Digital appraisal manual for Scotland: guidance

Guidance to help embed best practice appraisal and evaluation within policy making relating to digital projects.

Proportionate and comprehensive appraisal

The purpose of this guidance is to provide a framework for proportionate and comprehensive appraisal. The context for appraising one project may differ from another due to scale of the project, how developed the thinking is around the project and how much resource (time) is available for appraisal. So, without being too prescriptive, what might “proportionate and comprehensive” look like?

Broadly speaking, the overarching process set out so far will be the same for all projects, regardless of size or development. However, sequencing and detail will differ depending on need. A useful way, therefore, to think about undertaking an appraisal exercise is to think of it as three stages:

  • stage one (often called the “strategic outline case”) – a “mini appraisal”, which provides a swift high-level assessment of a project before developing into a detailed appraisal in stage two. This stage broadly outlines some of the key elements of the appraisal process, such as the strategic context, rationale, objectives, potential options, viability and an initial review of relevant literature on benefits and costs
  • stage two (often called the “outline business case”) – if the findings of stage one highlight that the intervention is worth considering in more detail, then it can be developed in stage two. At this stage, rationale and objectives are further developed, as well as a full costing of potential interventions and development of detailed analysis of costs and benefits
  • stage three (often called the “final business case”) – if the recommendations of stage two are to go ahead with a project, then a final business case is a useful final check of the cost benefit analysis to ensure no significant changes have altered its conclusions. This can be important for a project that takes a long time to agree after completing stage two, or where there have been significant changes in context for the project that could alter results

Following this three-stage approach enables practitioners to develop a high level overview of the rationale, objectives and value for money of a project, before engaging in a lengthier appraisal process that requires more in-depth analysis and resource. Following a sequential process also provides outputs (such as a summary report from stage one) that can be used in ongoing consultation with stakeholders to confirm if the project is worthwhile, whether a detailed appraisal should follow or indeed whether the initial evidence finds no case for public intervention.


Back to top