A set of actions by and for stakeholders that uses the programme’s features to deliver outcomes that in turn deliver benefits. Described as end-states rather than change processes



The value placed by a stakeholder on the performance improvement or a new capability resulting from an outcome.

A dis-benefit is an outcome that the stakeholder sees as detrimental to personal interests.


Benefit Category

A grouping of similar benefits used to aid the prioritisation and selection of benefits, e.g. the National Standards’ seven domains (patient safety, etc).


Benefit Measure

An observable item that can be used to demonstrate that the benefit has been obtained.


Benefit Owner

The person who is responsible for the delivery of an individual benefit, (cf. Senior Responsible Owner for a whole project).


Benefit Profile

The complete description of a benefit or dis-benefit


Goal Contribution Map

A particular type a causal map that links enabler, features, activity, outcomes, benefits goals and drivers

Based on Cranfield definition

Benefits Management

The overall set of decisions, processes and activities that facilitates the optimal use of scarce resources to deliver appropriate benefits to identified stakeholders.


Benefits Measurement Plan

A plan (and schedule) to carry out a set of measurement activities that together will collect data that will demonstrate whether or not the desired performance improvement and benefits measures have been achieved and in the expected timescales.


Benefits Plan

A plan that shows how the intended benefits will be obtained. It consists of a narrative, Goal Contribution Map and Benefits Profiles.


Benefits Realisation Framework

The rules, processes and organisation set up to support the delivery of benefits.


Benefits Realisation Plan

A comprehensive plan to realise benefits, consisting of:

  • Goals and Benefits
  • Implementation Plan
  • Benefits Measurement and Review Plan
  • Stakeholder Management Plan

Benefits Register

A catalogue of the benefits profiles of all possible benefits from the programme.



A service, function or operation that enables the organisation to exploit opportunities


Causal Map

A cause-effect map relating actions-to-change to outcomes. The actions-to-change will be the necessary and sufficient set of activities required to shift the organisation from its status quo to the new state, which is perceived will deliver the desired benefits..



A view held by relevant stakeholders as to what is important in the organisation, in a given timescale, such that they feel that changes must occur.



A purpose for the programme/project, determined by the drivers of the key stakeholder groups.



The result of change, normally affecting real-world behaviour and/or circumstances. Outcomes are achieved as a result of the actions-to-change.

Based on MSP definition

Outcome Measure

An observable item that can be used to demonstrate that the outcome has been achieved.


Performance Improvement

The measurable improvement (in the dimensions of shorter elapsed, more efficient use of resources, increased quality of output, reduced risk of process failure, increase consistency of delivery) to an organisation’s activity or process resulting from an outcome

Based on MSP definition

Performance Improvement Measure

An observable item that can be used to demonstrate that the performance improvement has been achieved.



An individual or group who will face a significant impact from a business change.


Stakeholder Table

A diagram that shows stakeholder groups, their interest and values and inter-relationships.



The left hand item in a Goal Contribution Map, it is a succinct description of the programme / project that sets the boundaries of the benefits management exercise.



A discrete component of the enabler, e.g. separate applications in a portfolio of software


Know your deadlines

Someone wants you to do something big, so what’s the first thing you do? Plan to make your decision. It’s always worth taking the time to pause and think before you jump in with a decision. The time appreciation is a method of giving you the space to think things through.

The Time Check

The Time Check is a mental tool for working out how long you can take over your decision.

This is the first thing you have to consider, is it urgent, do you have a deadline? If there’s no deadline then set yourself a reasonable one or things will drift. What is your deadline? Obviously, you are not going to be doing this in a time of crisis or emergency, like jumping out of the path of a bus. You should have at least a few minutes in which to decide. If someone is pressing you for an instant answer, then they probably know the answer they want and it’s unlikely to be a good one for you.

What’s the scope of the task? How big a job is this going to be?
Who else is involved? Is it something you can do on your own? How many other people do you have to work with? If other people are going to have to go away and do their bit then the Rule of Thirds can help you. Put aside one third of the total time for you to make your decision and two thirds is for everyone else to do their bit.
What resources do you have? What have you got that will be of use to you?
Working back from the deadline you know how much time you have to do the things that need to be done immediately.
Now you know how long you’ve got to decide and what you have to help you, it’s time to work out what to do.
Project managers work on a Q / (T x C) equation. The quality of what they deliver is a function of time and cost. Cut the time or cost and the quality goes down too. The same applies to decisions. Time and resources (cost) govern to some extent the decision quality (ok, flashes of inspiration don’t count, they’re the rare exception).
Then you have to let people know what’s coming.
The warning order – telling your colleagues what’s coming, should consist of the following things:
• Plan , a quick sentence about what the job is
• Outline , a brief description of what you’re going to do
• Objective, a short description of what you will achieve
• No move before, how urgent it is, how soon they have to start getting ready
• H-Hour, when things really have to happen
• Admin, any obvious housekeeping details that have to be in place

The point of all this is to pace your decision making and not leap to conclusions if you can spare the time and resources (brains) to think it all through. Sometime you have to act quickly so let's now look at the quick decision.

The Quick Decision

Lessons Learned

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.


Practical Applications

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.

References and Sources of Information

Benefits Management draws on a number of other management methods, tools and techniques. Some are referenced below. The list is by no means definitive but serves as a suggestion of areas to consider:

  • Business Policy and Strategy models – PESTLE, SWOT, Porter’s competition model
  • Modernisation Agency Model for Improvement – PDSA cycle
  • Change Management – various models, e.g. Kanter et al 1992
  • Group Dynamics – Adair, Belbin, Cyert & March
  • Facilitation skills – various tools and techniques, workshop owner’s and facilitator’s guides
  • Performance Management – Total Organisational Excellence, Oakland 2001, The Performance Prism, Neely, Adams & Kennerley 2002
  • Office of Government Commerce ( – Managing Successful Programmes, Successful Delivery Toolkit – Benefits Management

There are presently few useful reference works on Benefits Management. Here are some that you might find worth studying:

  • Serra, C "Benefits Realization Management", CRC Press (2017)
  • Jenner, S "Managing Benefits", APMG International, 2nd edn (2014) - The training manual if you want to become a Benefits Management practitioner
  • Jenner, S "Realising Benefits from Government ICT Investment: a fool's errand?", Academic Publishing International (2010)
  • Bradley, G " Benefit Realisation Management: A Practical Guide to Achieving Benefits", Gower (2010)
  • Ward, J. M., Murray, P. and Daniel, E., “Benefits Management Best Practice Guidelines”, ISRC-BM-200401, Information Systems Research Centre, Cranfield School of Management, Cranfield (2004)
  • Thorp, John, "The Information Paradox", McGraw Hill, revised edn (2003)


Selecting Good Benefits

Proving the goals

We’ve looked at the goals. Now we have to put some value to them, to find out what it’s all worth. Here it is a matter of choosing the right things to do, for the right reasons and then doing them. It’s about choosing things that add value, not take it away.

'Benefit’ Defined

The word ‘benefit’ gets misused an awful lot and your plans won’t get far if no-one can agree on what a benefit is so it’s worth taking the time to explain what it actually means.

A benefit is a result that a stakeholder perceives to be of value. 

The emphasis here is on the stakeholder and what their perception. Make sure there is a clear statement of the benefit, i.e. what makes it worthwhile. We have to make a clear distinction away from features and outcomes. Here’s a dumb example: 

  • Feature - my car is painted ‘Police Car’ white
  • Outcome - people move over for me on the motorway so I get home for 6 pm
  • Benefit - I improve my inner calm by watching The Simpsons on TV

Clipart police car

In this case, I’m the stakeholder and I think the best value for me of getting home early is a calming episode of my favourite TV programme.

If you were working on a project in a hospital it could be something like this:

  • Feature – a useful function of the system, e.g. high bandwidth, resilience, small size
  • Outcome – a result that can be used to gain some benefit, e.g. time saving
  • Benefit – the valued use to which you put the outcome, e.g. using saved time to see more patients

We should be talking about improving patient health, reducing waiting lists, stopping un-necessary procedures, not improving network performance, reducing down-time and stopping legacy information systems.

Choosing the Right Stakeholders

Picking the key stakeholders. Who has the biggest impact on you, who gets the biggest impact from you?

Managing the relationships with them. 

A benefit is a result that a stakeholder perceives to be of value (“What’s in it for me?”).

First we have to identify which particular stakeholder we are looking at. A stakeholder is an individual or group who feels the impact of what we do. They in turn can have an impact on us. We have to know who are the stakeholders around us and the significance of the impact we have on each other. The key stakeholder in all this is ourselves.

Second, what do they perceive as being valuable? It may not always be the rational and obvious choice. It may even appear to be perverse, e.g. sacrifice or even self-harm. Perceived value will vary between stakeholders and will change over time. What we see as valuable now may change as our circumstances change. 

We can use benefits as a way to select our goals. Why do we want to do something? For the reward it brings. We’ve chosen a goal that sounds impressive in a high-level, grand design sort of way. When we start to analyse the benefits we can see if it really is as good as we first thought. The benefits give us the proof that our goal really is worthwhile. 

Sometimes, as we analyse the benefits to see who wins we may find that someone has to lose. If I get to save my money, you might have to lose your job. We have to weigh up the balance of good and bad results, who loses for our gain? What are we giving up for the benefit of those around us? Does the appropriate Stakeholder get the benefit? 

Everyone knows of activities that bring no benefit, that waste our time and resources because we are doing the wrong thing for the wrong reason.

We need a rational framework to enable better decisions to be made and good benefits to be delivered. We need a structured approach that will:

  • Prove the link between what we do and what we want to achieve
  • Maximise the benefits from the things we do
  • Gives us solid reasons to back up our choices
  • Gets all the right people involved


'Benefits Management’ Defined

Benefits Management is the overall set of decisions, processes and activities that makes best use of what you have to deliver the right benefits to the people you’ve chosen to get them.

Benefits Selection

The purpose of any Benefits Management method is to identify, quantify, prioritise, select and manage benefits from business change. Benefits Selection takes us through the first four items. It is the technique to create a rational and logical understanding of the:

  • Drivers
  • Goals
  • Context
  • Benefits
  • Business Change

Once we have this understanding we can select benefits that are appropriate, feasible and of optimum value for our circumstances.

Experience has shown that the identification and structuring of benefits is rarely straightforward. There is a common tendency to slip back to the features of the new system; it’s faster, cheaper, etc. This leaves the benefits undefined. Everyone agrees that the new system is a good thing but no-one can say why it’s good, how good it is or who it’s good for. The technique of Benefits Selection brings some rigour to process.

By using the technique of Benefits Selection you will produce a set of benefits that:

  • Support your goals
  • Have the most significant impact
  • Are agreed by all stakeholders
  • Are manageable

HSC BM Approach PDSA brief sml

The benefits management approach is an iterative process with loops within the loop. It’s essential if the benefits are to be optimised that there is permission to step back and reconsider. Obviously, this has to occur within rigorous change control.

This BM approach maps onto the Deming Loop, “Plan, Do, Study, Act” cycle. Note that it starts with Act, not Plan. The first act is likely to be a choice to do something. The plan will then be a quick consideration of what to do and how to do it. The first iterations around the Deming Loop are very swift and informal so there’s no need to get too pedantic about the start point.  

Remember, it’s an iterative process between stages as well as the whole process.

This represents a virtuous circle.  

Pick Good Benefits

It uses the technique of Benefits Selection described below to create a list of desired benefits that have been identified, quantified, prioritised and selected. In our project context this will be first the Benefits Plan and later the Benefits Realisation Plan.

The process is scaleable. At its smallest, it is a good way to make rational individual decisions. At its largest, it’s a method of determining major policy and strategy decisions and the programmes that deliver them. So much hangs off this process that it is crucial that it be done properly. The right amount of time and resources must be devoted to it and the right people involved.

Plan for Benefits

In an ideal world there would be the one project plan for the realisation of benefits and the technology implementation would form a sub-set of work packages within it. This realisation plan would use an appropriate project management methodology like Prince 2. In reality however, it is more likely that the realisation plan will run in parallel with the technology project plan so it will have to cover both business change activities and the interfaces to technology implementation activities. It will include reviews of the plan at key stages of the project delivery and also the benefit measures, their links to business performance measures and measurement procedures that will be used.

A Benefits Realisation Plan should be prepared for each unit of implementation. The plan conforms to the usual work package supports project supports programme hierarchy.

It feeds into the PRINCE2 Project Initiation Document (PID).

Benefits Realisation Plan

A benefits realisation plan is a single entity consisting of four inter-dependent components:

  • Goals & Benefits
  • Implementation Plan
  • Benefits Measurement Plan
  • Stakeholder Management Plan

These are described in detail in section 5 BM Products below.

Get the Benefits

Any plan is worthless until it’s executed successfully. The Benefits Realisation Plan needs a series of project performance reports to show how work is progressing to plan, like any other project. Prince 2 or a similar project methodology will provide a suitable reporting mechanism.

Benefits Management requires additional management and reporting to prove that programme / project activity is on track to deliver the expected benefits and to supply information on which to base decisions to change the plan if necessary.

Benefits work package owners will report back via project highlight reports to the project’s Senior Responsible Owner. These reports will show early benefits being delivered if possible. More likely, they will show the progress made on the features and changes being delivered that will enable future benefits to be realised.

Owners will ensure that actual benefits are tracked against targets and that the impact of change on benefits is controlled.

Look for Further Benefits

Remember that Benefits Management is an iterative process. See what is being delivered, review and adapt as circumstances dictate. Look to improve on what has gone before.

A benefits orientated post project review should be performed after a suitable bedding-in period of live service. The review will report on the actually delivered benefits compared with the proposed benefits in the realisation plan. What was the difference between forecast and delivered? What were the reasons behind this difference? The aim of the review is to identify potential new benefits from:

  • Improving the newly implemented processes
  • Triggering brand new projects and programmes

Questions that should be asked include:

  • What effects have we now got, relative to the previous situation?
  • Are we getting the benefits?
  • What further benefits can we now get?
  • What further actions are necessary to get the potential benefits?

The output from the review is a report on potential future benefits to be used as input to the next round of benefits identification. 


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