Online Business Case Creator Workbook
Table of Contents
Introduction to the Online Business Case Creator (OBCC)
The OBCC is an online, interactive tool designed to help public health practitioners make a compelling case for why to proceed (or not proceed) with a particular project. The OBCC applies a three-step model to help practitioners develop their business case. Users first Assess the strengths and limitations of a project to identify potential risks and benefits; they then Analyze how the risks can be minimized and the benefits maximized; finally users summarize their 'case' to help them Advise various stakeholders and audiences.
The OBCC was designed in a flexible way so that it could be used for business cases for many different kinds of projects. A 'project' refers to any activity or bundle of activities designed to achieve a particular goal. Thus it may be used for a health program, intervention or strategy. It might also be used to develop a business case for more internal or operational activities such as fundraising efforts or procedural changes.
The OBCC is designed to work with the original Online Health Program Planner (OHPP) worksheets and the newly added collection of Project Management Tools that allow the user to document the project plan for which they want to develop a business case.
Online Business Case Creator (OBCC) steps
Step One: Assess. Assess your project strengths and limitations across six elements: Project design, Evidence base, Implementation roles, Resources and budget, Work plan and Stakeholder roles and expectations. Your limitations will trigger potential risks (negative impacts), your strengths will trigger potential benefits (positive impacts).
Step Two: Analyze. Analyze various impact areas in terms of risks and benefits. For any given impact area such as health of the population, quality of programs, access to services, or relationship with colleagues, etc. your results may be positive or negative.
A project limitation will trigger a potential risk of a negative impact in one of those areas. A project strength will trigger a potential benefit, or the possibility of having a positive impact.
More Information About Risk and Benefits That May be Triggered in Various Impact Areas
Is the risk significant? Is it likely? Risks that are significant and likely should be priorities for action. Efforts should be made to develop minimization strategies for these risks. Minimization strategies may reduce the significance and/or likelihood of the risks.
Priority Risk Action Areas: Before Minimization Strategies
Benefits that are significant, but not likely should be priorities for action. Maximization strategies may increase the likelihood and/or significance of the benefits.
Priority Benefit Action Areas: Before Maximization Strategies
- Step Three: Advise. Examine the overall patterns of strengths, limitations, risks and benefits in the context of your minimization and maximization strategies. Rate each of the six project elements. Is the element (i.e., budget, work plan, evidence base, etc.) strong or weak overall? Rate each impact area. Will my overall impact be positive, or negative? These ratings, when considered together, will help you draw conclusions about your overall impact. Use any or all of the outputs created by the OBCC, in combination with the original Online Health Program Planner (OHPP) and the new Project Management Tools, to create a business case in a format that meets your needs.
Documenting the six elements of your project before using the Online Business Case Creator (OBCC)
To properly assess your project and begin developing a business case, it is important to give significant consideration to six project elements. These include:
Project design. Your project design includes your goals, outcome objectives, strategies, activities, process objectives, indicators and evaluation plan. The Online Health Program Planner (OHPP), Steps Three through Six, is designed to help you develop and document your project design. Use your own tools, or use the OHPP to shape and document your project design prior to using the OBCC.
Evidence base. Your evidence base refers to the quantity and quality of data you have gathered that supports your project design. Step Two in the original OHPP is designed to help you identify key situational assessment questions, develop your data collection strategy and organize your results into meaningful patterns. Use your own tools, or use the OHPP to document the results of your situational assessment.
Implementation roles. Every implementation plan includes people involved at different levels. A RASCI analysis can help you identify the people who are or should be involved. RASCI is an acronym that organizes people by their roles including: Those Responsible, Accountable, Supportive, Consulted and Involved. Use your own tools or use the Implementation roles worksheet on the green Project Management Tools Menu.
Budget. There are many different kinds of budgeting tools and processes, varying in level of sophistication. Use your own tools, or to develop a basic budget, use the Resources and budget worksheet on the green Project Management Tools Menu.
Work plan. There are many different kinds of work planning tools and processes, varying in level of sophistication. To develop a basic work plan, use your own tools or use the Work plan worksheet on the green Project Management Tools Menu.
- Stakeholder roles and expectations. Your project plan should include strategies to involve your stakeholders in meaningful and realistic ways. Stakeholders, that is, those interested in your project, may be classified as Core (on the planning team); Involved (frequently consulted or part of the planning process); Supportive (provides some form of support); or Peripheral (needs to be kept informed). Use your own tools or use the Stakeholder roles and expectations worksheet on the green Project Management Tools Menu.
*Quick Track: At a minimum, we recommend that you make some notes about the scope of your project in terms of the six elements, before using the OBCC. This can be done using the Context, description, scope and assumptions worksheet on the green Project Management Tools Menu.
Choices For Managing The Six Elements of Your Project
How the six elements relate to the three steps: the business case framework
The Online Business Case Creator (OBCC) was designed so that all six elements are dealt with across all three steps. They form a matrix, as shown below. Depending on perspective and needs, different users may use the OBCC in different ways. Each 'step' worksheet is organized into bundles of questions relating to the six elements so that users can work only with the bundles that are of interest to them at a given time. Some people prefer to work through all six elements while they are working on a given step (that is, they work horizontally across the matrix as shown by the blue arrow). Some people prefer to work on one element at a time, progressing through the steps for only that element (they work vertically, down the matrix as shown by the yellow arrow). Either path (or for that matter, any combination or pattern) is valid.
The Six Elements
The online part of the Online Business Case Creator: Many benefits
The OBCC has three integrated steps. When used together, they bring forward information from one step to the next to reduce the burden of data entry. More importantly, as each of the three steps is completed, the tool acts as a decision support system. In response to your answers on one worksheet, with the help of a database running in the background, the tool will suggest answers for the next worksheet. For example, when you complete the Step One Assessment worksheet, identifying strengths and limitations of your project, the tool will automatically generate potential benefits and risks for you to further assess in Step Two.
Many ways to use the Online Business Case Creator (OBCC)
Address only one or some of the six elements. Throughout the tool, in particular Steps One and Two, the worksheets are organized into 'bundles' of questions – each bundle dealing with one of the six elements. If they are not relevant to you, you do not need to deal with all of the elements. For example, you may only be interested in assessing your project in terms of design and evidence base, but not be interested in budget and work plan. That is fine. In that case, do not open the question bundles or answer the questions for the less relevant areas. The tool will, by default, make your answers as 'N/A' for the questions you have not answered.
Use the templates in Microsoft Word or on paper instead of within the online tool. If you like to work on paper or in Microsoft Word and enter your answers into the online tool later, you can open, save and/or print blank worksheet templates (in Microsoft Word) at any time. These are available on the Outputs Menu on the right-hand side of all pages within the tool.
Take the 'Quick Track' to Step Two. When you complete the Step One Assess your project worksheet (30 questions), identifying strengths and limitations of your project, the tool will automatically generate potential benefits and risks for you, to further assess in Step Two.
It is not mandatory to do Step One. If you choose to skip Step One, and thus bypass the automatically generated benefits and risks in Step Two, you can begin Step Two by opening the final 'bundle' of questions on the worksheet. This worksheet is designed for open data entry, allowing you to generate your own risks and benefits and identify the project strengths and limitations that may trigger them.
Outputs: What do I end up with?
One of the primary strengths of the Online Business Case Creator (OBCC) is that it allows you to output all of your work into MS Word. Your Assess your project and Analyze your risks and benefits worksheets can be output in many different formats. There are a number of text and table options with varying degrees of visual features. The various presentations allow you to see patterns in your project strengths, limitations, risks and benefits and thus more easily create summary statements about your overall impacts in Step Three. These outputs can be accessed from the Outputs Menu on the right hand side of the page.
Step 1: Assess Project
- Output 1.1 Project strength and limitation assessment responses
- Output 1.2 Project strength and limitation scorecard for the six project elements
- Output 1.3 Project impact preview (based only on strength and limitation assessment)
Step 2A: Analyze Risks
- Output 2.1 Full text risk analysis table. Available:
- Output 2.1.1: for each individual element
- Output 2.1.2: for all elements rolled up together
- Output 2.2 Priority risk action areas diagram. Available:
- Output 2.2.1: for each individual element
- Output 2.2.2: for all elements rolled up together
Step 2B: Analyze Benefits
- Output 2.3 Full text benefit analysis table. Available:
- Output 2.3.1: for each individual element
- Output 2.3.2: for all elements rolled up together
- Output 2.4 Priority benefit action areas diagram. Available:
- Output 2.4.1: for each individual element
- Output 2.4.2: for all elements rolled up together
Steps 2A and 2B: Analyze Risks and Benefits
- Output 2.5 Strength and limitation scorecard
- Output 2.6 Project impact summary (post risk/benefit analysis)
- Output 2.7 Strategies to minimize risks and maximize benefits
- Output 2.8 Summary of project strengths/limitations with minimization/maximization strategies
- Output 2.9 Summary of overall project impacts, benefits and risks
Step 3: Advise
- Output 3.1 Summary of business case organized by element, organized by impact area, and element and impact area ratings at a glance.
Our development process
After the successful launch of the Online Health Program Planner (OHPP), discussions began about complementary products. NCCMT prioritized the development of an online business case creator on the basis of stakeholder discussions and field requests for such a product.
On November 20, 2009 we sent out a call to health practitioners using the Ontario Health Promotion E-Bulletin (OHPE), requesting business case templates. On December 3, NCCMT made the same request to people on their mailing list. Nine people sent templates they used (or were aware of) and several others provided suggestions or links to texts and articles. These materials were reviewed in detail and were used to inform the specifications for the OBCC which were completed in March 2010.
A prototype of the OBCC was reviewed by NCCMT on October 26, 2010. The feedback received prompted various changes in the specifications, in particular a decision to integrate the OBCC with the original OHPP.
On January 24, 2011 a 3.5 hour face to face usability testing session was held in Toronto with five individuals. The session followed up on some pre-work, involved three simulated tasks, review of background documentation, and written and verbal general reflections. Their feedback was incorporated into the next version of the OBCC.
In March 2011, the next to final version of the OBCC was tested (again, with pre-work, tasks, and general reflections) with numerous sample end users in two online conferences.
The final version of the OBCC based on this development process was released in May 2011.
Funding for the OBCC was provided by the National Collaborating Centre on Methods and Tools. Project team consultants included Larry Hershfield and Jodi Thesenvitz. IT services were provided by MediaDoc.
Thank you to those who shared your business case templates with us in the formative stages of this project. Your work helped to shape this tool. Template contributors include:
Mary Jane Dandeno
Corporate Manager Utilization Management
Grey Bruce Health Services
Manager, Public Health Administration
Halton Region Health Department
Teresa Ho, MSc.
Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention, Unit 3
Peel Public Health
Director, Policy and Planning
Department of Health Promotion and Protection
Government of Nova Scotia
Provincial Health Service Authority
Faye Parascandalo, RN, BScN
Public Health Services
Chronic Disease Prevention
City of Hamilton
Eastern Ontario Health Unit
Donna Stockdale, RN, MSc
Director, Population Health Unit
Mamawetan Churchill River Health Region of Northern Saskatchewan
Diane Vanecko, RN, BScN, MBA
Manager, Continuous Quality Improvement and Community Development
Community Development and Surveillance
Niagara Region Public Health
A big thank-you to all of our advisors and usability testers. Your direction has been very useful. We hope that you will continue to give us feedback about the OBCC and the original OHPP as we continue to update and upgrade them.
Louise Simmons, Eastern Ontario Health Unit
Kirsten Sears, National Collaborating Centre for Methods and Tools
Jeff Faulkner, Toronto Public Health
Nancy vanBoxmeer, as a Consultant for The Health Communication Unit
Nancy Dubois of DuB Fit as a Consultant for The Health Communication Unit
Robb MacDonald of MacComm as a Consultant for The Health Communication Unit
Patty Staring, Office Coordinator, The Health Communication Unit
Kathryn Badry, Health Promotion Programmer, Camrose, Alberta
Mary-Anne McBean, Toronto Public Health
Barbara Woodward, Healthy Ottawa @ Work Program; Ottawa Public Health
Cathy Dykeman, Public Health Nurse, Halton Region Health Department