How can I ensure that project benefits are realised?
Map benefits so that you understand all the dependencies
It is worth getting a very clear view of what contributes to achieving each benefit you have identified and mapping this out. Think about the links between the outputs the project is delivering, any changes to ways of working that are needed, how this maps through to the outcomes you are working towards, the resulting benefits and their link to business priorities. You may flag up dependencies on other projects and programmes of work and have individual benefits that when achieved together result in something much bigger and better than the standalone positions.
Make a conscious effort to think about scope and consider the big picture
Make sure the focus of benefits analysis is not too narrow. If I am a hospital tasked with cost reduction, I might choose to consider outsourcing the cleaning function to a third party as an opportunity. But to get a true picture of the benefits case, I need to look wider than just the cost of cleaning. There needs to be some awareness in my benefits analysis that the quality of the cleaning is important to levels of illness in my hospital, so I might save money in one area, but if the quality dips, then my costs might actually increase in another area due to cross infection and potential legal action. I need to know all the contributing and limiting factors to achieving my overall benefit.
Ensure you have a meaningful baseline to measure against
You cannot quantify what you cannot measure, so finding an accurate starting position so you can show the level of benefit you are targeting and what you achieve against that is really important. Agreeing the source of the data and how you will calculate the benefit early on, together with some examples is helpful. Test your approach before an implementation happens to be sure it is workable.
Identify Benefits Owners early in the delivery
Once you have a view of the benefits expected from a change, it is possible to identify a candidate Benefit Owner and get their agreement to the role. Ensure this is someone who has a positive interest in the achievement of the benefit, and who has ability to resolve issues if there are blockers.
Plan exactly how the benefits will be realised
You might be involved in a fabulous project that will save an average of 10 hours a week for each member of staff. But if staff simply have more tea breaks with the additional time, you may achieve no real benefit for your organisation at all. Consider how the business will use the time saved. You might decide to uplift quality for Customers, or lend staff to another team that needs extra people. To help with these decisions start by ensuring there is a strategy in place to help with planning this out e.g. no one will be made redundant as a result of any efficiency savings, but we may choose not to replace staff lost through natural attrition.
Use existing business governance forums to govern achievement of benefits
Where possible use existing business-as-usual governance forums to manage benefits realisation and keep Benefits Owners accountable for delivery of the benefits they own. These forums will still be in place when projects close.
Provide feedback loops on benefits realisation progress to Portfolios
Portfolios of work need to understand the level of benefit that materialises so they can measure whether investments are making the expected level of contribution towards meeting business priorities. This information coupled with lessons learned helps with group learning and informs improvements in both decision-making and support for all current and future initiatives.
Keep an eye out for our other blogs ‘How do I ensure benefits realisation for my project?’ and ‘How can I build expertise in benefits management?’ in this benefits realisation series.
As always, we’d love to help you think through how you think this could help you and your projects. Our team of consultants are happy to chat, no strings attached. Contact us.