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Business case and project controlling

For many companies this represents a specific outlay: a new project requires a business case to be created and long-term structures to be set up for controlling purposes. Suddenly there’s a project which has become its own construct, far removed from previously established controlling and accounting structures: non-transparent, difficult to integrate into overall reporting and, at a certain point, no longer comprehensible.

When large projects are initiated, often completely different, separate rules are defined – and the projects usually run according to their own very individual cycle. Riding the wave of initial enthusiasm and with the attitude that everything will work out over time, you accept a certain lack of transparency. After this phase, nervousness sets in and sooner or later a rude awakening ensues when it is recognized that the expectations do not match reality. With a view to breaking this cycle at an early stage, there are a few rules that will help to avoid unpleasant surprises.


  • Many problems already occur during the creation of the business case, when assumptions are made which have not been agreed with all of the stakeholders or which have been driven by individuals who take on new positions after the business case has been “sold” and cannot be held responsible for meeting them.
  • Large projects require a high degree of flexibility in order to pick up momentum outside the framework of established structures. Often, they are associated with new accounting models for internal or external clients, require new IT structures and place an excessive strain on existing accounting and controlling structures.
  • During the launch period there is often – and quite rightly – a degree of tolerance for figures which lack transparency. Often, however, awareness of the necessary processes and of the other requirements of those responsible for the numbers within the project suffers as a result – in the worst case, this is even used as an opportunity to conceal mistakes.


  • Creating a realistic business case requires precise transparency as far as the assumptions are concerned and calculation of multiple scenarios, so that at least it becomes clear what the impact of changes will be. It also requires a clear indication of which specifications come from whom and how those specifications are to be met and regularly verified.
  • At the beginning, a sophisticated plan is drawn up which sets out the target structure for planning and controlling, the associated processes (for commissioned work, for example) and the milestones along the road to achieving this target structure. On this basis, everyone involved can commit to a long-term controlling concept – in particular if there is a personal link between the project and the finance department.
  • This milestone plan is reinforced by a plan which reconciles the specifics of the project and the controlling requirements with the existing processes and their requirements.


  • A more realistic level of transparency with regard to the possible effects of changes to the business case at an earlier stage for all departments.
  • A clear target structure towards which everyone involved in the financial processes works from the outset of the project.
  • A better understanding of the relevant requirements in the interaction between line management and project management and more confidence in their collaboration.

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