Benefit Mapping: A Guide To Achieving Your Business Goals
It is well established that transformation programmes struggle to achieve their targeted outcomes, as studies show ~80% fall short of financial or strategic goals. Despite the countless dollars and hours of effort invested by companies in executing strategic transformations, stakeholders are still often disappointed to find they have not achieved their targets. The core challenges should be familiar to most readers; as many teams struggle with the commitment, alignment and coordination needed to deliver.
In this article we will explore benefit maps, which are tools we have seen deployed to promote focus and communication in program planning and execution. We will highlight two common types of benefit maps – the Benefit Pathway and MSP Technique. Additionally, we will highlight some best practices in implementing benefit maps – including executing collaborative development sessions and leveraging Amplify software to develop and track benefit maps.
Intro to Benefit Maps
A good benefit map acts as your programme sat-nav, helping you to plot the journey to a particular destination. Once you have determined where you’re going, it will provide you with real-time feedback to keep you heading in the right direction.
Benefit maps help you identify vital initiatives and business changes that are required to reach your investment objectives. They turn the spotlight on pet projects that will not yield benefits and make no contribution to business goals, allowing you to pause or kill them off.
A benefit map should be developed as early in the programme as possible. If you wait until your transformation is in-flight, e.g., to justify an investment decision, it will diminish its value. Even so a poor map is better than no map at all, and the collective effort involved in producing it will help to build a guiding coalition for the transformation.
Types of benefit maps
There are many types of benefit maps. (See Why map benefits?, Hugo Minney, LinkedIn 2019). We will discuss two in this article:
- Benefit Pathway, which is used to define business problems and the available solution options
- MSP Technique, which is used to illustrate the planned consequences of undertaking a programme. (Managing Successful Programmes (MSP) from Axelos is a recognised best practice)
A Benefit Pathway will help you to identify actual business problems that need solving. We use the tool in a workshop scenario to stimulate and capture stakeholder thinking.
In a Benefit Pathway you identify what the current business problems are, what has to change, (including what must be stopped) and what this will enable in terms of benefits or impact. Note that not all outcomes are positive. There will always be negative consequences for some, and it is important to capture and document these early.
The outputs from this exercise are available for the next step – creating a benefit map. When the Benefit Pathway tool is used in combination with a benefit map it provides stakeholders with high confidence that planned benefits are the logical consequences of undertaking the transformation and a suitable match to the business problems you identified.
The MSP Technique shows the planned consequences of change based on a chain of cause and effect from project outputs through business capabilities, to outcomes, then benefits, and then investment objectives. Viewed from right to left it addresses the ‘why question,’ or from left to right the ‘how question’.
The cause-and-effect linkages help answer how one map element is affected by another. If there is no logical link between a project and an objective on the same benefit map it should raise an immediate red flag – it may be at a pet project!
The map in figure 3 shows the relationships and information flows between map elements via connecting lines and arrowheads. You can link a project to one or more business capabilities, a business capability to one or several outcomes and so on. The percentage contribution between predecessor and successor map elements is shown on the map and used behind the scenes in calculations.
It is best practice for each element on the benefit map to have a named owner. This reinforces the need for everyone to play their part in the transformation, whether activities take place as part of delivery or business operations.
Implementing Benefit Maps
Benefit maps should be produced organically as a collaborative effort in a workshop scenario. In the past it was a case of assembling key stakeholders in the same room armed with flip charts and pens, white-boards, post-it notes and regular refreshments.
Today the in-person option may not be available. You can use collaborative tools such as Amplify in your virtual meetings to create maps and bring the transformation to life; first at a high-level, and then in more detail (e.g., using a “map-of-maps”). It is best practice to involve key stakeholders or their representatives to build consensus and gain commitment.
As mentioned earlier there are a variety of benefit mapping techniques and approaches you can use. Each approach focuses on a particular aspect of the process or is used to highlight specific information on the map. You should adopt whichever approach seems best suited to your programme structure and comfort level.
Amplify is pre-configured to support several common mapping techniques, each comprised of multiple columns with headings and specified map elements. Each element has a unique set of properties assigned by an administrator. It is these properties that provide the raw power of Amplify’s benefit maps.
Click on the video below to learn more about benefit maps in Amplify:
In Amplify, benefit maps are interactive and multi-dimensional. Whereas traditional benefit maps were produced in PowerPoint and Visio, printed out, and stuck up on the wall as a poster, Amplify’s maps are dynamic.
Sitting behind each map element is a drill-down capability to reach the actual projects, benefits, and goals. Each project, benefit and goal is configured with an assortment of dashboards to manage activity, monitor performance, and provide feedback.
The figure below shows an Amplify project dashboard with widgets for project benefits; costs; and RAG-rated risks, assumptions, issues, and dependencies (RAID) and the ‘Project - Benefit Delivery Schedule.’ The schedule widget combines project delivery and benefits realisation timelines, showing them as finish-to-start dependencies between important delivery milestones and the start date of a related benefit.
The project dashboard provides early warning of threats to benefits realisation and goal attainment, with an opportunity to address them and keep the programme on track.
Benefit Realisation Plans
It is not surprising that the most important map element on a benefit map is the benefit. Behind each benefit there is a Benefit Realisation Plan (BRP) detailing the attributes, and how it will be realised and measured. Key attributes of the BRP include:
- Observable outcomes – the verifiable differences that will be noticeable after the outcomes are embedded, and
- Measurement – the benefit timeframe and how its achievement will be measured.
The figure below shows a BRP for the benefit ‘Service 10% more users with current staff and volunteer base’ for the Charity Organisational Realignment Programme. The projected value to the charity of this 10% uplift has been calculated and a benefit profile has been created.
We can see the actual values (shown in red) are less than baseline and plan (black and purple), which is affecting the overall forecast (blue). Each time we enter an actual value it is compared with the planned or expected value and the forecast is adjusted. Where there is variance from plan it is possible to trace back through the map to understand the root cause – for example due to schedule delay.
Benefit maps help to address common challenges such as a lack of transparency, alignment, and commitment; and to communicate the dependencies between investment objectives, benefits, and project outcomes.
When benefit mapping is carried out during front-end planning it will surface and help solve business problems (Benefit Pathway) and show the planned consequences of change (MSP Technique).
The real value of Amplify-enabled maps lies in the depth of information that sits behind each map element, enabling you to inspect plans, monitor progress, and course correct when necessary; and thereby increase the likelihood that you will achieve your stated goals.
If you would like to learn more about how Amplify can support your programme with benefit maps, please contact us for a demo using the link at the top of the page.