It goes without saying that projects should deliver benefits. For organisations, understanding what these benefits are, their quantities and how they relate to projects is key to harvesting the most value from projects, something we use a benefits realisation strategy for. When pursuing a benefits realisation strategy, you will find that one of the most important steps to get right is mapping your benefits. To do this, we complete a benefits mapping process.
A benefits mapping process will illustrate and communicate to the organisation what the key benefits that they’re looking to achieve are. Benefits can be discussed and refined to best reflect strategic goals. It will then demonstrate how the outcomes of projects eventually lead to said benefits, so that procedures and actions are in place to enable those benefits to be realised.
A comprehensive benefits mapping process is the foundation of an effective benefits realisation strategy. It can even positively impact the likelihood of successful project delivery.
One key purpose of the benefits mapping process is to adequately communicate the benefits of a project to stakeholders. Achieving this can lead to additional buy-in and support from stakeholders, as they’re made aware of the why behind projects. This helps them realise how projects can benefit the organisation and their day-to-day role, encouraging them to do all they can to assist in the successful delivery of projects.
Another important aspect of benefits mapping is during the project selection stage. Many benefits measurement techniques rely on quantified benefits to be assessed against the costs or risks associated with a project, so that a ‘score’ can be derived. This score will then be used to assess the project against others, leading to decisions being made on which to pursue. The benefits mapping process allows these benefits to be quickly visualised and forecasted, so that projects can be fairly assessed using this methodology.
Lastly, an effective benefits map can prove a very useful tool when it comes to planning project delivery, or drawing up the benefits realisation plan. The benefits realisation map will explain each step in the journey from project activities to realised benefits; tasks, actions and procedures may need to be put in place before project activities can result in desired benefits.
By visualising this prior to a project, these tasks and actions can be scheduled to ensure benefits are achieved in a timely manner. Likewise, procedures can be put in place minimising any delays in benefits being realised.
We’ve touched upon the fact that a benefits map will show the journey between project activities and realised benefits, but how do we go about representing this visually? The answer is a benefits dependency network.
An example of a benefits dependency network from a Harvard Business Review article can be seen above.
A benefits dependency network will show each step between the project activities and benefits ultimately realised, highlighting any:
It should aim to ‘tell a story’, showing the logic behind why projects are doing what they’re doing. It will also show the ‘critical path to success’, informing project planning.
The benefits mapping process, and creation of the dependency network, should not be done in isolation. Try and engage stakeholders, and reach a consensus on what and how activities, enablers and objectives relate to benefits. This also serves to help communicate the benefits dependency network to different stakeholders, as they’ve been engaged from the outset.
Furthermore, by engaging stakeholders from the outset, an idea of roles and responsibilities can be delegated early on. This will save time later on, as this is a key part of creating the benefits realisation plan.
To help get you started on your benefits mapping process, it may be worth considering using a benefits mapping template.
A benefits mapping template can give you an idea of where to start. It provides the categories, such as: objectives, benefits, stakeholders, outcomes, projects and enablers.
We would recommend using a prebuilt template in a software such as Miro or Lucidchart to create a digital version of the map. The benefits map doesn’t have to follow a strict structure, so feel free to make changes or additions to best reflect your organisation or project needs.
After the first draft has been created, it can be shared with different stakeholders, and iterated until perfect. Once a final version has been agreed upon, it’s useful to share around the organisation, so that everyone is fully informed of the benefits map.
The benefits mapping process is just one part of an ongoing benefits realisation strategy. A comprehensive benefits realisation strategy encompasses a mix of: project monitoring, stakeholder engagement, data collation, data calculation and reporting.
Intuitix was built to make this journey simple, providing automated and accurate data on benefits realisation. This makes the whole process of project selection, benefits mapping, reporting and decision making simpler and easier.
To find out more about how Intuitix can help on your benefits realisation journey, get in touch via our contact us page.
When looking to measure the benefits of projects, programmes, or portfolios, you will eventually have to decide on a benefits measurement method. With a variety of different benefits measurement methods out there, it may be difficult to decide on the one that's best for you.
This is compounded by the fact that benefits can often be less tangible than more empirical data - such as financial or performance related data. For this reason, we need to apply benefits measurement methods that make it easy to assess and communicate the full spectrum of benefits.
In this article, we will look to demystify the different benefits measurement methods. We’ll provide an overview of different approaches, along with the strengths and weaknesses of each. Afterwards, you should have some idea of which method will be best for you and your organisation.
Cost-benefit analysis is a way of assessing a project prior to making a decision on whether to pursue or not to. Cost-benefit analysis may not immediately be perceived as a ‘benefit measurement method’, as the focus is on looking at both the costs vs the benefits as a comparison. This, however, forces the project assessor to consider benefits in relation (or as a function) of costs. This can make assessment simple and clear.
For example: We understand that a project is likely to take up 4 months of an organisation's time, and will cost £100,000 to complete. If the benefits that it can then provide exceed 4 months of long term time savings, and generate revenues above £100,000, then it would be clear that the project should go ahead.
Although this method can work very easily as in the example above, benefits are often not so clearly related to costs. If the benefits are not in extra revenue or time saved for instance, then this approach would not work so well. The approach can consider intangible costs and benefits, however these cannot be objectively compared with one another.
Likewise, it requires some foresight from the organisation to prioritise its objectives. In some situations, it may be preferable to prioritise a project that saves time even if it costs the organisation money. This method wouldn’t account for without first identifying this.
Cost-benefit analysis therefore works best for smaller projects, with clear inputs/outputs and a shorter term horizon.
Net-present value can be seen as an extension of the cost-benefit analysis. Specifically, NPV looks to continually measure the financial impact of a project across its life. It considered the costs (and anticipated costs) against the realised return (and anticipated return). Net-present value, like Cost-benefit analysis, looks to compare financial costs vs financial benefits. It holds the advantage of having a prescribed approach that can easily be replicated across different organisations and project types.
Since Net-present value takes a similar approach to Cost-benefit analysis, it also suffers the same downfall. Net-present value can only be applied for financial benefits, where this data is readily available. Where benefits are less tangible (or made up of non-financial data), techniques will have to be applied to financialise this data. It also relies on assumptions and estimates being made, which could reduce the accuracy of this method.
Scoring models is another way of prioritising and measuring the benefits of projects. Examples of scoring models include the ‘balanced scorecard’ approach.
Scoring models work by assessing the strategic impact of projects in relation to the strategic objectives of the organisation. With this method, a score is attributed for each of these factors. These factors can also be weighted based on importance to the organisation. The different scores can then be aggregated, providing a total benefit score for each project (sometimes known as a ‘North Star’ metric).
This approach has several advantages. For one, a number of intangible benefits can be measured which may otherwise be overlooked by using financial approaches. Secondly, by basing measurements on existing objectives, we’re ensuring strategic alignment. Lastly, weighting the importance of these factors means each project is assessed fairly and with a practical outlook.
Though the method does hold these benefits, it could be seen as more subjective, as scoring is based on an arbitrary system. It therefore relies on the organisation to make efforts to be as objective as possible. This can be overcome by using things such as scoring committees, and continually reviewing scoring practices.
Following on from this, if a prescribed approach is not being followed, these methods rely upon buy-in from the organisation in order to develop scoring frameworks. Though this may seem like upfront cost and effort, it means a tailored approach can be adopted that best reflects the needs of the organisation.
These methods like those previously mentioned, quantify what will often be qualitative benefits. Though it can be done in a way that’s more practical for organisations long-term, qualitative data will always hold insights which cannot be quantitatively represented. It’s therefore important to retain qualitative benefit data where possible for future reference.
Constrained optimisation methods refer to complex mathematical calculations which are typically applied to selecting large, complex projects.
The techniques include: linear programming, non-linear programming, integer programming, dynamic programming and multiple objective programming.
We would only recommend this approach for large projects, with high resource allocation and multiple stakeholder groups.
It’s also important to bear in mind that this approach is primarily used for project selection, rather than the ongoing benefit measurement.
The methods mentioned are traditionally applied at the project selection stage. It’s important however to continue measuring benefits throughout a project's lifetime. This way, we’re able to calculate the forecasted benefits against the realised benefits, and make adjustments wherever necessary.
Remember, you should continually be reviewing your benefit measurement methods. What may work at one point in time, may need updating or become no longer relevant as organisations or environments evolve. We would suggest implementing review periods to make sure that this is completed.
As projects go on, and your benefit measurement changes, you may find yourself switching from one approach to another. You may even opt for a ‘blended approach’ combining multiple different methods into one that works best for you and your organisation.
Tools such as Intuitix have been built to accommodate this - taking the legwork out of benefit measurement and working around your organisation's preferred ways of working. To find out more about how we can help, book a demo with one of our team.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We hope that this article has been useful in getting you started on your benefits realisation template.