In public sector projects the benefits realised are still too small
When it comes to projects and programmes, benefits realisation is crucial to achieving the desired results. But the gains should not just be a goal at the beginning of the project, they should act as a pulsating energy flowing throughout the project's life cycle. By using gains as a guide, we can assess the progress of the project and realise its full potential. It is time to unveil a more exciting approach to benefits realisation in the public sector.
In the public sector, the target group for many projects is often citizens. These can be projects to raise the quality of a citizen-oriented service, or an improvement in service. Citizen-oriented projects often take a long time to be fully realised, as they typically also require a change in behaviour on the part of the citizens themselves, e.g., an increased use of a digital aid. At the same time, there are often many factors that affect citizens’’ behaviour, and it can therefore be difficult to measure what the reason for the changes actually is.
It is an art to work out the benefit realisation in this type of project. It is difficult to maintain continued focus on the benefits when there is a long time between the implementation of the project and the realisation of the benefits.
The dilemma can be solved by defining concrete and clear sub-goals. To follow up on these goals, there must be a responsible employee with clear ownership who is motivated to achieve the final benefit. This applies both during the project, but also after the end of the project. It is the responsibility of senior management to ensure that the goals are followed up and that the person responsible ensures the realisation of the benefits continues even when the organisation's attention has shifted to new initiatives.
Sub-targets or sub-objectives in the realisation of benefits can be used as early progress indicators. Each sub-goal usually runs over three to six months, during which activities are constantly evaluated and adjusted to maximise benefit realisation. In the same way you can identify any challenges or barriers that may negatively affect the realisation of benefits. This creates a proactive approach that allows the benefits to be realised.
The side effect is that all progress and results both during and after the project are visible. It increases the motivation of participants and stakeholders and ensures that they understand and acknowledge the gains already achieved. By communicating and presenting progress on early indicators, you can show that benefits realisation is underway, and is not just something you talk about in speeches. Our experience is that the dynamic process of continuously evaluating and adapting to ensure that the desired benefits are realised effectively and successfully has a great beneficial effect. In this way, you maintain focus on the benefits and at the same time achieve commitment and ownership in relation to their realisation.
However, this work with the early indicators only has an effect if there is a managerial focus and there is a clear allocation of ownership and responsibility. Therefore, it is important to allocate clear ownership and responsibility when the project ends. Furthermore, it is our recommendation that stakeholders and key players should continue to be involved to ensure ownership and commitment to profit realisation. Finally, the benefits owner must have both the skills and the authority to continue coordinating and driving the work on realising those benefits.
Benefit realisation is a continuous process that extends far beyond the lifetime of a project. By implementing early indicators, clear governance and a well-functioning structure, you can ensure that the project's benefits are realised effectively and successfully. And that's why the project was started in the first place.