What is benefits realisation management (BRM)?

Benefits realisation management is about knowing where you want to get to, knowing how to get there and knowing you have arrived. That means:

Identifying objectives and benefits to clarify the reasons why you are undertaking the project and what you expect to get from it;

Designing enablers and planning business change required to achieve the benefits;

Establishing monitoring and measurement mechanisms to track progress against realisation targets

The Benefit Realisation Management approach brings a structured approach that is aligned to the project management lifecycle stages. The approach emphasises four key aspects:

  • Focus on defining and delivering the right objectives and benefits of change (outcomes) rather than deliverables e.g. systems (outputs);
  • Ensure projects deliver the right solutions (enablers and changes), focussed on business benefits to achieve stated objectives rather than just technical solutions;
  • An emphasis on business ownership and commitment to deliver objectives and change. The business is responsible for realising benefits while the project is responsible for delivering the required changes and enablers;
  • Establishing progress monitoring beyond the life of the project to enable promotion of success and corrective action to be taken where targets are being missed;

Why is it important?

The three most common hindrances to successful change projects are often listed as:

– Lack of commitment from senior management
– Lack of clear objectives/vision
– Stakeholders are not bought into the change

Benefits realisation management is a key approach to help mitigate these perceived barriers.

Benefits Management Process

The benefits management process is based on a team effort and joint commitment from the business and the project to identify and deliver the benefits. It is a continuous process running through the complete lifecycle. The benefits realisation process can be thought of as four main stages which are aligned with the project lifecycle phases:

  1. Benefits Management During the Start-up Phase – Identify High Level Benefits
  2. Benefits Management during the Initiate phase – Initial Benefits Planning
  3. Benefits Management during the Execute phase – Detailed Benefits Planning & Start Realising Benefits
  4. Benefits Management during the Close phase – Realise Benefits

1. Benefits Management During the Start-up Phase – Identify High Level Benefits 

Objective:
Creating a business case for project approval This is the start of the benefits realisation management process. Adopting a benefits realisation approach at an early stage of the project will help define the scope of the change and ensure the future project planning and design remains focussed on the objective and benefit outcomes of the change, rather than the technology or project deliverables. An early focus on benefits will also help to engage and enthuse the business community. Ultimately, a strong benefits approach will help give business case focus and credibility.Activities:

  • Undertake benefits stakeholder analysis
  • Identify objectives for change. Start by understanding what you want to achieve
  • Identify high level benefits with stakeholders (and benefits owners if established). At this stage these will be estimates but where possible benefits should be quantified and some baseline measurement of AS IS processes and costs might be necessary

Note: There will also be more detailed, lower level benefits to be identified. Whilst not necessary at this stage, it is good practice to note them as they are identified.

  • Identify any disbenefits
  • Identify potential changes and enablers. This will typically be at a generic, high level
  • Identify dependencies from other initiatives. The change might be dependent on other initiatives to realise benefits or visa versa. It might be that this change creates a disbenefit for another initiative
  • Create a high level benefits dependency map
  • Produce the Business Case for the project
  • Include in the next stage plan tasks and dates for:
  • Finalising benefits, measurements mechanisms, and producing the benefits realisation plan as well as engagement with the business
  • Present the business case to the Project Board

Hints & Tips

  • Getting business buy in at an early stage will help with future engagement
  • Use objective linkage maps to help with identifying objectives
  • Create a high level benefits dependency map to identify benefits and dependencies
  • Use  a Benefits / Stakeholder matrix to help stakeholder analysis and management
  • Run a workshop with key stakeholders to identify the benefits and get business buy-in early on
  • Engage benefits stakeholders as early as possible. Identify and understand their needs and attitudes and keep them involved in all aspects of the benefits work throughout the entire project
  • Where your project is within a change programme, it is essential to follow a consistent approach to benefits realisation management

2.  Benefits Management during the Initiate phase – Initial Benefits Planning

Objective:
Establishing the benefits approach, detailed analysis of the benefits and putting in place plans for delivering benefits

The key emphasis is that the project is designed and planned around the desired benefits. Furthermore, by identifying ownership for benefits outside of the project establishes business commitment to realising the benefits and ensures the responsibilities of the project and owner are clear.

For smaller projects initial benefits planning and detailed benefits planning may be merged.

Activities:

  • Determine project roles and responsibilities for benefits realisation management, including planning, measuring and reporting
  • Undertake further benefits stakeholder analysis and establish benefits owners
  • Perform detailed analysis and validation of the benefits with benefits owners and stakeholders
  • Identify disbenefits
  • Determine and plan the business changes and enablers that are required to achieve the benefits
  • Update the benefits dependency map
  • Identify which benefits can and should be measured and determine appropriate measures. (Measurable benefits should be measured AS IS for a baseline)
  • Complete the benefits profiles.
  • Produce a draft benefits realisation plan. As a minimum this should include:
    a. Complete list of expected benefits, validated by benefits owners
    b. Plans and dates for detailed benefits realisation planning
    c. Identification of key changes and enablers required to  realise the benefits
  • Benefits Owners and Stakeholders should review and validate the draft plan.

Hints & Tips

  • Identifying the dependencies between benefits, changes and enablers can help with prioritisation and scope. This helps with making decisions about what functionality or changes can be dropped
  • When designing your project team, ensure there is a role to manage the benefits realisation process
  • Ensure benefits realisation management is embedded in the heart of the project
  • Validate the requirements of enablers against benefits rather than the (more usual) other way round of validating benefits against the system.
  • Ensure you get representative involvement from key stakeholder groups during the Initiate phase
  • Learn lessons about benefits management from other projects
  • When considering how to measure benefits, try and use existing measures and reporting processes (e.g. regular questionnaires, QMR)
  • Roles and responsibilities for delivering benefits should be clearly understood

3.  Benefits Management during the Execute phase – Detailed Benefits Planning & Start Realising Benefits

Objective:
From a project perspective, the focus of this phase is designing and implementing the business changes and enablers that are required to realise the expected benefits.From a benefits perspective the phase is split into two stages:

  1. Detailed benefits planning. Finalise the expected benefits and establish mechanisms for measuring and monitoring realisation
  2. Start benefits realisation. Once the changes and enablers are implemented, measurement of early benefits can begin

For smaller projects initial benefits planning and detailed benefits planning may be merged.

Activities:

  1. Finalise and validate benefits. Review benefits against early prototypes of solutions to further understand changes and enablers
  2. Communicate benefits. Once the benefits and changes are agreed the benefits should be communicated via the project communications process
  3. Finalise and validate benefits measurement mechanisms
  4. Create plans for monitoring benefits. This should consider what will happen after the project has disbanded.  The benefits owner will be responsible for monitoring the benefits so should be involved in this.
  5. Finalise Benefits Profiles and obtain sign off benefits profiles from Benefit Owners.
  6. Finalise the Benefits Realisation Plan. Benefits Owners and Stakeholders should review and validate the plan.
  7. Design and develop changes and enablers. (This will be managed by the project and changes management plans)
  8. Obtain Project Board approval for the final benefits realisation plan
  9. Implement changes and enablers
  10. Commence measurement of early benefits. This is the beginning of the realisation process that will extend beyond the life of the project

Hints & Tips:

  • Ask ‘are these systems and changes we are developing adequate to realise the benefits?’ It is very easy to focus on the systems and then consider what benefits we can get from the system
  • Use a benefits dependency map to help with prioritisation and scope. This helps with making decisions about what functionality or changes can be dropped and developing implementation plans
  • Communications should be benefits driven whether positive or negative. Be realistic about both benefits and disbenefits and be realistic about the impact on the users

4.  Benefits Management during the Close phase – Realise Benefits

Objective:
Realise, monitor and report on progress with benefits realisation

Although from a project perspective this stage is ‘Close’, this is not the end of the benefits realisation process. In some cases, this is just the beginning…

Activities:

  1. Measure benefits. Benefits Owners should take the lead in measuring benefits at this stage.
  2. Monitor quality of enablers and changes
  3. Monitor and report on benefits – reporting on benefits realisation progress to SRO and project board
  4. Taking corrective action when benefits are not being realised and targets are missed

Hints & Tips
3. Full business ownership and commitment means monitoring and corrective action will take place