Organizations undertake projects to realize benefits, yet, this is easier said (or written) than done. While some organizations have awakened to the need of building a business case and identifying benefits from the offset of any change initiative, many are still pouring money down the drain because they are missing a key capability in the benefits management process: benefits realization.
By the time the project is over, the project management team is ready to move on to the next adventure, the project sponsors are already busy with their day-to-day job, and benefits owners are nowhere to be found. The project was approved on the basis that it would deliver certain benefits, but time has passed, and no one is checking if they really got delivered or not. Sounds familiar?
(Un)fortunately, you are not alone. Benefits realization are still often left to chance. The good news is that we can do something about it. Como with me, I have a plan: the benefits realization plan!
What is it?
In a nutshell, the benefits realization plan provides a consolidated view of the key milestones detailed in each of the Benefit Profiles associated with a project. That means that each project should have its own Benefits Realisation Plan. It is not to be confused with the Benefits Realisation Management Plan, also known as Benefits Management Strategy, though! While the previous covers the full lifecycle of the benefits management process, the Benefits Realisation Plan is interested in the realization stage only. Having a central plan for each project, will allow stakeholders to understand how benefits fit together, clarify responsibilities, and will be used to monitor, track, and set review controls against the collective set of benefits.
The Benefits Realisation Plan can be produced as a document or as a spreadsheet, in a table format, providing that it includes the key data available in the Benefit Profiles, such as measurement to be used, measurement frequency, or benefits realization target. It should include at least the following:
- Benefit title
- Benefit owner
- Timescale for realization
- Target data
- Measurement mechanism and frequency
- Review dates
When should I draft one?
Who is responsible for it?
Benefits Realisation Plan best practices
- Benefits are dynamic: thus, the Benefits Realisation Plan needs to be regularly reviewed and updated. This is particularly important at stage gates and when change requests are approved since there can be an impact on the benefits (e.g., regarding the target or their timescales).
- The ‘Business’ needs to own the benefits: benefits tend to be realized long after the project is completed thus it would be risky to place accountability in the project management team. Instead, benefits should be linked to the areas that are going to…well, benefit. Do not have a signed-off Benefits Realisation Plan without having benefit owners identified and their clear agreement.
- Benefits realization needs to be a coordinated effort: benefits do not happen out of thin air and they require a certain mindset and organizational culture to flourish. The whole organization needs to acknowledge their importance and make benefits realization a goal.
- Benefits realization needs to be communicated: the Benefits Realisation Plan will feed a Benefits Tracker, where all the benefits reviews due in the organization/portfolio are listed. In order to generate credibility and accountability, the results of such reviews should be shared. This will also inform future Benefit Realisation Plans, improving estimates, and learning from the past.