Welcome to the "Complete Guide to Benefits Realisation Management", a comprehensive guide that will take you through the essential steps to achieve benefits realisation. In today's fast-paced business environment, it is essential to maximise the value of your organisation's investments. Benefits realisation is the process of identifying and measuring the tangible and intangible benefits of a project or program and ensuring that these benefits are realised.
Many organisations invest in projects and programmes with the aim of achieving specific benefits, such as increased revenue, improved customer satisfaction, or enhanced efficiency. However, too often, these benefits are not fully realised or are not realised at all. This is because organisations fail to plan for and measure the benefits of their projects effectively. In fact, in the UK, only 0.5% of major projects deliver expected benefits on time and within budget.
This guide will provide you with a step-by-step approach to benefits realisation that will help you identify, measure, and realise the benefits of your organisation's investments. We will cover everything from different approaches to benefits realisation, setting up a benefits realisation framework with best practices, to long-term measuring and reporting on benefits. By following the guidance in this guide, you will be able to ensure that your organisation's projects and programmes deliver the expected benefits and maximise their return on investment. But first, let’s explore what exactly we mean by benefits realisation.
Benefits realisation is a process which aims to provide a clear understanding of the value that a project or program will bring to the organisation and its stakeholders. It’s aim is to answer the questions:
Benefits realisation will also look at benefits across different timescales. A comprehensive approach will consider not just the short term, immediate benefits, but also the longer term benefits, that may not be realised for many years.
Of course, many stakeholder aims will be difficult to quantify objectively. This is where challenges in benefits realisation typically arise. A comprehensive benefits realisation framework will do its best to overcome this. By gathering different data sources that can illustrate whether a more abstract aim has been achieved, we can communicate to stakeholders to the best of our ability, as to how the project/programme will impact them.
Benefits realisation as a practice has evolved over the years. Some of the main influencers for modern benefits realisation management include John Kotter’s 8-step change model, Scottish Widow’s Project Management Handbook and the UK government’s ‘Managing Successful Programmes (MSP)’.
Different approaches look at benefits realisation through different angles. One approach, looks at benefits realisation as an ongoing change process, where an organisation's way of working constantly adjusts, resulting in additional benefits. Another, looks at benefits realisation on a project-level, specifying tools and techniques to maximise the benefits realised through implementing projects or programmes of projects. We can also look at benefits realisation on a strategic level, strengthening the bond between strategic direction and operational activity.
Throughout this evolution, various approaches have converged on ‘best practices’ for benefits realisation management. By adopting these ‘best practices’, we can be sure that our benefits framework will be robust, and effectively answer the questions that we outlined earlier.
Since every organisation will have different stakeholder needs, project types and strategic goals, a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t recommended. Rather, we suggest curating a benefits realisation framework unique to your situation and your requirements.
Benefits frameworks can be as specific as deemed necessary. They may differ as much as a unique framework for each project type or as general as one common framework across the whole organisation. It’s down to you as project and portfolio managers to decide what is best.
Although each organisation’s benefits measurement framework is going to be unique to them, by following a few best practices, we can make sure we’re on the right track.
The first thing to consider in a benefits realisation management strategy is the importance of roles and responsibilities. Roles include: benefits change managers, who are responsible for tracking the benefits that arise from implementing change, and the benefit owners, who will be the ones that are concerned with the benefit, and will be receiving information in regards to it.
Assigning roles is important not only to ensure that the benefits measurement & reporting process is completed, but also to help individuals understand the ‘bigger picture’. By providing them with a wider view of why they’re doing what they’re doing, then you’re more likely to gain support for the project and the benefits realisation process.
Before a project or programme is undertaken, it is likely you will have to justify to the investors or budget holders that the project is worthy of investment. To do this, typically, a business case is defined.
In a business case, we will be speculating as to the outcomes and impact of the project/programme. We will also likely be explaining how we intend to deliver the project/programme, ensuring that those desired outcomes and impacts (benefits) are achieved.
The business case is a great opportunity to demonstrate to investors and stakeholders that a benefits realisation management plan is in place. This provides reassurance over the delivery of the project/programme, and prepares stakeholders to expect communication regarding the achievement of their objectives.
The next thing to consider is the process by which you define and measure your benefits. In order to do this effectively, we need to consider who is being affected by the project or programme. We then need to engage these stakeholders, understanding their aims and objectives in the project or programme.
Once the objectives are understood, we can begin operationalizing these as desired benefits. Work with stakeholders to define benefits that are as specific as possible. For example, a stakeholder may wish for the company's performance to improve. This is too generic, and needs to be further clarified. Do they want profit to increase? And if so, do they want to do this by reducing costs or by increasing revenue? These are the questions we need to be asking stakeholders to get specific benefits, that we can then measure objectively.
It is also useful at this point to map stakeholders' relevance to the project/programme. It may be the case that different stakeholders have different objectives, which can diffuse the aims of the project/programme. For this reason, it may be necessary to rank the stakeholders according to a relevance matrix. By doing this, we can thereby rank the importance of each benefit, in accordance to each stakeholder. For more information on stakeholder management, read our intro into stakeholder management plans.
Once we understand the different stakeholders and benefit requirements, we can begin the process of ‘Benefits Mapping’.
The purpose of benefits mapping is to illustrate the ‘cause-and-effect’ between changes that happen through a project’s delivery, the resulting outcomes and the impacts that those outcomes have on the organisation and onto external stakeholders.
By mapping benefits in this way, we are aiming to understand that when the project is implemented, we’re clear about what has happened, how it has happened, who it has affected and why it’s important. This then paints a clear picture, which we can communicate succinctly to stakeholders.
An effective benefits mapping process will result in a ‘benefits dependency network’, an example of which can be seen below:
There are a variety of different mapping styles to be chosen. A ‘results chains’ is one example, which includes elements such as the assumptions required to make the link between initiatives and outcomes. Other styles include ‘Benefit Dependency Maps’ or ‘Benefits Dependency Networks’, with slight variations between each one. We suggest taking a flexible approach to choosing which style to use, adjusting the mapping style for your organisational & stakeholder requirements.
The needs of your organisation may evolve over time. As with any initiative, benefits realisation must also adapt to the changing needs of the organisation. In order to cater for this, we suggest continually monitoring and evaluating your benefits realisation process, to ensure that it is representing the strategic objectives of your organisation and stakeholders.
In the case that these objectives change, then consider reviewing your benefits realisation process, and making any necessary changes to ensure that it is still representative. You may also wish to predefine ‘review periods’, where at intermittent dates, the benefits realisation is reviewed by relevant stakeholders to ensure that it is still on track.
Now that you’re capturing your benefits, you need to consider how you’re going to report those benefits to stakeholders. Remember that each stakeholder group will be interested in different benefit types, so it’s best not to overload everyone with the same information. Rather, it’s better to provide each stakeholder with just the information most relevant to them.
Managing multiple communication channels, each with its own specific requirements can be challenging. Investing in a digital tool such as Intuitix can help manage this process, freeing up time for you and your team.
Projects and programmes are likely to also change quickly, so providing your stakeholders with the most up-to-date information is critical, but can be resource intensive. Again, a digital tool such as Intuitix can automate a large amount of this process, reducing the burden on yourself.
We hope that this guide has been helpful towards your benefits realisation journey. If we were to summarise the key takeaways, it would be that: