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Further to the principles of the business case information available, the following sets out the strategic case with a relevance to Highways practitioners.

The strategic case is the foundation for the whole business case process and ensures that the transport planning element of the business case is based on robust logic. This phase does not involve extensive or costly strategic work and does not explore possible solutions or attempt to formulate an implementation plan. Rather, it focuses on demonstrating that there is a well understood problem (or opportunity) that has a substantial enough consequence to justify investment.

The scale of the problem and consequences identified will dictate whether one workshop with few people or two workshops with a wider group is necessary. The depth of the analysis should be tailored to the relative size, impacts and risks of the problem and consequences.

See the Strategic case overview [PDF, 75 KB] for more information.

Key steps

Step 1. Complete investment logic map and benefits map

The investment logic mapping process is at the heart of the strategic case and undertaking the associated workshops and completion of the investment logic maps and benefits maps form the first step in completing the strategic case.

In advance of arranging ILM workshops the Problem Owner should have early conversations with key stakeholders including the Transport Agency Planning and Investment team to set the investment into context and agree key ILM attendees. The approved point of entry provides a helpful starting point for identifying key stakeholders.

On conclusion of the ILM and benefits mapping process the Problem Owner and key stakeholders should have, as a starting point to the strategic case, a clear and unified view of the key problems, the benefits to be gained and a consensus on the significance of the issue to respective stakeholder groups.

The next step in the process is to draw the ILM/benefits mapping process together in a short, clear and concise strategic context and assessment statement through production of a strategic case [PDF, 2.6 MB].

An option that may be useful is to use the strategic case plan [DOCX, 58 KB]. This is a good way to plan what your strategic case will cover before making a start on the document. It is a simple task that should not take long, that maps out what will be the key summary points of the strategic case. 

Step 2. Complete strategic case

Structure and timing of the strategic case

The strategic case represents the first key deliverable and provides the basis on which the business case is built. The strategic case is formed from two parts; the strategic case and the preparation for the funding for the next phase of the business case.

The strategic case section of it consists of two elements:

  • The strategic assessment (the output of the problem and consequence workshop and the outcomes and benefits workshop/s); and
  • The strategic context (the alignment of the proposed investment with the business problem owner’s priorities, regional and national priorities, other programmes and strategies and other organisations’ priorities (if relevant)).

It is important that the Project Manager, in collaboration with key stakeholders and the Investor produces this part of the strategic case in a timely fashion whilst the stakeholders are engaged with the process and workshops remain fresh in their minds. The strategic case is ideally a 10-12 page document and is not an onerous affair.

Note: It is required that this part of the strategic case be completed within one month of completing the benefits workshop.

One technique that the project manager may wish to employ is to factor in an extra hour on conclusion of the benefits workshop to sit down with a subset of key stakeholders who are likely to contribute to the strategic case directly, along with the investor from the Transport Agency Planning and Investment group to map out the strategic case, key points and messages.

Further advice on developing the content of this is contained within the Strategic case template guidance [PDF, 2.6 MB].

The second half of the strategic case consists of a project plan and funding application for the next phase of the business case. The timing of completion of this second part is left to the discretion of the project manager based on an assessment of significance and timing risk. However, if there is a risk that the stakeholder organisations might not support progressing to the next phase it might be prudent to put energies into seeking necessary approvals for the earlier section over potentially wasting effort on producing a funding application which might not be supported.

Again, guidance on scoping the work required for developing the next phase of the business case is embedded within the Strategic case template guidance [DOCX, 433 KB].

The ILM/benefits map as a starting point for the strategic case

The ILM process, whilst a key technique for strategic case development, is only a starting point and a tool for enabling an effective facilitated conversation with stakeholders.

Through the production of the strategic case and on consideration of the evidence base outside of the workshop area it might become apparent to the authors that the ILM, on reflection, does not satisfactorily reflect the problem or benefits of investment. In such instances, and with stakeholder buy-in, it is appropriate to develop appropriate alternative wording that better reflects the sentiment of the agreed ILM conversations and agree that wording with stakeholders. For this to be effective it is imperative that the first part, at least, of the strategic case is complete within one month of conclusion of the benefits workshop.

New versus existing information

Developing the strategic assessment and the strategic context requires pulling together and considering existing information, which is likely to include existing strategies, monitoring data, previous studies and reports, and current organisational goals and outcomes sought.

The strategic case should outline the status of the strategic evidence which supports the problem identification analysis and reflect on:

  • How does the evidence relate to the problem? 
  • How significant is the problem? 
  • How is the problem unique to the locality? 
  • In which areas is there a good evidence base? 
  • Where are there gaps in the evidence and what areas were identified for further analysis to support the investment story? 
  • How does the problem compare nationally? 

A review of the evidence base will highlight where the gaps are in the existing evidence base, and the quality. This will be important for informing the scope for the next phase where any relevant information or data not currently available could be obtained as part of the next phase of the business case.

It is important that the analytical review succinctly describes how the existing evidence either does or doesn't support the problem or opportunity statements, providing detail to support the cause and effect. References back to these documents are encouraged and the strategic case should not look to replicate the work done in these existing studies.

Summary of document

On completion of the strategic case document, populate the strategic case summary template [DOCX, 58 KB] with the findings. If this template was also used as the strategic case plan at the beginning of the phase, it can be updated to match the completed strategic case document. This is a quick process and is a summary of the key points only, but is necessary to be used as an attachment alongside your strategic case document in any approvals undertaken to continue on to the next phase of the business case. 

Funding of the strategic case

The cost of a strategic case is relatively minor and will mainly consist of professional services fees for support from accredited facilitators. Authoring of the strategic case itself is expected to be undertaken, given the purpose of the intent of the strategic case, funded from within operational budgets, i.e. with no direct funding assistance from the National Land Transport Fund. Approved funding will have been obtained as part of the point of entry process.

Benefit realisation

  • Agree the problems, opportunities and benefits of investment
  • Identify and agree the strategic alignment of the benefits
  • Complete an ILM/benefit map.

This can be done within an investment logic mapping workshop where it is relevant to the size of the business case.   

Further information available at the benefit realisation page

Quality assurance and approvals

Records of quality assurance and approvals should be undertaken in accordance with the System Design and Delivery project assurance and approvals process.


Forms and templates

Title Type Document PDF  Example 
Strategic case template Template Word [DOCX, 433 KB] PDF [PDF, 2.6 MB]  -
Strategic case plan/summary Template Word [DOCX, 58 KB] PDF [PDF, 65 KB]  -
Investment logic map - activity Template  PowerPoint [PPTX, 56 KB]  PDF [PDF, 79 KB]  - 
Investment logic map - programme Template PowerPoint [PPTX, 57 KB] PDF [PDF, 80 KB]  - 
Benefit map Template PowerPoint [PPTX, 65 KB] PDF [PDF, 86 KB] Example [PDF, 95 KB]

Guidelines and tools

Title Download
Framework for investment performance measurement Website link
Benefit realisation framework PDF [PDF, 112 KB]

For further information contact