The Power of Benefits Realisation

Briefing Note 73

As we travel to different clients around the country we see lots of time an effort being put into detailed project plans and business cases. Then we have conversations and read in the press that Project A didn’t deliver X, and that in some cases we failed to evaluate whether a completed project was a good one or delivered the intended outcomes.

All project plans and business cases should contain a robust and clear benefits realisation plan. This is the tool against which to measure the project’s achievements and in our experience it is the often overlooked at the end of the project. It is good practice for a full and final benefits realisation report to be issued on projects, post completion, but in many cases this fails to happen. Why is this? In reality it is because staff move on to the next task. This is understandable, but in this briefing note I want to show you why it’s important to stop and reflect.

It should be noted that a benefits realisation plan is not solely about £’s and activity. It is much wider than that and could include increased access to services, reaching out to wider sections of the community, impact on energy and the environment, workforce etc. It could be a lengthy list for some projects, or contain just a few items, but it is important we measure the total impact of the change/investment and that it can be demonstrated by value for money tests.

The issue tends to be that a project goes live, has some normalisation issues to be ironed out, and is then streamlined. Having a formal process that evaluates the benefits at 3 or 6 months of going live really will show the reader the true value of the project. For some projects we would go as far as to say the benefits realisation reports should be received at a formal committee and the combinations of such reports makes writing the annual report a lot easier.

So, what should a benefits realisation plan include?

  • It should make a record of the desired benefits. You may want to discuss this with stakeholders to identify those that will be affected by each proposed benefit.
  • Identify the outcomes and enablers within the project required for each benefit realisation.
  • Determine how you will measure whether a particular benefit has been realised. Ideally, try taking a baseline measure before the project starts, and use this as a benchmark to determine realisation of the anticipated benefit.
  • Allocate responsibility for delivery of these benefits and prioritise the benefits so that the most important always has the most focus. This ensures that the project makes the greatest impact.
  • Be SMART (Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound) in setting the benefit expectations and timelines.

Having created and updated the benefits realisation plan throughout the project you should review it at agreed points. This helps you decide whether the project is still delivering the original desired benefits. If not, you may wish to consider corrective action. It is vital that a final benefits realisation report is written post project completion and shared as appropriate. In many ways it shows the project’s impact and value. The benefits realisation report should not something that sits on the shelf to collecting dust!

What are the key advantages of seeing through the benefits realisations process?

  • Being clear on the total benefits a project achieves, not just the £’s, but its wider impact.
  • It will show where the £’s have been met (or not) and can be used as an aid to budget setting.
  • Where desired outcomes are not achieved it gives you the opportunity to review and understand what didn’t happen, and learn lessons for the future.
  • Or alternatively, if you over-achieve you can sell the success,
  • Seeing the benefits achieved could be an enabler of change for other projects and help identify future CIPs

It’s likely you will have projects on the go at the moment, some small and some big, some pivotal to the delivery of CIPs and service redesign. At the next meeting why not ask about the benefits realisation plan? If your project does not have one, ask yourself why. It’s such a no brainer!