When looking to upgrade your benefits realisation capacity, one of the first places to start will be producing a benefits realisation plan. A benefits realisation plan will align your team’s efforts, giving clarity over what matters strategically, and how to measure that.
In this article, we’re going to explain how to define a benefits realisation plan for your organisation. We’ll explain the first steps on getting started, key areas to consider, and further improvements to explore in the future.
Before we jump into defining the plan, it’s important to first explain what we mean by benefit realisation.
Benefit Realisation Management is an approach to managing how resources and time are invested in projects or activities to achieve desirable changes.
The approach can be applied in different forms.
It can be applied as a business process. The goal here is successful: identification, definition, planning, tracking and realisation of business benefits across an organisation.
It can also be applied on a project level. Here we are identifying, planning, assessing and controlling the benefits derived from the execution of projects.
We can also apply benefits realisation at a strategic level; aligning operational projects and activities with overarching organisational goals.
Benefits realisation originally emerged in the 1990’s, after being defined in publications by Scottish Widows and the UK Government. Since gaining traction, techniques have become more formalised, and the discipline has become more widely acknowledged.
When writing the plan, these established concepts can provide the foundations for a rigorous plan, maximising the chances of successful execution.
When writing a business realisation plan, we need to first establish roles and responsibilities.
Without this, people may be unsure of who is doing what, and who stands to gain. A strong benefit realisation plan will therefore look to outline the roles and responsibilities of each person.
Some key roles that must be defined are:
Once you’ve established who fits into these categories, we can move on to defining our BRM process.
The BRM process should seek to complete the following steps:
By following the general 10 step approach outlined above, we are ensuring a reliable BRM approach. This aligns business activity with realisation metrics that are representative of the desired outcomes.
It also serves to ensure adequate planning is in place, so that the activity is delivered efficiently, reducing waste and staying focused on the desired outcomes.
The process then goes one step further. After the activity is complete, the benefits realisation is maintained within the organisations, continuing to add value.
As part of the benefits realisation plan, you will want to consider building benefits dependency networks.
A benefits dependency network is a tool for easily visualising the cause and effect relationship between benefits and activities. An example of a benefits dependency network can be seen below:
The objective of benefits dependency networks is to quickly communicate to stakeholders the who, what, how and why of an activity. It looks at the desired outcomes on the right, working left to explain the necessary steps to achieve said benefit.
The tool can be highly effective in the management of stakeholders, as it brings everyone onto the same page, allowing benefits and the process to achieve them to be easily visualised.
When gathering stakeholder feedback, and aligning stakeholder needs (as would be completed throughout the plan), the benefits dependency network can be modified and adjusted in a collaborative environment, until a network that satisfies all stakeholder can be agreed upon.
Another important part of the benefits realisation plan is the benefits realization metrics.
Defining the right benefits realisation metrics that capture the desired outcomes is critical to an effective BRM process.
Benefits realization metrics may also look to quantify previously qualitative impacts. This brings with it various advantages. These include the ability to benchmark previous results, allowing for comparative conclusions to be drawn. It can also be a more rigorous and objective way of measuring impact, which is less reliant on subjective measures.
To choose effective benefits realization metrics, we suggest the following:
By considering a wide range of different data sources and mediums, it means you’re getting the full picture, working to avoid biases in data.
Gathering data from different sources can be complex and doesn’t make for easy reading, which can disengage stakeholders. We would therefore suggest weighting and aggregating data sources by following a balanced scorecard approach. This can then produce a ‘north star metric’, that’s easily understood.
Operationalizing benefits as a financial figure makes them easier to understand and more ‘tangible’ to stakeholders who are primarily concerned with finances. It therefore may be useful to extrapolate what the hypothetical financial impact of a specific benefit is before reporting to these particular stakeholders.
Building upon the last point, you should always strive to deliver metrics in a way that most resonates with the stakeholder group that is being reported to. You can achieve this by choosing metrics most relevant to their job role, and those that they’re most familiar with.
The benefit metrics that you eventually decide upon will hopefully be relevant for all your stakeholders. However, as time goes on, the needs of stakeholders and the organisation may evolve. It is therefore good practice to continually review metrics, to make sure that they’re always up-to-date and relevant, making adjustments where necessary.
With different benefits realization metrics being generated across a variety of mediums, you may wish to consider consolidating all the data into an easy-to-use and accessible dashboard.
When designing a benefits realisation dashboard, your aim is to present a portfolio level overview of benefits. Ideally, it should be easily accessible by stakeholders (benefits owners) and adjustable by the administrator (business change owner). To really optimise your process, different stakeholders should be able to access dashboards specific to them.
Here, technology is your friend. Here at Intuitix we specialise in automating the reporting benefits, particularly when it comes to data visualisation through benefits realisation dashboards.
For more on how we can help you do this, contact us here, and one of our team will be happy to help.