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When beginning to track the benefits of a series of change projects, one of the first activities to complete, according to the benefits realisation plan, is to define what benefits need to be captured. This is what we know as the benefits realisation template.

Knowing what factors to consider, aggregating them and boiling it down to a few measurable benefits can seem like quite a challenge. That’s why, in this article we’re going to explore how best to create a benefits realisation template.

We’re going to look at a few different approaches, the advantages and disadvantages of each, before providing some personal advice on what we’ve seen work.

But before we jump straight in, let’s consider: why do we need a benefits realisation template?

Advantages of a Benefits Realisation Template

Using a benefits realisation template (or benefits realisation framework) has advantages for a few reasons. 

To begin with, it ensures that each project’s impact is measured in relation to each other. Using different benefit measurements for each project would be unproductive. It would mean that each project has a different measuring stick, and that impacts can’t therefore be easily compared and contrasted.

By using a benefits realisation template, we’re comparing oranges with oranges. This gives confidence that we’re gathering useful data, where insights can be derived from.

Another advantage of using a benefits realisation framework is that it guides the long-term measurement activity. This can be useful for making sure that everything is accounted for. As organisations progress, people may change roles. Having a solid template in place ensures knowledge is not lost, and the same measurements are brought forward long term.

Finally, a benefits realisation template can serve to unite cross-departmental functions, by providing a common framework that everyone can agree upon. 

Different roles in different areas may have specific benefits that they’re more concerned with. Having a framework in place means that  they are aware of the holistic benefits that projects provide, and therefore able to consider the value being generated beyond their own role/department when making decisions.

Now that we’ve highlighted the benefits of the benefits realisation template, let’s look at some different approaches we can take.

Kotter’s Approach

Dr. John Kotter is usually known for his 8-step model for effective change management. 

This model is intended to outline a process for an effective benefits realisation plan or strategy, rather than a template to capture benefits.

Having said this, some of the steps and fundamentals outlined can be extrapolated in guiding the formation of our benefits realisation template. We’ll explain what we mean using some examples below.

Create a vision for change

We can take from this that the template should have an end goal in mind. This can be interpreted in the template as one overarching benefit that captures other benefits. This is often known as a ‘North Star Metric’.

Create short term wins

What might seem like the opposite to a long term overarching goal, is Kotter’s identification of the importance of celebrating short term wins. What this means for our benefits realisation template, is that we need to consider what short term benefits we can demonstrate. 

The benefits realisation framework should therefore seek to also measure and communicate more immediate benefits, which keep stakeholders motivated and engaged.

Build on the Change

What Kotter means by this is that once a change has been implemented and the benefits realised, that this is not the end. That new benefits, longer term benefits should be sought out, with their impact cemented through continued efforts - making benefits realisation an ongoing process.

Again, the benefits realisation template should reflect this. Build in longer term metrics that aim to grow rather than simply pass a target point. This encourages continued review and new efforts to demonstrate longer term success.

Portfolio Approach

A portfolio level approach to benefits realisation is one said to be often favoured by government offices. This is especially true on large programmes, where there is a variety of different projects and stakeholders to manage, and a ‘balanced portfolio’ is the best way to achieve this.

Here, we would look to examine the relationship between project level benefits and portfolio level benefits (potentially using a benefits dependency network). We would then define a benefits reporting template that considers these different benefit levels.

The approach may require aggregating of benefits as they move up levels from project to portfolio. Therefore, the benefits realisation template should allow for aggregating wide varieties of benefit types into more overarching benefit categories.

While aggregating benefits, it’s also important to consider your organisation’s strategic objectives. It may be the case that some benefits are more important than others, and therefore a weighting system is required. Again, the benefits realisation framework should allow for this.

Lastly, it should be considered that where a portfolio approach is utilised, there is likely a significant backlog of projects with limited resources for implementation. Where this is the case, prioritisation may be required. 

The benefits realisation template should inform decision makers where the portfolio sits in terms of benefit distribution, so that projects can be effectively prioritised to bring a more balanced benefit portfolio.

Balanced Scorecard Approach

The balanced scorecard is an approach to strategy design that considers the goals of different stakeholders. This is then operationalised as a ‘strategy map’, which aims to distil the various stakeholder goals into an easily digestible and actionable plan.

Like Kotter's model, the focus is on aligning cross-departmental organisational efforts behind a single focus. Then again, like Kotter's model, choosing this approach for implementation can influence the structure chosen for the benefits realisation framework.

A balanced scorecard will usually include the formation of KPIs that relate to steps on the strategy map, from each stakeholders perspective. These KPIs can then inform which benefits to measure, by deducing the impact using a benefits dependency network. 

The strategy map can also be used to identify benefits, with each goal corresponding to expected benefits, which will be measured using the benefits realisation template.

Like the portfolio approach, balanced scorecards will often look to put a weighting on the importance of each KPI, which then should also be reflected within the benefits realisation template.

Overall, the balanced scorecard approach looks to align organisational efforts to a single-source-of-truth, making this an ideal foundation from which to build the benefits realisation framework.

Our Thoughts on the Benefits Realisation Template

So far, we’ve discussed a few management approaches to change processes, and how the fundamentals can be applied to creating a benefits realisation template.

We believe it’s important to note that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach, as each will have different needs, and will be implementing slightly different methodologies.

These theories should therefore be used as inspiration, rather than a set rule book on how to create your benefits realisation template.

Having said this, there is a few clear themes that these approaches suggest for creating an effective benefits realisation plan.

These include:

We hope that this article has been useful in getting you started on your benefits realisation template.

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. 

What is Benefit Realisation?

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.

Writing the Benefits Realisation Plan

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:

  1. Identify outcomes
  2. Define benefit measures
  3. Collect existing benefit data
  4. Agree benefit realisation approach
  5. Plan the activity to realise new benefits
  6. Plan any additional measures needed to facilitate
  7. Optimise the plan for efficiency
  8. Implement the plan
  9. Review impact of activity on benefit measures
  10. Ensure benefit realisation continues to offer value

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.

Benefits Dependency Networks

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:

Benefits dependency network
A benefits dependency network

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.

Benefit Realization Metrics

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:

  1. Explore different mediums and feedback sources

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.

  1. Aggregate data according to ‘balanced scorecard’

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.

  1. ‘Financialise’ data

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.

  1. Stakeholder specific metrics

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. 

  1. Continually review and adjust

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.

Benefits Realisation Dashboard

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.

When piloting a project, you may be considering how to best measure impact of a project.
There are a variety of reasons as to why as project managers, we may wish to measure a project’s impact. But with so many variables to consider, where do we start on our journey?

This article will provide you with this guidance, detailing actionable next steps for measuring the impact of your projects.

Why Measure Project Impact?

Before jumping into what we wish to measure, it’s first important to explore why we are measuring our projects. 

The intention behind measuring projects will dictate what needs to be measured, and to what extent those factors are considered. It’s important therefore to consider from the outset, why you wish to measure your projects.

Some reasons for measuring projects could include:

You may have your own reasons for measuring projects not included in the list. Whatever they are, we would suggest compiling them, and ranking them in order of importance. 

By doing this, we understand the motivations (and significance) behind measuring projects. This ensures the metrics we end up using best reflect the real drivers behind impact measurement.

Knowing your Audience

The second thing to consider is who will be receiving the impact data. 

Understanding ‘who’ is a natural follow-on to understanding ‘why’. It will guide you in defining the most appropriate metrics. Those that will resonate with your audience, and help them understand the information most relevant to them.

In knowing your audience, we suggest utilizing stakeholder management techniques to ensure everyone's needs are accounted for in the most effective way. This usually starts through a process of ‘stakeholder mapping’, which we’ve discussed in other blogs

The idea behind this is to identify all the potential interested parties who may be interested in receiving your project impact data. Like the motivations, they are then ranked in order of importance. 

From here, we can then explore the profiles of our stakeholders, identifying what parts of the project they’re most interested in. We can also explore things such as what medium they would like to receive project data, what frequency and what level of detail is required.

Once we have all this information to hand, we can then go about combining it with the motivational drivers that we originally explored. This provides us with a clear picture of what areas we wish to measure, and to whom this information will be important to. Using this, we can go about creating our Impact Measurement Framework.

Impact Measurement Framework

Using the motivations and stakeholder interested, we can now go about defining the areas of project impact measurements. 

It’s important to consider from the outset that projects (especially larger ones) will have far flung consequences. Measuring every impact area is not only difficult and time consuming, but will most likely be of little interest to stakeholders. It’s therefore crucial to focus on the most important areas to you and your stakeholders.

Some areas that you may wish to consider include:

These of course are broad areas for exploration. We would suggest choosing more specific areas within each of those, that most represent your stakeholder interests and your own motivations behind project impact measurement.

Once these specific areas of measurement, we would suggest gaining feedback from stakeholders as to whether they are most accurately fulfilling their purpose. 

During the entire process, we want to be seeking continued feedback and validation. This prevents us from going off course, investing large amounts of resources in the incorrect avenue.

We recommend employing the PDCA cycle throughout, so that this does not occur.

Metrics to Measure Impact of a Project

Once we have defined the key areas that need to be measured, it is time to start defining metrics that measure project impact.

It should be noted at this stage that not all impacts will be quantifiable with metrics. For example, customer feedback may be better suited to be left as descriptive (or qualitative) data, as this can provide a much more useful and actionable data.

Having said this, data that can be quantified should be, as it has several advantages. 

For one, quantified data can be seen as more objective than opinion based - and therefore subjective, qualitative data. Secondly, quantified data can provide a ‘measuring stick’, so that comparisons can be made and progress is more accurately represented.

When choosing data, we need to now decide how we will quantify our impact measurement areas of interest.

For some, it will be obvious. Revenue for a new marketing campaign for example can easily be attributed in your local currency to a digital advertisement using online tools. For some however, we are going to need to be more creative.

Try and think of what KPIs would be suited for each area. Some things such as employee welfare, for example, may not be obviously quantifiable from the outset. However when considering things such as: surveys, absence days due to stress, employee retention rates, etc. are all quantifiable, we can start building a ‘balanced scorecard’ which captures these factors in a single metric.

For others, you may look to measure related factors which are more easily obtained. An example of employee time wasted may be difficult to measure, however device usage or time spent traveling between jobs will potentially be easier to quantifiably measure, and give an indication of the total time wasted.

After choosing what data is going to be the source of our desired metrics, we should now consider how to actually gather this data on projects.

Gathering Project Impact Data

When measuring the impact of a project, we need to think about what methods would be best for gathering said data. This will entirely depend on the nature of the project, as there is no one-size-fits-all strategy. Nevertheless, we have made some suggestions to get you started.

One simple way of measuring the impact of a project, is to ‘pilot test’ it on an area of the business, and compare it to a control group. This control group may be a comparable area of the business, or it may be a previous state of the pilot tested area. 

Whichever we choose, it’s important to bear in mind that a business is not a laboratory, and so not all variables will ever be fully in your control.

Other projects will require more of a long-term approach, especially where the benefits of the project are not likely to be realized for some time. To achieve this, we would suggest putting in a feedback loop into the project itself. For example: a 10 year project may include reviews of the results thus far every 2 years, a building may be constructed with performance sensors in it, or a product may be launched with information to submit reviews.

Extrapolating Data

Something that should be addressed is the concept of extrapolating data. Most of the data that is gathered on projects will not be in the form that your stakeholders will need, and therefore will require some extrapolation.

The easiest way to do this in volume is by using ‘calculation frameworks’. These are essentially sets of rules that can be applied to easily gatherable data to produce useful data. A good example of this is the GHG Protocol, for calculating Greenhouse Gasses. 

Intuitix was designed to automatically apply these calculation frameworks on projects, without the need for human intervention. This reduces time wasted and human error, allowing you to focus on managing your projects. For more information, book a demo with our team.

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