In service delivery and administrative processes and activities, it is not always easy to measure benefit. The trouble is that the key benefits may not be tangible. This problem is particularly acute in processes where the aim is to give guidance to help a client “improve” something, or to help them “prevent” something, but where the client is not obliged to follow the guidance. Business advice; health and safety guidance or prevention advice; preventative healthcare; and other advisory services are all examples of activities where it is difficult to measure benefit realisation. Even in more tangible processes such as recruitment, supplier vetting, or tendering etc, it is difficult to determine if we have achieved the “best” outcome possible; and IT projects can be the hardest of all to verify benefit realisation!
Measuring the number of interactions in such activities is all very well, but doesn’t really tell us anything, since we don’t actually know if the interaction has resulted in any improvement. Feedback surveys are useful but take-up can be low. Personal follow-up is desirable, but costly.
It is important to say that there are no easy answers. Intangible benefits cannot magically be transformed into measurable outcomes. The best that we can hope to achieve is to build a strong rapport with the stakeholders and service users so that we can constantly monitor that the service is meeting expectations, and that we make improvement a clear part of management strategy. This approach can help us build agreement with stakeholders and clients about outcomes and, thus, develop better measures. Resource limitations cause further problems but the benefits realisation approach helps us make the best of what we have available.
Benefits Realisation, then, is no “magic bullet” or quick fix. It is about taking a structured approach to service process design that involves stakeholders and clients/ users to clearly define agreed outcomes, and then measure performance against those outcomes, and using that information to continuously review and improve the process.