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.