As a design engineer, you know your company is ready to invest in a new software to optimize the product development workflow and you are tasked with the job of deciding which tool best fits your company’s needs. To convince decision-makers of your choice, you must present a compelling business case which supports your decision as a solution to a problem and provides justification for this new investment.

In this article, you will learn the definition of a business case, why it is important in the context of investing in a CAE software, key components to consider when evaluating if CAE is the right option for your organization, and which type of simulation software best suits your needs. We also provide a downloadable business case template which you can use when evaluating your options for optimizing your engineering design process.

Why Have a Business Case for CAE Software?

Design engineers are pressed to innovate their products because of the competitive pressure to differentiate their products with better quality, reliability, or richer functionality. Though development resources are limited, products are becoming more complex or must operate in extreme environments. This pressure requires design engineers to reconsider traditional methods for testing and analyzing their designs.

CAE tools are one such option which is becoming more attractive due to the many ways in which they can save engineers’ time and resources. The following data from Aberdeen Strategy & Research presents some of the reasons design engineers are choosing to use CAE tools to improve their workflows.

How companies benefit from CAE software
Figure 1: Ways in which companies are benefitting from the use of CAE tools.

The earlier simulation is implemented within the design process, the more a project can benefit from these high-quality virtual insights. This so-called front loading process is the holy grail in product development. It is well known that design change costs increase tenfold per step the later the failure is detected in the product lifecycle.

The frontloading design process compared to the conventional design process
Figure 2: The front loading design process compared to the conventional design process.

Unfortunately, simulations are often outsourced and design engineers currently outnumber simulation experts 10-to-1. The simulation specialist group is likely to become the bottleneck in the design process. To circumvent this issue and achieve simulation-driven design, design engineers should start to apply CAE early in the design process themselves with customized and automated simulation workflows made available to non-experts.

What Is a Business Case?

Whether you are trying to sell someone your software or convince your boss to move to an office with a rooftop pool, a well-constructed business case is a critical tool for presenting your reasonings and conclusions to decision-makers. A business case is used to justify a proposed project that requires some type of capital or operational expenditure. To push your decision through the pipeline in the given examples, you need validated assumptions on how this software drastically reduces development costs or statistics on how rooftop pools attract best in class candidates. Your case should underline the benefits of your proposed solution while putting multiple options into perspective to address the company or individual’s needs and opportunities.

The Magic Triangle

In project management, a business case is most often used as a living document for continually assessing and evaluating the progress of the initiative. In this context, a well-known approach is the “Magic Triangle” which highlights the dependencies of three dimensions: time, quality, and cost.

The time dimension concerns the duration of the process and is highly important when prioritizing a quick time to market for a new product, though decisions made for this purpose often require additional financial resources and may sacrifice product longevity to meet strict deadlines.

The quality dimension defines the tasks and goals which must be completed and fulfilled by the end of the project. Staffing a large and highly skilled office for recruitment purposes means you prioritize building the highest quality team while accepting higher costs associated with this decision.

It goes without saying that the cost dimension is always considered and needs no further explanation. As we can see, these three dimensions are unavoidably in conflict and finding a balance is key when setting priorities and reaching a compromise.

The magic triangle of project management: time, quality, cost
Figure 3: The three dependencies of Magic Triangle of project management: time, quality, and cost.

The Magic Square

Nowadays, the magic triangle is shifting towards a square, with the addition of a sustainability factor. Given the growing importance of environmental concerns, companies are now considering the impact their products make on the world in a holistic and long-term sense. This is driven organically by the company’s vision or inorganically by the governmental regulations. Sustainability-focused changes made within an organization can range in scale from refusing to print documents and signing digitally, to installing solar panels on top of a manufacturing hall.

The magic square of project management: time, quality, cost, sustainability
Figure 4: The Magic Square includes the additional sustainability dimension.

The Business Case for CAE Software

Even if you are already interested in investing in CAE software, it is important to evaluate all possible solutions for optimizing the testing process and frame your business case as a problem needing a solution and conclude with a recommendation. This means that we must analyze and consider all options, including experiments, both cloud-based and on-premises CAE software, and outsourcing simulation to a consultancy.

Design engineer testing options: experiment, on-premises simulation, cloud-based simulation, consultancy
Figure 5: Different options for engineers to test designs.


Traditionally, most engineers consider test benches (experiments) to be the single point of truth when it comes to modelling the real application. This might be the case because the test rig looks and operates like the real application. Still, one might be biased, as systems that look similar might not behave similarly under real operating conditions and difficulties can arise from areas not checked in the prototype. Let’s consolidate some advantages and disadvantages here.



On-Premises Simulation

CAE is already an established method within the mechanical and automotive industry. Currently, on-premises CAE solutions are the standard in enterprise companies. Software packages are bought once, some service packages are added, and updates are implemented whenever necessary. The software is installed locally and integrated into a company’s IT. Similarly, the in-house IT department manages simulation data and software versioning and hardware compatibility.



Cloud-Based Simulation (SaaS)

In Software-as-a-service (SaaS) simulation tools the user pays to access the software on yearly subscription basis. The software is completely owned, delivered, and managed in the cloud by a third party.



Outsourcing Simulation to a Consultant

Outsourcing simulation and engaging a consultancy is another option. This approach is not only used by SME’s but also by large OEM’s. Considering all the different expenditures we mentioned from hardware to IT staff, assigning a consultancy to these tasks and paying a fixed price for the results can be quite a convenient alternative. If the simulation demand is rather low, SMEs tend to favor this option. However, the decision will greatly depend on the business case, since having 2-3 simulation projects a year may already be worth doing simulations on-site. Most importantly, one must take care that the insights gained through the simulation satisfy the company’s needs.



Your Business Case Template

To help you build your business case, we have provided you with a free excel business case template.

Get free template

Like all business cases, the document starts with some general information, the situation analysis, and an executive summary. It makes sense to start with the simplest evaluation of the dimensions of time, cost, quality, and sustainability of the different CAE options regarding a single simulation. This means that we must also consider the option of not using CAE and instead conducting just one experiment. Although filling in the data on this level already allows for comparison, it is necessary to go deeper to see the bigger picture.

Direct comparison of testing options for design engineers
Figure 6: Business case template example of direct comparison of testing options for design engineers.

The next step is to investigate the data on a project level. This could be the optimization of an existing product or the development of a new design. This step involves performing multiple simulations or experiments to validate a variety of operating points or conduct design iterations. On this level, the automation of workflows and parallelization of simulations kick in. We suddenly are in the range of months, several tens of thousands of euros, and in the kg-range of CO₂ emissions. This is when things get exciting when comparing the edge cases, fully experimental or simulation-driven design, and one might begin to grasp the potential of CAE.

project level comparison of testing options for design engineers
Figure 7: Business case template example of project level comparison of testing options for design engineers.

This data will serve as a fundamental baseline for optimizing your mix of CAE and experimental work in practice. In the last step, additional factors are considered to tell the full story from a company level perspective, as other stakeholders, such as the IT department, are included and the ROI of the CAE tool is estimated.  


We hope that you were able to take away some tips and tools about how to build a business case as you take the time to evaluate your options for optimizing your product design process. Feel free to get in touch and let us know if you have any questions about any of the points mentioned above or would like to learn more about how to write a business case for CAE software.