Developing a business case for transformation can often be an exciting prospect, and one that many are willing to invest time and energy in at the start of the journey. At this juncture there is the opportunity to showcase potential step changes in outcomes for the organisation and its customers, and rally diverse stakeholders around a compelling shared vision. In the current climate this vision is often intrinsically linked to radical transformation of the cost base, but it could also extend to unlocking new revenue streams, stepping out into new markets and/or geographies, or implementing new ways to manage critical business risks (or all of the above!)
But once the business case is secured, the focus often shifts to the detailed mechanics of delivery, with a ‘build it and they will come’ approach to benefits realisation, notwithstanding the vagaries of market pressures, regulatory changes, and shifting organisational priorities. However, for a business transformation to be truly successful it is critical that from the very beginning there are sufficient benefits tracking and delivery safeguards in place. Without strong benefits realisation governance, there is a danger that the programme does not hold true to its original objectives, enabling ‘paper’ benefits but not following through with the hard decisions necessary to deliver the target outcomes. In addition, the programme may not flex enough, or may flex too far away from its strategic imperatives over time. Conversely, a strong benefits realisation framework can ensure robust and transparent governance around these decisions, maximising the organisation’s chance of ‘getting the right things right’.
In our experience, the following characteristics are common to benefits management frameworks for successful transformation programmes:
- A transparent and measurable starting point: with expected benefits (and associated key assumptions) at each future milestone clearly articulated and communicated
- Clarity around risk and range: calling out uncertainty in assumptions, and what the best and worst case could look like, can help avoid unwanted surprises and ensure decisions are made with risk profile in mind
- An embedded benefits management drumbeat: supporting the programme from day one throughout its entire lifecycle. This should involve the right stakeholders from operations, finance and the programme to clearly distinguish programme results from business as usual or other external forces
- Wherever possible, build in early opportunities to test and learn: to enable validation of benefits assumptions and solutions as soon as practicable before regret spend is incurred
- Suitable leading and lagging KPIs that provide early and meaningful warning signs of a potential departure from the happy path
- A robust process for taking action once the key enablers are in place: with involvement from the key stakeholders needed to take the hard decisions that will drive bottom line benefits delivery
- A value-enabling governance framework, with team members empowered to provide proactive challenge, and work collaboratively to develop and implement corrective actions.
Embedding these factors into your benefits management framework will give you a sound platform to underpin your transformation programme, equipping you with some powerful tools to monitor, adapt and ultimately deliver your organisational objectives in a complex changing world.