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Programme Business Case

When a Programme Business Case is needed

Programmes are about managing change with a strategic vision and a roadmap of how to get there.  They typically comprise a number of related projects and activities that will be completed in tranches over an extended period to achieve outcomes that are greater than the sum of the parts.  For example:

  • Policy change focussed on changes and improvements in society is driven by desired outcomes but likely to be ambiguous and complex to define in terms of what is involved.
  • Fundamentally changing the way an organisation works is led by a vision of the outcomes and the benefits; typically some uncertainty about the change but clear delivery approaches can be used.
  • A highly complex, lengthy project that is best broken down into a series of related projects and managed as a programme.

The Programme Business Case typically follows a Programme Strategic Assessment, which justifies the need to invest in change and obtains approval to proceed to business case development. 

Purpose of the Programme Business Case

The Programme Business Case is used as the basis for seeking early approval to start a preferred programme of work, to develop subsequent business cases and to review the ongoing viability of the programme.  It provides an early opportunity for the organisation and key stakeholders to influence the direction of the investment proposal and to avoid too much effort being put into developing investment proposals and options that should not proceed.

The primary purpose of a Programme Business Case is to support the decision to invest in a programme of change that optimises potential value for money.  The Programme Business Case:

  • confirms the strategic context of the organisation and how the proposed investment fits within that strategic context
  • confirms the need to invest and the case for change
  • recommends a preferred programme and a preferred way forward for further development of the investment proposal
  • identifies the key asset and non-asset based projects and activities that will support the programme outcomes, including proposed programme tranches and off-ramps
  • provides ministers/investment decision-makers with indicative costs to deliver the programme. It can be used to seek funding to conduct further analysis, develop further business cases or fund the first tranche of programme activities. It is not used to request funding for an entire programme but will identify the funding envelope, to seek agreement-in-principle for the programme to proceed.

The Programme Business Case should be revisited prior to the commencement of each project/tranche business case. Each project/tranche business case should provide an update on any material changes to the programme drivers, benefits, approach, timeline or costs since the completion of the previous business case, and can be used as the basis for seeking:

  • formal confirmation from governance to continue to invest in the overall programme
  • formal agreement from governance to the mix of projects and activities that constitute the next tranche.


Supporting collateral Programme Business Case
Guidance and template: to understand the Programme Business Case development process and document the results Programme Business Case - Template and Guidance (Oct 2019) (DOC 1.16 MB)
A3 presentation bbc-prgbus-pr-v2 (PPT 391 KB)
Reviewer Assessment tool Programme Business Case - Reviewer Assessment Tool (Oct 2020) (DOC 335KB)


ICT-enabled state sector projects and programmes assessed as High Risk are required to prepare costed assurance plans. Contact [email protected].

Gateway reviews are expected to be included in these assurance plans and programmes are normally required to have a Gateway Review (usually at this stage a combined Gate 0: Strategic Assessment/gate 1 Business Justification & Options) as the Programme Business Case nears completion. There is a 6-8 week lead time for contracts and logistics, so if you have not yet engaged with the Gateway Unit, get in touch early: [email protected].

Next steps

The Programme Business Case is considered equivalent to an Indicative Business Case and should include equivalent analysis at a programme level.

Once a Programme Business Case has been approved it is supported by appropriate business cases for individual initiatives within the programme (depending on their size, scope and risk), as agreed with governance, monitoring agency or Treasury Vote Analyst, as appropriate:

  • Indicative Business Case (IBC) if a major project within the programme requires significant options analysis. 
  • Detailed Business Case (DBC) if options for a significant project within the programme have been adequately addressed in the Programme Business Case (often the case for the most significant driving project for the programme). 
  • Detailed Business Case for the next programme tranche, if detailed options analysis is not required.
  • Single Stage Business Case (combining Indicative and Detailed) for less significant projects within the programme (small, low risk, and/or limited options analysis required. 
Useful links


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Last updated: 
Tuesday, 14 January 2020