Benefits Realisation Framework
Why organisations need a Benefits Realisation Framework
Every organisation engaged in business change projects/programmes should have a benefits realisation framework, to maximise the positive impact of change, and to avoid common pitfalls of change programmes (1).
It should describe the long-term process of embedding and maximising potential benefits following change projects. Benefits are rarely automatic. They often require behavioural and organisational change and don’t always happen on their own.
The topic goes well beyond project management. Responsibility for benefits realisation should seldom be with project managers or PMOs. They may well, however, have a role in facilitating much of the earlier stages of the benefits work.
Why do we need a framework?
Evidence from hundreds of organisations (over the last 20 years) shows that many of the most important tasks within benefits realisation simply do not happen. Just assuming the following will happen (without providing practical guidance) can and does have a serious impact on the expected benefits that change efforts produce.
The framework should also:
- provide any organisation with the data to know whether change efforts are making a real difference.
- give those people involved in change programmes clear help and guidance to develop their maturity around this topic, as evidence shows that most people do not find this an easy thing to do.
Contents of the Framework
The framework should be as lightweight as possible. It does not have to include templates, but it must make this task crystal clear. It must also provide guidance to people who have to contribute towards this element of any project or programme. Using real worked examples from your organisation can be hugely useful.
It should at least refer to or cover the following:
- Relating strategic objectives and priorities to projects through benefits planning (probably the most important element of all).
- Pipeline planning and approval of business cases.
- The one-page business case.
- The benefits cycle (identify, plan, realise)
- Categories of cashable, non-cashable and tangible benefits relative to the organisation’s strategic aims and goals. Including real examples of genuine benefits based on what you do as an organisation.
- Clear guidance on what constitutes cashable, non-cashable and tangible benefits in your organisation, using real examples.
- Planning, including the management of risk relating to benefits, not the project itself.
- Realisation – focusing on responsibilities.
- Accountability and responsibility for benefits – ownership
- Measuring and reporting – keeping it simple but visible. Guidance on avoiding common pitfalls around measures.
- Lightweight ‘tools’ to manage the realisation phase, focusing on status around actions.
Real evidence of the need for a framework:
Finally, if you still need convincing of the need for the above, please spend 4 minutes watching the video below. It summarises the evidence we see every year around major change programmes. What this shows is that:
- much of what is needed just is not there at all
- people find this much harder to do than they expect.
Having developed the first-ever training and coaching (in 2003) on this subject available anywhere, in 2019 we were commissioned to conduct a formal lessons-learned exercise, the summary of which is captured here, and is just as relevant today (audio is not required):
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- Business change projects are given many names, including: Business projects; process improvement; change programmes; and transformation programmes. Many IT and technology projects aim to achieve specific improvements. All of these situations can benefit hugely from the owning organisation developing a benefits realisation framework.