Benefits Map

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Developed by Ragnheidur Ragnarsdottir


A benefits map, a key feature in benefits realisation management, is a tool that helps with the identification of benefits and their criteria in relation to specific organisational aims or objectives.[1]

When there is a potential project or programme to be undertaken in an organisation, an important question is why it should be implemented. One part of determining if a project or programme is successful is to observe the delivered benefits from it, hence if it is found out that there is not a high probability of achieving any benefits or that the cost is significant higher than the value of the benefits, it is hard to justify its execution. By conducting a benefits map, the end document will result in a visual diagram that shows directly what the business case will contribute, from the very beginning of it, and if it is worth the effort. Therefore, organisation that conducts the process of benefit mapping will not only have a realisation of the right benefits for a successful project or programme, those benefits will also provide a measurement of its value and the map can be used for monitoring through the entire lifecycle.[2] To get the best results when benefit mapping is carried out, it should be worked in a group and with input from key stakeholders. The following article gives an insight into how to perform general benefits mapping and why it is beneficial for organisations that make use of it for their projects and programmes.

Contents

Background

Benefits realisation management (BRM) aims to ensure the implementation of value to organisations. In BRM the processes are divided in three main parts beginning with the identification of benefits, next the execution of benefits, and then the sustain of benefits. BRM has several support tools that can be used to assist in the realisation of benefits, and to be able to identify benefits resulting from a change the so-called benefits map can be of great help. Benefit Map is principally a structured methodology which success relies on brainstorming exercise in which a team composed by different knowledge and perspective members explore all possible benefits in a business case related to one or more organisational aims.[3]

Benefits

To be capable to carry out an effective benefits map, the ability to distinguish between the different types of benefits is needed. [4]

Tangible
Tangible benefits are those that can be determined by directly measures and can be sorted in either cashable or non-cashable benefits.
  • Cashable
- The benefit is monetary and weights up against the costs of the business case. The cashable benefits can be of high importance but it often can take a long time to come into sight, that is months or even years can go by without bringing any profit.
  • Non-cashable
- The benefits usually links to better performance or accomplished new implementation of a product and comes relatively sooner into sight than the cashable benefits. An example of a non-cashable benefit is an increase in work efficiency in regards to time.
Intangible
Intangible benefits are usually non monetary and even though directly measures can not be used, the effects from the benefits can be measured indirectly. For example, job satisfaction can not be measured directly but indirect measures like surveys give an insight but it has to be kept in mind that these measures are not completely reliable because of possible unseen factors influencing the results.
Economic
Economic benefits affect the economical development of the organisation taking on the business case. An example is when there is an increase in profits of the business.
Efficient
Efficient benefits lead to performance improvements and an example is when an organisation optimises their production with the same resources as before.
Effective
Effective benefits lead to more successful ways to cater the customers demands, as for example with sustainability or cost reductions.

Conducting a benefits map without the right understanding of different benefits types could lead to unrealised major benefits with unforeseen consequences.


Execution

To be able to get the most out of the benefits map a need is to consider the process leading to its creation to get the best possible outcome. Included in the planning of this process is to identify the right people with the appropriate skills to take on this task. A brainstorming process is performed in a so called benefits workshop which includes the input of the key stakeholders of the relevant project. [4]

Responsibilities

Important aspect of a successful benefits realisation is to assign the right people to certain responsibilities and ensure that they know what their accountability entails. In Table 1 the different roles are listed and explained.

Table 1: Benefits Realisation Roles [5]
Executive Sponsor “Ensures the project or programme produces maximum value for the organisation¨.
Benefits or Business Owner “Takes overall responsibility for monitoring and measuring benefits and ensuring they are achieved”.
Project Manager “Leads the team responsible for achieving the project objectives”.
Programme Manager “Maintains responsibility for the leadership, conduct and performance of programme”.
Portfolio Manager “Establishes, balances, monitors, and controls portfolio components in order to achieve strategic business objectives”.


Stakeholders

“A benefit is a measureable improvement from a change that is perceived as beneficial by a stakeholder” is the definition of a benefit as stated by the Centre for Change Management, and clearly illustrates why stakeholders are an important part of benefits management. Stakeholders will be involved in all business cases, they will vary in importance but one has to be prepared for disagreements and conflicts of interests arising. It is important to have satisfied and correctly identified stakeholders when it comes to a successful project or programme, conducting stakeholder management the right way plays a big role here. Stakeholder considerations, should start from the beginning and vary through the project or programme lifecycle. Beginning with analysing identified stakeholders; their views, expectations and level of influence. The key stakeholders identified ought to either have the ability to make big impact or have high chance of being impacted by the project or programme, both in positive and negative ways. [6]

Benefits Workshop

Groups working on a shared goal with a clear defined objective, tend to be more creative and give a rise to more diverse ideas reaching the surface which results in more broaden thinking than would be the case otherwise. From this opposite views could arise that can be discussed and debated in a constructive manner. The improvement resulted from the outcome of a particular project affects key stakeholders and therefore it is important to include them in the benefits workshop brainstorm.

The benefits workshop should be conducted at the start of a project. The end goal with the implementation of the workshop is to have sufficient information to develop a benefits map identifying project aims, benefits, organisational changes, and enablers.

Aims
The primary purpose of the project is summarised by its aims (or objectives). For a starting point when it comes to identifying possible benefits, the two following questions should be considered: Why is this project being carried out? and What is the desired accomplishment by going through with the project?
Benefits
For the previous set aims to be reached, a need is to identify the right benefits that are required to be delivered.
The benefits identified can be all from operational benefits to more strategic benefits.
Enablers
Identification of enablers (or outputs) can be done when the project aims and benefits have been established. Enablers are the capabilities, forces, and resources that help to achieve the success of the project.
Changes
Benefits do not occur without organisational changes, therefore to be aware of the aforementioned benefits it is necessary to identify those changes.

In the end of the benefits workshop the stakeholders have a clearer picture of the project with a single visual of the aims and the benefits to achieve them. The organisation responsible for the workshop gets a better overview of what its stakeholders consider to be valuable and their expectations to the project.[7]

Design

There is no one way to present the benefits map, when all the data has been obtained from the workshop it is first and foremost to keep in mind why this map is being done and put down the right information that helps to achieve that goal. The first draft of the layout could be on a wall or board with post-it notes representing the enablers, changes, benefits, and aims. The final version of the benefits map should however be presented on a one page overview document. As stated before there is no fixed way of how the map is visually presented but the general way is to begin, from right to the left, where the objectives and main benefits are most often known beforehand. The connection represented with arrows indicates relations between different aspects of the map, an example of a benefits map design, created by the author of the article, is shown in Figure 1. To create a benefitss map in a convenient way, applications such as Visio and Lucidcharts can be used. [8]

Figure 1: Example of a Benefits Map Layout, (click Figure for full size)

As shown in Figure 1, the map is divided into columns; enablers, changes, benefits, and aims, where the largest column is usually benefits. However, it is important to keep in mind that there are various embodiments of benefits maps, and ultimately, those who carry out the making of the map that determine what should be included. Organisations that take advantage of benefits mapping, often tailor the tool after its needs and therefore various versions of maps exists, examples are benefits dependency networks and strategy maps.[4]

Going back to the setup of the benefits map on Figure 1, beginning at the left hand side the enablers are identified, the enablers then lead to organisational changes and those changes help to make it possible for the benefits to emerge. Those benefits then contribute to the organisational aims. It is important to keep the map simple and not to over complicate it, the arrows represent the connections between different aspects and the columns keep order on the different parts of the map.

Projects & Programmes

According to the PMI definition, project is explained as “A temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result.” and program is described as “A group of related projects, sub-programmes, and programme activities managed in a coordinated way to obtain benefits not available from managing them individually”. Even though many similarities are with projects and programmes, there are also significant differences between them. The duration of a project is in general shorter than a programme, it is carried out by a group of people that form a team with a common goal while programme contains different projects that together contribute to the achievement of the programme objective. When it comes to the difference in benefits, project outputs tend to be tangible while the outcomes of a programme are most often intangible. [9]

Project

Projects come in all sizes and bring different values to the table. There can also be some benefits required to be resulted from initiating a particular project, and by performing benefits mapping it is made possible to work from right to left and look into what changes are required to achieve the desired benefits.[10]

Programme

In regards to benefits management, having a clear overview over different projects is important when identifying the benefits of the programme that they are a part of. When having numerous aligned projects, it can get complicated to analyse the different outputs of them and therefore a consistent approach should be implemented between the projects to get the best results.[11]

Limitations

How well the benefits map is executed is dependant on how qualified the members contributing to it are. It takes a skilled manager to provide, for example, the appropriate key stakeholders to participate in the benefits map workshop. The failure of having the right people participating can possibly lead to important benefits being overlooked, there is also a tendency to encounter an optimism bias when it comes to identifying benefits to justify the purpose of the project or program. The advantage of having a one page overview can easily turn into a disadvantage when the limited space available makes it necessary to rationalise important information that should be included.[4][12]

Utilisation of the Benefits Map

The benefits map for a particular business case has been made after a thorough benefits workshop was carried out, but what now? It has been made clear with the map what expected benefits will support the particular organisational goal presented and now is the time to make use of the gathered information. First the organisation needs to determine if the findings are such that it is worth continuing with the business case or whether it is unlikely to be successful and therefore to much of a risk to continue with.

If the findings are such that it is worth going through with the project or programme, the map should be looked at as a guidance on how to organise the time spent on different aspects of it and this makes it also easier to track the different actions needed to get to the end goal. Since the map is developed in the beginning of a business case, a need is to validate and update it through the entire process and be alert if there are new benefits to be identified when the project or programme progresses. Additionally, the map can be used to keep teams and those in concern on track, where priorities can be set with help of the map and stakeholders can be easily reminded what was agreed on in the very beginning when they may attempt to go beyond the plan.[4]

Annotated Bibliography

Sierra, C. & Kunc, M. (2015) Benefits Realisation Management and its influence on project success and on the execution of business strategies, Volume 33, Issue 1.

The science article presents the results from a survey that explored the impact of Benefits Realisation Management (BRM) practices on project success rate. The survey was presented to practitioners in Brazil, the United Kingdom and United States. The result of the survey was used to investigate how effective it is to make use of BRM practices. Covering the theoretical background and research methodology, the outcome of the research presented the utilization of BRM practices in a positive light when it comes to project success.

The Centre for Change Management. (2011) Benefits Management Course Material.

Benefits Management Course Material gives an insight into the basics of Benefits Management and is meant for the preparation of a C4CM™ qualifications. It is meant as a starting point providing a basic framework for realisation management. The structure of the document is a five step process for Benefits Management in organisational change, describing how these steps are continuous through the lifecycle of a project or a programme. The main points described are the importance of regular reviews on the identified benefits and reassessment of achieving them in regards to new information.

Melton, T. (2008) Project Benefits Management: Linking projects to the business, Benefits Concept. Butterworth-Heinemann

This chapter goes in a comprehensive way over the benefits concept. Starting by its development, that is what activities are needed to develop the benefits and how these activities help with the understanding of project benefits. The highlighted activities are the mapping and measurements of benefits, stakeholder management and benefits realisation. After reading through this document, the reader will get a more complete overview of how benefits mapping will support the business case and how to make use of it.

References

  1. Breese, R. (2016) A unified view of benefits management/benefits realization management to be integrated into PMI standards. Sheffield Hallam University.
  2. Sierra, C. & Kunc, M. (2015) Benefits Realisation Management and its influence on project success and on the execution of business strategies, Volume 33, Issue 1.
  3. Project Management Institute. (2016). Benefits realization management framework. https://www.pmi.org/-/media/pmi/documents/public/pdf/learning/thought-leadership/benefits-realization-management-framework.pdf
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 The Centre for Change Management. (2011) Benefits Management Course Material. http://www.c4cm.co.uk/CourseMaterial/BensMgt/Benefits%20Management%20material.pdf
  5. Project Management Institute. (2016) Focus on benefits during project execution. https://www.pmi.org/-/media/pmi/documents/public/pdf/learning/thought-leadership/pulse/benefits-focus-during-project-execution.pdf?sc_lang_temp=en-GB
  6. Melton, T. (2007) Project Management Toolkit: The Basics for Project Success, Second Edition. Oxford: Elsevier Ltd.
  7. Corporate Information and Computing Services. (2008). Benefits Realisation Management - Toolkit for Project Managers. http://www.cics.dept.shef.ac.uk/projects/Benefits_Management_Toolkit_for_PMs.pdf
  8. Becker Professional Education. (2017) Study Text: Business Analysis.
  9. Westland, J. (2013) The Difference Between a Project and a Program. https://www.projectmanager.com/blog/whats-the-difference-between-a-project-and-a-program
  10. Maylor, H. (2010) Project Management, Fourth Edition. Pearson Education Limited./
  11. Association for Project Management. (2017) Benefits Management. https://www.apm.org.uk/body-of-knowledge/delivery/scope-management/benefits-management/
  12. Melton, T. (2008) Project Benefits Management: Linking projects to the business, Benefits Concept. Butterworth-Heinemann
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