Realising and tracking programme and project benefits

The actual realisation of project benefits, as defined in the benefits realisation plan, can span a considerable period of time, often years. Throughout this period, individual benefits must be tracked, measured, managed and realised by the business.

Managing the benefit portfolio

There is a need for the full portfolio of programme or project benefits to be overseen and managed at a strategic level. The Senior Responsible Owner must put in place the necessary resource and structures to allow the benefit realisation plan to be monitored at regular intervals, ensuring that key benefits are being managed and are on target to be fully realised. This oversight and management role will vary depending on what stage has been reached in the benefits management lifecycle and what governance structures are in place.

Diagram illustrating the relationship between multiple benefit profiles and the collective portfolio of benefits.
Diagram illustrating the relationship between multiple benefit profiles and the collective portfolio of benefits.

The SRO is responsible for ensuring that the collective set of programme or project benefits are monitored, tracked and managed as defined in the benefits realisation plan. In practical terms, the SRO may wish to delegate this oversight function to a named individual or group.

Tracking and prompting

The benefits realisation plan must be monitored regularly to track the progress of each of the key milestones identified for each benefit profile. Where necessary the SRO may be required to prompt or work with the named senior benefit owner to ensure that all planned measurement and review activities are being implemented. It is recommended that specific benefit targets are built into well established business planning processes. Senior benefit owners may wish to include benefit targets in their operational and strategic business plans though this will depend on the level and priority of the benefit.

Strategic intervention

Where a high priority benefit target is forecast not to be met, the SRO may be required to intervene. Normally these assessments and corrective action plans form part of individual benefit realisation reviews, but occasionally the senior and operational benefit owners may require the assistance and input of the SRO. Equally, the SRO may be required to help coordinate interdependencies between benefits, for example, where one high priority benefit is dependent on another to be realised.

Review and update

It is important that the benefits realisation plan is kept up to date and that established benefit management processes are flexible enough to react to changing circumstances. Often, as information is reported back to the SRO, there may be instances where new, unexpected benefits and dis-benefits have emerged. It is important that there is the resource and facility to analyse these benefits. Where appropriate, these can be assimilated into the existing benefit set. Any newly identified benefits must be assessed and appropriate ownership and action planned.

As the benefit lifecycle progresses and benefits start to accrue it is important that the SRO takes time to review the effectiveness of the benefits management strategy. It may be possible to analyse and uncover why some benefits are successfully achieved and others aren’t, and apply the reasoning to adjust and improve the chances of achieving subsequent benefits.

Communications

As programme or project benefits begin to be realised across the organisation, there may be opportunities to link successful benefits realisation to the programme, project or organisational communication channels. Good news stories, emanating from benefits that have been achieved within the business, are particularly effective as they will have a robust evidence base. Additionally, organisationally, there may be opportunities to draw together the benefits from a range of reform initiatives to communicate how change is being planned, implemented and delivered corporately.

Reporting

Where a project is part of a wider programme or change initiative, the project SRO will usually be required to provide regular progress reports against the benefits realisation plan.

This reporting channel will not only provide a cumulative picture of the total set of project benefits, but will also allow for strategic intervention where required. Obviously specific governance arrangements will vary depending on the programme and project and the stage of the benefits lifecycle, but defined review reporting points should be incorporated and detailed in the overall benefits realisation plan.

Managing individual benefit profiles

The successful execution, management and realisation of individual benefit profiles is fundamental to the ultimate success or failure of the investment in change. If a programme or project fails to prove it has realised the benefits on which it was initiated, then the business transformation and investment in change will be deemed a failure.

Individual benefits and benefit profiles will usually be managed by operational benefit owners and overseen by senior benefit owners as defined and agreed in each specific benefit profile.

All key activities, milestones and measurement points detailed in the benefit profile must be implemented and assessed. While the specifics will vary from benefit to benefit, most will include certain key elements.

Measurement

A pre-implementation baseline measurement followed by defined actual measurements at relevant points during, and post, implementation.

Assessment

Analysis of progress following each actual measurement point to determine if the benefit is projected to achieve or even exceed the target defined in the profile. If the measurement seems off target then this stage should also include analysis of why the benefit is unlikely to be achieved. Necessary corrective action must be planned and implemented at this point. The senior benefit owner and the SRO may be required to intervene if the benefit is high priority or the remedial action requires senior management involvement.

This assessment phase should also ensure that:

  • the benefit profile itself is up to date
  • the actual measurement value has been included
  • the benefit priority remains valid
  • any new risks have been assessed

If any new, unanticipated benefits or dis-benefits emerge, these should be documented and reported back to the senior benefit owner and project SRO for consideration.

Reporting

It is usual for reporting milestones to be built into the benefit profile, where progress is reported against the benefit targets. These reports are normally from the operational benefit owner to the senior benefit owner or from the operational or senior benefit owner to the project SRO. Maintaining regular reports to the SRO will allow for an assessment of the combined benefit yield of the programme or project as a whole. On completion of the benefit profile, a final report should be completed and signed off by the senior benefit owner and sent to the SRO.

It is common for specific benefit targets to be built into operational business plans. Embedding benefit targets into business plans helps maintain their visibility, ensuring that they are actively considered and managed.

Critical Success Factors

Examples of some critical success factors may include:

  • measurement arrangements are in place before and after implementation
  • benefit profiles are kept up to date and actively managed
  • benefits are assessed following measurement and any remedial action required is planned and implemented
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