Benefit realization management helps

In agile portfolio management, benefit mapping helps us to discover and communicate the (business & customer) value of our initiatives (epics/projects/…). And if we can have everyone working in an environment where they see how they contribute to the company’s objectives, we can start giving autonomy.

“The more alignment you have, the more autonomy you can grant (Stephen Bungay).”

Benefit mapping is a method to:

  • Start from objectives and consequently define necessary projects and build a roadmap.
  • Ensure a balance between inflows of ideas top-down and bottom-up.
  • Gives insight into the reason why we need to deliver a project / program / epic.
  • Clarifies causality. Helps to identify and communicate dependencies and risks.
  • Is useful when visually tracking and reporting progress in strategy execution.

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Example:

  • Strategic objective: People satisfaction choice nr. 1 employer.
  • Benefit: Future proof environment considered as a great place to work (e-NPS survey T0 & Tx).
  • New capabilities: We have a vision on employer branding.
  • Enabler: Employer branding possibilities analysis.

But … the market has been evolving.

As Threon exists for almost 20 years, you can imagine that we saw the world changing over the years.

I have to admit that 20 years ago, I wasn’t worried about how to manage a project portfolio. I was worried about how I could better collect Pokémon cards.

I became aware of the topic 6 years ago, when I started my professional career. But even in these 6 years, I noticed a big shift in the market:

  • The need to deal with changing environments & priorities has became much larger.
  • The need to show value faster than ever before.
  • The lack of distinction between business as usual and change.

And that’s ok! This shift doesn’t mean we have to throw away all of our experiences and proven practices. We do need to change our way of thinking & working, for example: yearly portfolio selection exercises, funding entire projects upfront, silo based working and temporary project teams are not up to the job anymore.

But there are practices & techniques that have been proven to be effective over the years, that we can re-use. We just might need to adjust the approach so that it answers the challenges of today.

And one of these techniques is benefit mapping.

However, if we want to keep the benefit mapping technique relevant in a scaled agile environment, we need to tweak the technique a bit, so that it fits.

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Objectives

Objectives represent a destination. They answer the questions “Where do I need to go?”
Objectives set a clear direction and are inspiring. They do not contain a number.
For example: Grow in innovation – considered by customer

Key results

Key results measure progress toward an objective. They answer the question “How do I know I’m getting there?”.
For example: Be an innovative partner: within 3 years, 3 new techniques brought to the market.

Capabilities

There is a difference between wat SAFe understands as a capability and a capability in benefit mapping.
In SAFe a capability is the level in between an epic & a feature. In benefit mapping, it is a desired future state, it’s an organizational capability to be something. It’s in fact a new behavior or way of working that you should be able to demonstrate continuously.
For example: We have a predictive IoT- solution incorporated in our products.

Epics

Capabilities are made measurable in your epics.
Epics are substantial investments that require an MVP before implementation and contain a benefit hypothesis.
For example: Innovation project IoT.

Going one level deeper

Once epics are chosen & selected, at ART level, we can start identifying features and attach them to the selected epics.
For example: the epic “Innovation project IoT’ could receive a feature ‘IoT languages’.

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Where to link / match the agile organization?

When taking a look at the overall used example, we’ve built one product-development oriented multidisciplinary team around one epic / customer project on IoT. Secondly, we’ve set up one multidisciplinary team around a capability ‘employer branding’. It doesn’t matter which one you choose, but keep in mind that your agile team is at least a long-lasting multidisciplinary team.

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Key takeaways:

  • Benefit through KPIs: Translating “uncontrollable” strategic objectives into measurable objectives.
  • Selection and delivery of projects: control the measurable objectives by managing and monitoring the actions.
  • Strategy contribution: create transparency within the organization on why projects are selected.
  • Ownership: create clear ownership based on organizational value (benefits) and not outcomes (deliverables).
Thomas Dubois

Thomas Dubois
Agile Consultant at Threon

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