Project Manager agrees with the Business Case, then he/she is responsible for producing a result that achieves the benefits. If this agreement is not present, then the project should not be started or the Project Manager should make it clear that the Business Case is fictitious. I'm a Project Manager, not a soldier. If I'm told to undertake a task that has no chance of success, I have a right to say so, not just obey orders. To object to what is a straight-forward, good responsibility because sometimes for politically-motivated reasons a Project Board may want to claim unreasonable benefits is the wrong way to approach it. PRINCE2 gives the opportunity for the Project Manager to input into the Business Case and satisfy him/herself that it is achievable.
Introduction  Introduction

2. PRINCE2, 2005 Edition, Office of government Commerce, UK, 2005, p401
Home | Issacons | PM Glossary | Papers & Books | Max's Musings
Guest Articles | Contact Info | Search My Site | Site Map | Top of Page