Revisiting the Project Business Case


in the Age of Agile



By Martin Cohen

New Jersey, USA


Information systems and new product development projects continue to be challenged in their ability to deliver value and meet time and budgetary constraints, in spite of the fact that Agile development methodologies have increasingly been applied to both. Agile methods de-emphasize the use of up-front documentation in general and comprehensive requirements specifications in particular. This research demonstrates how robust business case content could contribute to Agile project governance and project success.

Contribution to Practice

Projects are the universal mechanism for strategy implementation. This research explains the role of project business case content in project design, selection and governance. Without robust business case content, there can be no organizational accountability or continuity of purpose, especially in Agile development environments.

Business case research is still in the formative stages. While the IS value realization literature refers to content that should be part of an IS project business case, there is no universally accepted practical or theoretical definition for a project business case. Moreover, there is no theoretical or empirical research establishing the importance of specific business case content in Agile or Waterfall projects. This research applies Goal Setting Theory, requirements engineering and Stage Gate concepts to develop a theoretical framework for business case quality. This framework will be validated in future research using existing project case studies to document organizational practices in business case formulation and their influence on software quality achievement and value realization.

Keywords: business case, requirements engineering, project governance, project value realization, agile methods

  1. Introduction

1.1 Structure of this paper

The research questions will be addressed by reviewing the historical motivation for Agile and the principles on which Agile is based. Next, we will examine the strengths and weaknesses of Agile, which have led some organizations to combine Agile methodologies with Stage Gate controls. The status of business case research is presented, focusing on the reasons business cases have not been widely or effectively employed, with particular emphasis on the challenges of writing business cases for information systems projects. A conceptual model for business case creation and a theoretical framework for business case quality are presented. These models are derived from the requirements engineering literature and Goal Setting Theory. Finally, a set of hypotheses are presented for our next phase of business case research.

1.2 Research Questions

  • Why is project business case quality especially relevant in Agile projects?
  • What is the appropriate role for the project business case in Agile development projects employing Stage Gate controls?
  • What business case content is required to maximize software quality in Agile development environments?


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How to cite this paper: Cohen, M.J. (2022). Revisiting the Project Business Case in the Age of Agile; PM World Journal, Vol. XI, Issue IV, April. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/pmwj116-Apr2022-Cohen-revisiting-project-business-case-in-age-of-agile.pdf

About the Author

Martin J. Cohen



Martin J. Cohen serves as Adjunct Professor at Stevens Institute of Technology Schools of Engineering and Business, as well as Adjunct Associate Professor at Pace University Lubin School of Business, both in the United States. He holds an MBA degree from the Harvard Business School. His research focusses on entrepreneurship, project selection and project value realization. He has held consulting, management and project management positions in financial services, manufacturing and supply chain organizations. He can be contacted at martin.cohen4@verizon.net