If there’s more than just you involved then this will require some serious workshop / brainstorm time. It’s not the sort of thing that can be done in an hour or two. It’s worth putting aside a few sessions to go over this. This is likely to be the start of a major piece of work and it would be a shame to put so much effort into something that’s heading off in the wrong direction to begin with. 

The workshop should cover the following points: 

Setting the Scene        It’s worth taking a few minutes to explain what the meeting is for. Before you get down to the hard work, everybody should know who’s who and be up to speed with the project so far. 

Picking the Goals What are the key, strategic objectives you want to achieve? Why do you want improvements? Be careful to define what relevant drivers are pushing you to act: national, local, bosses, work-group. Remember that the Goal has to have a purpose. The Goal is not to install some kit, it’s to use the kit to get some good out of it. 

Context / Limiting Factors This is where you start to test your Goals to see if they are actually possible. Where will the improvements occur? Who’s involved and how will they act? How do you do things now? What time, money, people and hardware do you have? What costs will you face? 

Consequences What benefits do you want or could you get? Brainstorm a list of consequences, “If I had X I could get…” Accept the features and outcomes that are bound to be listed as well as benefits. Put them on Post-its and shuffle them around. Then start to look for connections between them. 

Business Activity Analysis What changes are needed to obtain the benefits you’ve chosen? At this point you get to see how much effort is going to be needed and you may have to cut down the list of benefits so it’s more manageable. 

This will be enough for one workshop. If you can, let people go away and thing about it and then call them back a week later for a quick review session. Having had time to sleep on it, does it all still make sense? When you are happy with the decisions you then take the selected benefits on to planning, delivery and review. 

Endgame – Benefits Validation

Sound benefits – get what you expect, have a good chance of success

Categories – Balanced Scorecard, etc

Appropriateness, the right benefits for the goals and stakeholders

Owners and Recipients

Measurement and proof

It’s not only what you choose to do, it’s also how you choose to describe it

A straightforward blueprint means people can see the end result and know their part in it


In the same way as we can have various reasons for the same outcome and find they affect how it is brought about, we can also affect the process through the way we describe the end state. Only a very confident (or deluded) chess player would describe the endgame in terms of where the pieces will be. Yet we are often very granular in describing our programme objectives. This sort of mass objective twists individual priorities and breaks down any common purpose. In the chess analogy it’s like having a different person responsible for each piece. Each heads for its assigned position and sits there without contributing anything to the whole or supporting its team mates in winning the game.  

So have you picked good benefits? Are they the right things for the right people? How will you measure them and know you’ve achieved what you wanted? There are a number of ways to validate your benefits, to see how ‘good’ they are. 

The first thing to do is sort out the different types of benefit. They can be financial. If you can describe your benefits in terms of money then you have an instant way to see which is biggest. Next come the ones with firm non-financial measures. They are good for showing that a change has happened but not so good when you need to choose one against another. Knowing how productivity has increased in Departments A and B doesn’t tell you which one was better for the whole company. Finally, there are the intangibles like customer satisfaction. Again, there are ways of measuring them but the link between what you do and what you get is going to be long and uncertain. Was the big advertising campaign successful or was the product such a bargain that it would have sold anyway? 

See where the benefits lie. Having no financial or firm benefit suggests you may have a leap of faith rather than a sound business case. 

Your costs will also fall into the same categories. Here are some typical IT cost types. Not all costs are concrete ones:

Financial         Hardware

                        Software purchase

Firm    Software development

                        Provision of education & training

                        System running costs

                        Implementation costs

Intangible        Disruption

                        Reduced morale

                        Emotional response to change

The timescale and stakeholders’ interest will differ with the different types. The financial ones will have people breathing down your neck wanting instant results. The intangible ones risk being forgotten about as time passes and life moves on. 

Validation matrices are a way of giving your benefits a sanity check.

  • ·      Beneficiary v accountability – who does the work v who gets the benefit
  • ·      Phase/time v type – financial ones are likely to be soon, intangible one a long way off
  • ·      Beneficiary v type – would accountants want much customer satisfaction?
  • ·      Disbenefits & benefits v recipient – is there a fair spread of benefits and disbenefits?

Having looked at some useful tools and techniques, how do you use them in practice? Here are some suggestions that work in an organisation and at a personal level.

Benefits-Oriented Enterprise

 bens driven enterprise

This diagram tries to show this by overlaying Benefits Management onto the Inbound / Inside / Outbound  model (Buy Side / Inside / Sell Side that some of you will recognise from business studies courses). I’ve drawn it as a Venn diagram because these items are rarely isolated from each other, there’s always a fair amount of overlapping between them.

Even deep within any organisation we have internal customer / supplier relationships. The Buy Side / Inside / Sell Side model is appropriate to all sorts of business units.

Looking at this from a personal point of view, the model still holds up if you consider the following loose definitions:

  • Strategy = Who you want to be
  • Inbound = What you take
  • Inside = What you do
  • Outbound = What you give
  • Performance Management = Being who you are

The emphasis here is on the management of benefits, doing the right thing, getting the most good. The other tools we’ve looked at, such as quick decisions, goal setting and hypothesis testing will all help.

Strategy Development (Options & Choices, Who You Want To Be)

This is taking time to think about what affects you, what objectives you want to achieve, who gets the benefits and the pain. Goal Contribution is  a strategic business planning tool you can use for selecting and delivering successful business strategies and portfolios. Your Realisation Plan for the new strategy comes from Benefits, not pet projects, fair shares or face saving.

It is using benefits to decide the best course of action to take, doing the right thing.

Use the decision making tools, the time appreciation, quick decision to manage the process of choosing. Then test your hypothesis to check how good an idea you’ve just had. The Goal Contribution Map shows what you’ve chosen, why it’s a good thing and who it’s going to be good for. Adding them all together helps you choose to do the right thing.

Strategic choices overlap all the three key areas, inbound, inside and outbound.

Inbound (What You Take)

This deals with how you act as a customer and take things from other people. If you know the benefits then you know the reasons why you want something and so can negotiate better with your suppliers. You will know the value of what you want and the price you are willing to pay for it. You will decide what you must have and where you can afford to compromise.

Supplier Relationships

Building a relationship with your suppliers is often a better way of doing business than haggling with them. Talking openly to get agreed joint aims and mutual benefits will build a solid working relationship with your key suppliers. As the customer, you create the right hand side, the goals and benefits half of the Goal Contribution Map. The supplier can then map their offered solution as the left hand side. Working together, the diagram can be improved to develop the optimum solution and a strong working relationship into the bargain.

SLAs & Contracts’ Acceptance Criteria

Acceptance Criteria set the boundaries of what a good solution must contain. They become a sort of, “nobody goes home until we’ve achieved...” statement. Define them in terms of the benefits to be delivered rather than the resources input to the system. Formal agreements (contracts, service level agreements) can then be made on the basis of reward for results. Your suppliers get paid on what you get out of the deal rather than how much they put into it.

The relationships you build will influence the ‘paperwork’. Performance against paperwork in turn influences the relationships so it pays to start these well.

Inside (What You Do)

Business As Usual Working Practices

Processes should be viewed from the value they add to the enterprise. This value may not necessarily be in hard financial terms but must be expressed as a benefit that managers feel is worth having. Once established, the aim of any practice must be documented in its works instructions. Stating the ‘ends’ as well as the ‘means’ reminds people why they are doing what they do. Remember that an objective is a result with a purpose. If it’s your job to give orders then, “Just do it” is out. You have to be prepared to explain why an action is necessary and how it connects to the desired result. And the first person you have to explain it to is yourself.

Continuous Improvement

Existing working practices should be subject to continuous improvement. Quality improvement exercises must remember to consider the ‘why’ as much as the ‘how’. Knowing your objectives also helps you improve what you do. It helps you decide the priorities of what things to improve first and suggests what the improvements should look like.

Outbound (What You Give)

Though I will refer to external ‘customers’ here, remember this applies just as well within the enterprise where some of us have to ‘sell’ our services to our colleagues.

Partner Relationships

Open dialogue with a clear understanding of agreed joint aims and mutual benefits will build a solid working relationship with our key partners. The same processes are applied here when you are the supplier as above when you are the customer.

Customer Relationships

If you are actively selling something then Goal Contribution is a pre-sales tool to build a solid relationship with your customer. Together you work to determine their goals and develop a solution that meets them. Shared goals and open discussion help build a partnering relationship that is more likely to succeed than the old ‘hard sell’ routine.

The two sides of the Goal Contribution Map can be constructed in a reasonably straightforward and logical manner. The brainpower comes in making the connections from one side to the other. Having identified the customer's needs, which alternative solutions can we offer? Having identified a feature of a new disruptive technology, which problem could it solve? If nothing more, the map can act as a conversation piece to start the customer and supplier talking to each other.

Solution Design

Having started the dialogue, Goal Contribution provides a good base on which to develop solutions with customers. Before they put the work out to tender, you can be actively involved in defining the customer’s needs as we work with them to map solutions to goals. This can take significant time and effort if done properly and the customer is unlikely to have the resource to duplicate this sort of exercise with our competitors. The required solution is going to have your imprint simply by your involvement in its definition. However, it will still be expressed in terms of customer benefits, meeting their goals. It will be the solution they want to buy, not apparently the one you want to sell. You should be at an advantage when the Invitation to Tender is issued.

The best way to use the Goal Contribution Map in developing solutions is in partnership with the customer, working through a series of passes back and forth across 

Solution Development

As we deal with innovation and disruptive technology we are faced with recurring questions about how it is to be used. Working through the left hand side of the Goal Contribution Map builds reasons for why you should want to use a particular technology. Creating solutions in search of problems is bad if we try to force the solution onto any problem that comes our way. However, Goal Contribution provides a set of potential problems we can solve.

You can see the organisation’s actual priorities from where  they are prepared to spend their money. The targets they set define the benefits they want delivered.

You can do this for any customer group, from Board level right the way down to an individual with a project and some money to spend.

This exercise builds up the right hand side of the map. We know what they want to achieve so now we can look at propositions to fit their needs. Knowing the customer side of the Goal Contribution Map will prompt for enablers and features that will connect. Features that lead to dead-ends can be dropped. A feature linked to many or major benefits is likely to be the ‘killer app’ and you can concentrate your effort on it.

Again, the best way to use the map in developing solutions is in partnership with the customer, working through a series of passes back and forth until both sides have their optimum solution.

Bid Summary

When an organisation has a big piece of work to be done, they invite suppliers to bid or tender for the job. Invitations to Tender are often large, complex documents written by a number of authors. A number of people have written a lot of jargon to describe what they think they want. Suppliers submit bids responding to them which are much larger and more complex. Bids contain more jargon describing how the supplier will deliver what they think the customer thinks they want. The opportunity for poor communication and misunderstanding is tremendous. Suppliers may miss the customer’s key drivers. Customers may miss how your solution meets their needs better than your competitors.

The Goal Contribution Map is a very strong tool for displaying graphically how our proposed solution will meet the customer’s requirements. At a glance you have the Executive Summary on one page. Obviously, you need the story to back-up the boxes on the map but the customer can wade through that for the specifics of what we will deliver, not to answer the simple question, “Will this do what I want?”

Again, it is best built in collaboration with the customer. This not only creates the optimal solution, it helps build the relationship.

Project Management (Solution Delivery)

IT Project Management is the ‘home’ of benefits realisation. It’s where the original ideas came from and, I must be honest, executives still struggle to appreciate its wider appeal. You can use Goal Contribution as a differentiator between yourselves and other Project Management providers. Using what you’ve read here you can turn your projects into ones that don’t just build things and install kit but deliver actual benefits.

Performance Management

Performance management is a matter of measuring what’s going on and making changes to fix or improve things. There are shelf-loads of books on managing the performance of an organisation but the same principles can be applied personally as well.

A rational scheme of performance management underpins the entire system. If you can’t measure the benefit, how do you know it’s occurred? This means having baseline figures before you make the business change and on-going measures to show the impact of the change. We need to measure the right things for the right reasons and prove that the benefits are as valuable as we expected and are actually being delivered.

We often narrow down the things we think we can measure so far that we forget their original purpose. Customer spending that contributes to profit becomes customer satisfaction which in turn becomes number of rings to answer or sales visits per week. That’s when people start ‘gaming’ with the targets they’ve been set. The Call Centre answers instantly then fobs you off with an abrupt and wrong answer so they can get straight on to the next caller.

Benefits management helps you choose the appropriate performance to measure, not the easy one. As mentioned earlier in the paragraph on contracts, we measure what we get out of the system, not just what gets put in. Performance management shows how well the benefits are being delivered and enables you to do something to improve the situation.

This site has described some tools, techniques and models of the world around you. As I said in the introduction, they will help but they’re not guaranteed. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned as I’ve tried them out in practice.

Don’t rely on rational processes like benefits mapping alone. People always get in the way of the best intentions. However, you just have to live with them. There will always be people involved so apply psychology as necessary.

Sponsorship is key in any business project. It is a recurring theme that you must have the right senior sponsor with the right commitment. It doesn’t matter how clever you are, if your boss doesn’t understand or care or loses interest then you will struggle to succeed.

Stakeholder analysis answers the question, “What’s in it for me?” Sometimes it isn’t obvious or openly admitted so look for the hidden agendas that people keep to themselves. Tele-conferencing saves businesses money and is eco-friendly. It also ties globe-trotting sales people to their desks and stops the Airmiles they used to go on holiday with.

Be realistic in the goals you set. Don’t try to do too much or too little. When people put measures on their objectives they tend to shrink them so the intention to become market leaders goes from, “Let’s have 10 – 20% growth in five years” to, “Let’s sell three more things by the end of the year”.

Will your corporate culture take the business change? Is it the sort of thing your people actually see themselves doing?

Are your people capable of delivering it? It’s no use having an e-learning package for induction and training of staff if their level of computer literacy isn’t up to using it.

Plan for stakeholder motivation / de-motivation. Is the right motivation employed? Do you actively encourage knowledge sharing but is your reward scheme set against it? Do you promote teamwork but give bonuses to individuals?

If the organisation as a whole is sound in these areas, what about the actual work groups themselves? People will always bond into groups, cliques and gangs. The culture in one business unit may be very different from another.

Remember that everyone has other things to do and allocate work accordingly. People are already busy doing their day-jobs. The time they give to planning and workshops has to be treated as an investment and agreed before you start. Then you have to stick to it when managers start asking to have their people back at their jobs.


Success is hard


In the world of programmes and projects, success is hard to achieve and often hard to prove. Programmes struggle because we dive into the complexity without stepping back into the basic principles that show the key things they are meant to achieve. Modelling helps.

Here's one I did earlier.

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CMI Chartered Manager Logo Colour 480  citp logocolour 1in  Managing Benefits Practitioner


Been there, done that, got a collection of fading and moth-eaten T-shirts to prove it. If you really want to know, this is me.
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