Business Case vs Business Plan: Do You Know the Difference?

“What’s the  difference between “business case” and “business plan?”  

Business case vs Business Plan. Can you explain the difference?

It’s a question that surprisingly few people in business are prepared to answer. It’s a question you may have to answer many times for your colleagues. And, it’s a question that many bring to our business case seminars.

People often use the terms interchangeably or ask for one of them when they mean the other.  Why?

Firstly, they no doubt they confuse the two because both support decision making and planning. Secondly, they confuse the two probably because both project future business results. The conclusion, briefly, is that these tools compliment each other, but they different. They address different questions. And they serve different purposes.

Before you set out to build a business case or build a business plan, or before you ask someone to bring you one or the other, be sure that everyone understands clearly the special focus of each.

Is It About the Action Or Is It About the Business?

The business case and the business plan both look into the future and complement each other. How do they differ? In a nutshell, a business case concerns an action, while the business plan focus is the business.

Firstly, use the business case instead to answer “What happens if…?” questions like these:

Secondly, use the business plan to answer questions about the future of the business such as these:

Business Case vs Business Plan

When deciding which tool you need, or when explaining the difference to someone else, start with the major differences that follow from focusing either on an action or focusing on the business:

A Business Case…. A Business Plan…
Is organized around… A single action or single decision and its alternatives. An organization or the whole enterprise. The plan may cover a single product or product line or the whole organization.
Predicts… Cash flow results and major non-financial impacts that follow from the action. Also predicts financial metrics, such as ROI, IRR, NPV and Payback Period. Business performance
of the business. Predicts the main income statement categories, such as revenues and profits. May also include pro-forma financial statements for future years.
Focuses on… Business objectives for the action. Also refers to major components of proposal action. Business objectives for the business entity. Also focus on business strategy for reaching objectives.
Is based on … A cost model and a benefits rationale for the case and for one or more action scenarios. The business model for the organization
This shows  where and how the business makes money. This model is similar to an income
statement, but with trends and competitor actions..
Measures... Financial metrics such as NPV, IRR, ROI, payback period, and TCO. These refer to future cash flows. Also include important non financial impacts. Business performance in terms of revenues, margins, and profits. Also measures business health in terms of important balance sheet categories
In a non-profit or government organization… The scope of the case may include benefits and to the service population instead of the parent organization. May focus on funding needs, budgetary needs. May also focus on the ability to operate within budget.

Business case vs Business Plan: Take Action! Further Resources on Business Case and Business Plan

The article  Business Plan presents an overview of business plan contents and usage. The article Business Case  presents an introduction to building and business case analysis.

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By Marty Schmidt. Copyright © 2004-2017.
Solution Matrix Limited, Publisher.
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