Business Case Guidance & Training

Business Case Guidance & Training

This page outlines the support and guidance available for the development of Business Cases. This covers:

•    the Move to Five Case Model and Better Business Cases NI;
•    better Business Cases NI Guidance;
•    business Case Pro-forma; and
•    training.

DoH Better Business Cases NI User Guide and Approval Procedures

The DoH User Guide was launched on 31 January 2022 via HSC(F) 05-2022 and FMD 01-2022 and is intended to provide staff in the Department of Health and its Arm’s Length Bodies (ALBs) with an overview of the Department of Finance business case guidance and to inform them of the recent changes that have been made to that guidance, as well as DoH approvals procedures. The guide is available on the Department of Health website at the link below:

The purpose of the User Guide is to draw your attention to:

  • best practice recommendations to ensure that business cases and PPEs comply with Better Business Cases NI (BBC NI);
  • the requirements to apply the principles of appraisal with proportionate effort to all expenditure decisions, including new contracts and contract extensions; and
  • the approvals process for expenditure decisions in excess of delegated limits and the test drilling of business cases for those expenditure decisions below delegated limits.

The Move to Five Case Model and Better Business Cases NI

In July 2019, the Department of Finance (DoF) published a report entitled 'Review of the Expenditure Approval and Business Case Processes'.  The aim of the Review was to examine the process in place within Northern Ireland for approving expenditure decisions and how business cases are used to support these decisions.

One of the recommendations from the Review was that the Northern Ireland Civil Service should move away from the Northern Ireland Guide to Expenditure Appraisal and Evaluation (NIGEAE) and adopt the HM Treasury best practice approach to the development of business cases, known as the ‘Five Case Model’. This is the approach on which the new Better Business Cases NI guidance is based.

The basic process of appraisal and evaluation is largely the same within the Five Case Model approach, as is the information needed to produce a business case. Rather, the Five Case Model involves separating the business case into its five component parts, or ‘Cases’ –

  1. Strategic Case;
  2. Economic Case;
  3. Commercial Case;
  4. Financial Case; and
  5. Management Case.

The five cases are not individual documents, they are the five sections of a business case which are interlinked and should not, therefore, be developed in isolation.

Presenting the information in this way is intended to help clarify who is responsible for developing the business case, for approving the spend associated with it, and which specialist advisors should be involved in providing advice and support around this. The table below summarises the specialist advisors that can provide advice under each case.

Five Case Model

Specialist Adviser

Strategic Case

Departmental Economists

Policy Advisers

Economic Case

Departmental Economists

Commercial Case

Commercial/Procurement Expertise (e.g. CPD-HP, PaLS or a relevant CoPE)

Financial Case

Departmental Finance Division

Management Case

Project Management Team/SRO

It is recognized that there may be business cases in development that have been applying the pre-existing approach set out within NIGEAE. It is not the intention that these should now be changed to reflect the move to Better Business Cases NI. The NIGEAE website will remain available to facilitate the completion of business cases that have already commenced.  However, business cases that are starting to be developed now should be based on Better Business Cases NI.

Better Business Cases NI

Better Business Cases NI is the primary guide for Northern Ireland Departments on the appraisal, evaluation, approval and management of policies, programmes and projects - the essential elements in the cycle of expenditure planning and service delivery.

The Better Business Cases NI website contains a range of other pieces of supplementary guidance. Much of this has been carried forward from NIGEAE and updated where appropriate. The website also contains several pieces of new supplementary guidance, covering areas such as Outcomes Based Accountability (OBA), distributional objectives or consequences and social value.

In addition, the website also contains a number of other items of supporting material that appraisers may find useful when developing a business case. These include a ‘Best Practice Guide’ to business cases, a ‘Plain English Guide’, as well as a checklist to what should be included in a business case.

It is important to view the business case process as a tool for achieving value for money, which plays a supportive role in the expenditure approval decision making process rather than a hurdle to be overcome in the desire to spend money.

Business Case Pro-forma

A number of Business Case pro formas have been developed based on the Better Business Cases guidance and follow the Five Case Model for preparing business cases.

These business case pro formas are for use when appraising smaller and more straightforward expenditure proposals, in general up to the value of £2 million. The following pro formas are available:

  • pro forma up to £25k
  • pro forma up to £500k
  • pro forma between £500k and £2m
  • pro forma for office accommodation
  • pro forma for proposal to engage an external resource

A further pro forma has been developed for use when completing a Full Business Case (FBC) and is available at the link below:

All sections of the pro forma should be completed, however they may be adapted and tailored to suit particular spending areas as desired.

Also attached are business case pro forma templates for proposals to engage an external resource and proposals for office accommodation.

It is always vital to apply proportionate effort. The effort required to assess a small expenditure is very much less than that needed to justify a major programme, a new policy or a large project.


Economics Branch recently conducted a number of Five Case Model awareness sessions across the Department and associated Arm’s Length Bodies, a copy of the presentation used across these sessions is available at the link below.

Better Business Cases Awareness Session

At present there are two training products being delivered by DoF – an eLearning course (approx. 30 mins) which is a prerequisite to the webinar (approx. 4 hours).

Access to both training courses for NI Civil Servants is available through LiNKS.

Note: If staff are familiar with the superseded NIGEAE guidance and have been involved in the preparation or review of business cases previously, the e-Learning course may be sufficient to update their knowledge and familiarise themselves with the Five Case Model guidance.

A voiceover for the eLearning course has been disseminated across the HSC via DoH Circular HSC(F) 16-2021 but can also be accessed below. A voiceover for the webinar is currently being developed by the Department of Finance.

DoF has provided a voiceover for the Better Business Case eLearning course.We would ask that you disseminate this appropriately across your organisation.

For more information please contact Economics Branch:

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