Benefits Realisation

The onus of reaping benefits from technological investments squarely falls on the business itself; merely implementing technology is not enough to guarantee success. At the very least, comprehensive training and robust support are essential to ensure users can effectively utilise new digital tools.

The wealth of lessons learned from past experiences cannot be overlooked. To extract the fullest value, the convergence of technology with process and business modifications is crucial, alongside the business's adept utilisation of the insights that technology yields.

While a project might deliver technological advancements and process alterations, the business must own the changes required to enhance performance and actualise the benefits – that is the essence of business responsibility.

For all key stakeholders within the business to “sign up” to the benefits, it’s essential they understand their business responsibilities for defining and executing business changes and measuring performance improvements in their business areas. Key to this is continued business involvement.

The business needs to be involved in identifying the potential benefits to be gained from an initiative and ideally this starts with digital use cases, then the business case. This should include defining the scope of technology, process change, and business change necessary to deliver the benefits.

Most importantly, it’s the Executive sponsor of an initiative who should take overall responsibility for delivering the benefits from the project or programme on behalf of the business. They and their team need to collaborate with key business stakeholders who are responsible for the benefits within their respective business areas.

Because of the general lack of knowledge and understanding about benefit realisation, it’s very important that a RACI matrix is established and communicated leaving no room for ambiguity. It should be clear to everyone who is Responsible for undertaking an activity, Accountable for ensuring that the activity is undertaken satisfactorily, Consulted in conjunction with the activity, and Informed as the activity progresses.

Without the RACI, it’s almost certain that people will begin making incorrect assumptions about who is doing what, and sooner or later, the benefits realisation effort will run into trouble.

Every transformation should have a set of tools and proven techniques to manage the business benefits which should be evident at every stage of the transformation, and it's important to remember that Value is not just about financial benefits. It’s about any improvement which is perceived as being beneficial by stakeholders, which could be financial, measurable, quantifiable or observable.

Benefits are often colourfully painted in business cases to secure funding. But once those funds are secured, the very people who did a splendid job of ‘selling' the benefits to those who held the keys to the budget, sometimes pay little if any attention to benefits management. They promise value in the business case, get the money they need, but then fail to measure the value.

The business case should be supported by a “benefits management strategy” which does more than just explain the activities, time and resources needed to achieve a set of benefits.

It should describe the process that will be used for monitoring, realising, and assessing benefits and contain relationships and dependencies between the changes and benefits.

Other content would address  a dependency network and criteria to assess whether benefits have been achieved and how they should be quantified. This will serve to build stakeholder confidence and trust from the outset.

Once the transformation has been kicked off, a benefits plan should be consistently and pro-actively managed and monitored with a set of tools and proven techniques.

Benefits management takes more than a financial spreadsheet and a list of benefits sitting on a timeline, and it should also involve extensive communication.

As with every aspect of transformation, under-communication is often at the root of many issues, so plan for extensive pictures, charts, maps, and diagrams that will resonate with stakeholders far better than verbose documents and spreadsheets.

The Benefits Management Strategy should define the approach to realising benefits and the framework within which the benefits realisation will be achieved. It should cover:

Methods for identifying, mapping, monitoring, and reviewing benefits.

Scope and explanation of which areas of the business will be covered by benefits management and realisation activity.

Measurement methods and processes to monitor and assess the realisation of benefits.

Success factors against which the effectiveness of benefits management should be measured.

Tools, systems, and sources of information to enable measurement.

Descriptions of function, roles, accountabilities and responsibilities for benefit planning and realisation.

Priorities of benefit types.

Relationships between capabilities and benefits.

Opportunities to be managed in relationship to risk management.

Clarification of benefits-related terminology appropriate to the organisation.

And a review and assessment process for measuring benefits realisation.

A benefits realisation plan should be designed to track the realisation of benefits across the transformation portfolio and set review controls. It should contain:

Detailed benefits map to illustrate sequential relationships between benefits.

Schedule detailing when each benefit, dis-benefit or group of benefits will be realised.

Milestones for benefit reviews.

Estimated effort and costs associated with the plan.

Detail of transition schedules.

Benefit reporting schedule and relationships with programme outcomes.

Dependencies external to the programme.

Handover and embedding activities to enhance the process of benefits realisation after delivery of a capability.

And Details of how benefits realisation will be maintained after programme closure.

Investment is made to make transformation happen, which should be to provide value. Those who ignore the concept of Value Management and Benefit Realisation Management are essentially neglecting the very purpose of the transformation.

Three key questions stakeholders should ask are:

What does the benefits management strategy look like?
What does the benefits management plan look like?
Who is executing the benefits management plan?

No matter who the tasks are assigned to, the accountability for Value and Benefits Management rests with the Digital Business Transformation Manager. In an ideal scenario, they would appoint a dedicated individual focused solely on managing and realising the value and benefits.