Benefits Realisation - The Benefits Design Process

A colleague asked me over a coffee “how do you go about identifying, defining and quantifying benefits? How do you create a benefits realisation plan?”. I think hidden behind the question was a number of thoughts:

  1. Were you just bluffing?
  2. Can we really realise these benefits if we only follow the project plan we ourselves prepared (with coaching and support, of course)?
  3. Should we aim to only realise a % of the benefits, in other words is the Benefits Realisation Plan a work of optimism to get the investment?
I’m always delighted to share my methods. For those who can’t get an outside consultant with expertise in this area, this page helps so you can prepare to realise the benefits of new projects and care for the populations you serve and steward public resource. For those who are reading about me with an intention to hire, it means you can sanity check my process.
NOTE this description could just as easily have sat in Benefits Realisation – Good Projects in Public Sector section. Words underlined are due to have further information added though it isn’t complete just yet.


My process has matured over the years, and I’m delighted to say has stood the test of time – even the very rapid assessment process which can be run within months of the start of delivery can yield an estimate of future benefits, and when we’ve followed up the initial rapid assessment over a period of years, the additional data bears out the initial findings (though of course with a lot more statistical confidence).
The process is based on the confluence of a number of different themes: the balanced scorecard, Bernice McCarthy’s 4-mat, Cranfield benefits planning, OGC MSP and OGC Prince2 updated for 2009.
For ease of representation I recommend using a [Benefits Dependency Network] template. I’ll expand each area as time goes on

Begin with the end in mind

  1. Every investment has [strategic objectives] (one or sometimes a few). These are the key, and your benefits will contribute to these. Why are you doing this project?
  2. What do you need to be (what will the organisation or project team look like, be like, be doing) in order to achieve your objectives?
  3. How will you achieve this?
  4. Between 2 and 3 are the benefits, the things that you can measure and that everyone agrees represent making a difference
  5. Sanity-check the benefits you’ve identified in step 4 against a balanced scorecard
Clinical or Quality Outcomes
Patient or User experience
Effective use of resources
Impact on Staff and ability to retain and recruit
  1. [Sanity check the Benefits Dependency Network] (from the left, HOW, Benefits, WHAT, WHY) checking for
a.       benefits not tied to the strategic objective(s)
b.      double commitments (benefits with not enough actions to realise them)
c.       actions that don’t make a contribution
d.      etc
  1. for each benefit, with the frontline staff who do the work and have the most invested in achieving a successful outcome (you can also involve other stakeholders eg service users)
a.       define [how you will measure progress and achievement] (it doesn’t matter whether the frontline staff are actually doing the recording and measurement themselves or whether it’s done through another function; it is important that they decide what shows whether the service is working or not)
b.      decide how the measures will be reported – remember prepare your reports for staff and service users as board members are people too
c.       “people do what you inspect, not what you expect” . Be mindful of what happened to Shroedinger’s cat (the process of measuring affects the system being measured) and [be careful what you measure]
This process can be applied to individual services, to workstreams, and to whole health and care economies. The advantage of working this way across a larger group of individual services is that you can examine the contribution each service makes to the overall needs of the community.
At this point I must emphasise that there’s so much work needed caring for service users, nobody is going to lose their job. Far better to identify those services that don’t contribute and redeploy people, than to wake up 2 years’ from now and say “so what I’ve been doing for the last 24 months hasn’t helped anybody?” – recipe for suicide.
I look forward to working with you to implement this, engaging front-line and support staff in the strategic and tactical needs of the health and care of the population and ensuring we do our own management instead of needing it forced upon us.