Planning for programme and project benefits realisation

The purpose of this stage is to identify what has to be done to realise benefits and how this will be achieved. Benefits realisation planning is concerned with ensuring that the necessary plans, structures, governance arrangements and processes are in place to successfully realise the core benefits of the programme or project.

Benefits realisation plan

A benefits realisation plan acts as an overview of the main milestones detailed in each benefit profile. It serves as a management tool to monitor, track and manage the collective set of benefits associated with a programme or project. The key activities from each benefit should be drawn together to form the consolidated plan. This will provide a centralised resource to help keep track of what needs to be done, when and by whom, to manage the successful realisation of benefits.

The programme or project Senior Responsible Owner is ultimately accountable for the overall realisation of the programme or project benefits, even in where benefits may take years to be fully realised. As such, they are responsible for ensuring that an effective benefits realisation plan is developed, maintained and implemented. Practically, it is usually the programme or project benefit manager with support from the programme or project team, benefits working group and business representatives who will complete most of the development and drafting work.

Where an SRO can no longer execute this function due to retirement or promotion, they are still responsible for nominating and securing a suitable replacement to oversee the completion of the benefits plan.

The benefits realisation plan will be based primarily on the information contained within individual benefit profiles, for example, measurement, assessment and reporting points. Once benefits have been agreed and responsibilities assigned, the actual measurement, monitoring and management of benefits will be done by named operational benefit owners and overseen by senior benefit owners.

Summary Reviews

As operational benefit owners will have responsibility for managing the delivery and realisation of specific benefits, their focus will be relatively narrow. As such, there must be an overarching management framework to monitor, track and manage the total set of benefits. It is the SRO’s responsibility to establish and maintain this oversight and to ensure that senior and operational benefit owners are achieving the targets detailed in their benefit profiles. In effect, the benefit realisation plan should also have summary review points built in, where the SRO, or a delegated individual or team, considers the overall progress, issues and realisation of programme or project benefits.

As part of these summary review points the SRO must ensure that any new benefits or dis-benefits are captured and, where appropriate, developed and included in the overall benefit portfolio. Benefit priority should also be evaluated at regular intervals.

Agreeing Content

Senior benefit owners and, particularly, operational benefits owners may have an interest in the benefits realisation plan and may like a copy for reference. Generally, however, their main interest will be in the specific benefit profiles relating to the particular benefits for which they are responsible. These benefit owners, if not actually members of the benefits management working group, should have agreed the content of their own individual benefit profiles.

Guidance on completing a benefits realisation plan

Some items that may be useful for inclusion in the plan include:

  • the main activities and milestones from benefit profiles, for example baseline measurement dates, actual measurement points, assessments, reporting points
  • reporting milestones to the programme board or project board and post-project governance structure
  • a summary review of the collective set of benefit profiles
  • post project review

Benefits management strategy

The purpose of a benefits management strategy is to describe in detail how the programme or project intends to manage the delivery of the benefits on which the investment decision was made.

The objectives of the benefits management strategy are to:

  • detail how benefits will be quantified and measured
  • define what the combined set of benefits looks like
  • document what systems and processes will be used to track progress
  • explain how benefits realisation will be achieved
  • describe what governance arrangements will be in place throughout, and post project

The programme or project SRO is responsible for the development of its benefits management strategy. In reality much of the initial drafting work will be driven by the programme or project benefit manager and the programme or project team with input and ultimate sign off from business area representatives.

Development of the benefits management strategy should, in large part, simply draw together much of the work already done on benefits management. It is a summary document detailing how the programme or project intends to manage the change process and ensure that the benefits on which it was initiated will be controlled, managed and successfully realised.

The strategy document sets out the framework for benefits realisation and will generally include:

  • a brief description of its purpose
  • the background to the programme or project and its purpose
  • reference to the approach to benefits management, details of the benefits methodology to be used and its key stages
  • summary of financial benefits
  • summary of non-financial benefits
  • a description of the roles, functions and responsibilities for benefits planning and realisation - including governance structures
  • a copy of the benefits statement
  • a completed benefits model
  • a complete benefit profile for each benefit
  • a benefit realisation plan
  • details of how and when a post project review will be completed

Once a final draft has been agreed by the benefits working group, the strategy must be approved by senior management from the programme or project side, for example the SRO and Board, as well as senior staff representatives from affected business areas, possibly the senior benefit owners.

Governance

A key element of the strategy is to outline what governance arrangements will be in place throughout the benefits management lifecycle. Many benefits will occur long after the programme or project and its structures have been dismantled - in some cases years. There must be provision made to retain some form of strategic oversight and control until the final benefits are realised. Governance arrangements will vary depending on the stage of the benefit lifecycle. Generally, however, there are two main states; project governance and post project governance. In the rare instances where programme or project benefits are fully realised within the life of the project, post-project governance arrangements are not applicable.

Project

While the project is still operational the resources should exist within the project team to oversee and drive benefits development and management, with input and involvement from the business side - through the benefit working group and ongoing communication. Benefits can be overseen, monitored and controlled with regular reporting to, and input from, established programme or project governance structures. Business area representation should be maintained through the senior user role on the board and the benefit working group.

Post project

Many anticipated programme or project benefits will not start to materialise until after the programme or project has completed and closed down. The SRO must ensure that appropriate structures are put in place to monitor, track and manage benefits until the final benefit is realised. The membership, format and name of post-project governance arrangements will vary but generally this group will be made up of the SRO and senior staff from affected business areas. Their main role is to ensure that the benefits realisation plan is successfully executed and that any corrective action or interventions required to achieve business transformation are planned and fully implemented. Often this group is referred to as the transformation steering committee.

Transition Management

The strategy should also consider the process of transition management and how the people element of change will be managed. Examples will include:

  • training and education activities - some form of post-implementation education and training may be required to reinforce and embed change
  • development of new processes and procedures - it may be useful to introduce new procedures and handbooks to enhance training and ensure consistency and standardisation of approach
  • communications - open and honest communications are essential in facilitating successful change within the business and should be an ongoing strand of the change process; many organisations appoint a high level ‘business change champion’ - a senior manager who has access to key resources and sufficient stature to be able to encourage other groups of stakeholders but lower level support may be provided by ‘role models’ - staff or managers who understand the necessary business changes and who can communicate with and motivate their peers
  • re-deploying staff - if benefits are related to increased efficiency or a reduction in staff resource, it will be necessary to re-deploy staff to realise the benefit; consultation with management, personnel and relevant unions will be required
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