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With their information technology (IT) investments, most organizations focus on implementing the technology rather than on realizing the expected business benefits. Consequently, benefits are not forthcoming, despite a project's technical success. Drawing on more than 10 years of research studying how organizations can improve the return on their IT investments, we present an approach for identifying, planning, and managing the delivery of benefits. Our benefits management approach begins with IT professionals and business managers together answering seven questions about a potential IT investment. These questions aim to uncover three important aspects of the investment: the ends (the target performance improvements), the ways (the ways the business must work differently), and the means (the enabling IT capabilities). With these answers, the team can build a cause-effect network--called the Benefits Dependency Network (BDN)--which shows how each of the improvements can be achieved by a combination of business changes and new IT capabilities. It also makes clear who needs to become accountable for making the specific changes and delivering the benefits. The completed network provides the basis for developing both a robust business case for the investment and a viable change management plan to deliver the benefits. The results are better investment decisions and benefits-driven implementation plans, both of which lead to realizing more benefits from IT investments.
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Managing the Realization of Business
Benefits from IT Investments
Professor Joe Peppard
Cranfield School of Management
Cranfield University
Bedford MK43 0AL
United Kingdom
Phone: +44 (0)1234 751122
Email: j.peppard@cranfield.ac.uk
Professor John Ward
Cranfield School of Management
Cranfield University
Bedford MK43 0AL
United Kingdom
Phone: +44 (0)1234 751122
Email: j.m.ward@cranfield.ac.uk
Professor Elizabeth Daniel
Open University Business School
Walton Hall
Milton Keynes
United Kingdom
Email: e.m.daniel@open.ac.uk
Joe Peppard holds the Chair in Information Systems at Cranfield School of
Management where he is also Director of the Information Systems Research Centre.
John Ward is Professor of Strategic Information Systems at Cranfield School of
Management.
Elizabeth Daniel is Professor of Information Management at the Open University
Business School.
Manuscript for publication in
MIS Quarterly Executive
March 2007
MANAGING THE REALIZATION OF BUSINESS BENEFITS FROM IT INVESTMENTS
Abstract
With their information technology (IT) investments, most organizations focus on the
implementation of technology not on the realization of expected business benefits.
Consequently, benefits are not forthcoming despite projects being considered a
technical success. This failure to realize benefits is primarily due to methods and tools
that emphasize improving the supply-side of IT delivery, including the use of
outsourcing. No IT investment is ever just about technology. Drawing on over 10
years of research that has studied how organizations improve the return on the
investment they make in IT, this paper presents an approach which enables managers
to identify, plan for and manage the delivery of benefits. This approach implies new
ways of working between IT professionals and business managers that complement the
best practices in delivering IT solutions, but that engage business managers in a way
that enables them to apply their collective knowledge to creating business value from
IT enabled change.
KEYWORDS: IT implementation, Business benefits, IT Benefits Management, IT
projects, IT benefits realization planning
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In many organizations IT has a poor reputation. There can be many reasons for this,
but one that is consistently encountered is that IT is seen as failing to deliver “value
for money”. Indeed, a recent IT survey reported that more than a fifth of all US Chief
Information Officers (CIOs) consider that their existing IT investments have failed to
generate a genuinely good return for their organization and a further quarter were only
mildly convinced that they had. We suspect that if executives from outside the IT
function had been surveyed this statistic would have been substantially lower.1
Management practice provides some insight as to the origins of this inability to
deliver business benefits. When considering return-on-investment (ROI) calculations,
organizations are too pre-occupied with manipulating the denominator – reducing
spend, and are failing to focus on how deploying IT can create business value and
deliver significant benefits to the organization. Equally worrying is that the
traditional investment appraisal process is seen as a ritual that must be overcome
before any project can begin, with many benefits being overstated in order to get
projects through the appraisal process.2 No wonder few companies engage in post
implementation reviews: it is already known that many of the benefits identified in the
investment proposal are unlikely to be achieved. And anyway, without clearly
identifying the expected benefits, what criteria do organizations use to assess the
success of an IT project? Generally, it is whether the new IT system is delivered on
time, within budget and whether it meets the technical specification. Little account is
taken of how well it is actually being exploited by the business and if it is delivering
the expected business benefits.3 There still seems to be a naive assumption
1 See also comments made by McAfee. A. McAfee, “Mastering the three worlds of information
technology”, Harvard Business Review, November (2006): 141-149.
2 This is not a new phenomenon. In the early 1990s Kit Grindley reported that 83% of IT directors that
he surveyed admitted that the cost/benefit analysis supporting proposals to invest in IT were a fiction.
He wrote about the “conspiracy of lies”. See K. Grindley, Managing IT at Board Level (Financial
Times, London, 1995). A survey of the 200 largest UK companies reported that 47% openly admitting
to overstating the benefits to get approval for IT investments. See J. Ward, P. Taylor and P. Bond,
“Evaluation and realization of IS/IT benefits: an empirical study of current practice”, European Journal
of Information Systems, 4 (1996): 214-225; and C. Lin and G. Pervan, “The practice of IS/IT benefits
management in large Australian organizations”, Information & Management, 41/1 (2003): 31-44.
3 Nelson notes that ‘time’, ‘cost’ and ‘product’ are process-based measures and recommends that
outcome-based measures of ‘use’, ‘learning’ and ‘value’ should also be considered in evaluating IT
investments. See R. Ryan Nelson, “Project retrospectives: evaluating project success, failure, and
everything in between”, MIS Quarterly Executive, 4/3 (2005): 361-372.
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MANAGING THE REALIZATION OF BUSINESS BENEFITS FROM IT INVESTMENTS
underpinning investments in IT that ‘once we get it in, benefits will begin to flow’
even though this silver-bullet view has been long shown as flawed.4
So how can management ensure that investments made in IT are not a waste of
money? In our work with a wide range of organizations, we have developed an
approach and a set of tools that can aid organizations in significantly improving the
delivery of business benefits from their IT investments (see Appendix 1 for an
overview of this research). A core feature of the approach is the clear identification of
expected benefits and a detailed plan of how those benefits will be realized at the
outset of the project. This plan is then used to guide actions throughout the project
implementation and to review progress and achievement both during the project and
following its completion. An important element of the approach, which is central to
the successful delivery of benefits, is the involvement of key stakeholders in the
development and execution of this benefits realization plan. These stakeholders are
the business managers and users who will be responsible for changing how they work
as well as making effective use of the new systems and technology.5 Indeed, for many
of the organizations who have adopted this approach, they have not only improved the
success of their IT projects, they have also significantly improved the relationship
between their business and IT staff.
One bank that we studied is typical of the lack benefits realization from IT. The
project team working on a new customer relationship management (CRM) system had
included benefits such as increasing customer retention rates, improving cross sell
opportunities and the conversion of leads into sales, reducing the cost of marketing
campaigns and increasing average number of products per customer in its initial ROI
calculations. However, three years after the project had begun few of these had
actually been realized despite the project being delivered on time, to budget and to
specification. While the bank was clear as to what they wanted, they were unclear as
to how they could realize the benefits from this investment. They consequently failed
4 See M.L. Markus and R.I. Benjamin, “The magic bullet theory of IT-enabled transformation”, Sloan
Management Review, 38/2 (1997): 55-68; and A. Hughes and M.S. Scott Morton, “The transforming
power of complementary assets”, MIT Sloan Management Review, Summer (2006): 50-58.
5 For an illustration of an organizational process for realizing the business value of information
technology see R. Kohli and S. Devaraj, “Realizing the business value of information technology
investments: an organizational process”, MIS Quarterly Executive, 3/1 (2004): 53-68.
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to identify the many changes to how individuals and groups within the organization
would have to work in order to deliver benefits. Instead they concentrated on
deploying the technology as quickly as possible. As a result, a $10 million IT
implementation delivered no immediate benefits.
The Principles of Realizing Benefits from IT
Our analysis has led us to identify of a number of principles that underpin the process
of realizing value from IT.
IT has no inherent value. Just having technology does not confer any benefits or
create value. Unlike many other assets, such as precious gems or real estate, the value
of technology is not in its possession. In fact, all the spend serves to do is incur cost –
benefits result from the effective organizational use of the IT asset acquired or
created.6
Benefits arise when IT enables people do things differently. It is only when
individuals or groups within the organization, or amongst it customer and supplier
bases, perform their roles in more efficient or effective ways that benefits emerge.
This usually demands improving how information is used.7 Technology can enable
and shape new ways of working through the redesign of intra- and inter-
organizational processes or facilitating new work practices.
Only business managers and users can release business benefits. Since benefits
emerge from changes and innovations to ways of working in the organization and in
its interactions with customers and suppliers, it is business managers and users (and
6 Soh and Markus have presented a useful theoretical model explaining the steps involved in linking IT
investment to business performance. The model captures the major ingredients of the recipe for
transforming IT investments into improved organizational performance. The recipe suggests the
necessary processes and the sequence that leads to success, and highlights the criticality of the ‘use
process’. See C. Soh and L. Markus and “How IT creates business value”, in Proceedings of the 16th
Annual International Conference on Information Systems, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, (1995): 29-41.
For empirical evidence see S. Devaraj and R. Kohli, “Performance impacts of information technology:
is actual usage the missing link”, Management Science, 49/3 (2003): 273-289.
7 See T.H. Davenport, J.G. Harris, D.W. Delong and A.L. Jacobson, “Data to knowledge to results:
Building an analytical capability”, California Management Review, 43/2 (2001): 117-138; and D.A.
Marchand, W. Kettinger and J.D. Rollins, “Information orientation: people, technology and bottom
line”, Sloan Management Review, (Summer, 2000): 69-80.
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possibly customers and suppliers themselves) that must make these changes. This has
implications for accountabilities. IT and project staff cannot be made accountable for
the realization of business benefits from IT investments; rather, business staff must
take on responsibility for this activity.8 The recognition of this fact is a key means of
ensuring business staff become more involved in so called IT projects.
All IT projects have outcomes but not all outcomes are benefits. This simple, yet
profound principle resonates with the reality that many IT projects produce negative
outcomes, sometimes even affecting the very survival of the organization itself. The
challenge for management is to ensure that, as well as avoiding negative outcomes,
the positive outcomes are converted to deliver explicit business benefits.
Benefits must be actively managed for. Benefits are not outcomes which automatically
occur. Indeed, there is often a lag in benefits accumulation after the implementation,
i.e. a time gap between initial investment and payoff.9 Therefore, managing for the
benefits does not stop when the technical implementation of the project is completed,
it continues until each of the expected benefits has either been achieved or it is clear it
will not materialize.
Problem versus Innovation-Based Implementations:
Identifying Ends, Means and Ways
What our research is signaling is that if organizations are to increase the likelihood of
success from their IT investments, they must separate out the different causes of
benefits before developing any implementation plan. Approaches to implementation
will differ depending on the nature of the change involved; and changes will
8 For more on who should be held accountable for value realization through IT see C. Tiernan and J.
Peppard, “Information technology: of value or a vulture?” European Management Journal, 22/6
(2004): 609-623. Kohli and Devaraj also highlight that IT payoffs are the responsibility of the entire
organization. See Kohli and Devaraj, op. cit. 2004.
9 Hitt and colleagues have empirically demonstrated this for enterprise systems. See L.M. Hitt, D.J. Wu
and X. Zhou, “Investing in enterprise resource planning: business impact and productivity measures”,
Journal of Management Information Systems, 19/1 (2002): 71-98. See also E. Brynjolfsson and L. Hitt,
“Paradox lost: firm level evidence on the returns to IS spending”, Management Science, 42/4 (1996):
541-558. Managing through the lifecycle of the investment beyond any formal end of “the project” is
also emphasized by Kohli and Devaraj in their organizational process model of IT value realization.
See Kohli and Devaraj, 2004 op. cit. Goh and Hauffman have proposed the beginnings of a theory
addressing what they refer to as the “IT value latency problem”. See K. H. Goh and R.J. Kauffman,
“Towards a theory of value latency for IT investments”, Paper presented at the 38th Hawaii
International Conference on Systems Science, January, 2005.
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inevitably involve people. From our data we have identified two distinct types of IT
interventions: problem-based implementation and innovation-based implementation.10
Both are likely to be present in any large scale IT project, but the impact on
employees and other stakeholders will be quite different and the issues that need to be
managed will be very dissimilar. In managing implementation it is crucial to identify
the type of intervention that is being considered and plan accordingly.
To help in making this distinction, consider that at the start of many IT investments,
objectives or targets are set for the performance improvements that are expected.
These improvement targets or ends then form the basis of the business case and
calculation of a Return on Investment (ROI). This approach is appropriate when the
investment is problem–driven, since the benefits that should result from the removal
of known problems through the new IT means and improved ways of executing
business processes and activities can usually be identified and quantified. The main
challenge is to agree the best combination of ways and means of achieving them. An
example of such a problem-based implementation was the deployment of a global
financial system by a major accountancy firm that sought to remove the delays they
were incurring in producing consolidated billing for their global clients and closing
their year end accounts.
It is often more difficult to specify the ends that will be achieved from innovation-
based investments. This is due to the uncertainties about whether the new IT
functionality and business changes can be successfully implemented or the benefits
that those changes will actually deliver. The business value realized from innovation-
based projects will depend on the ability of the organization to identify, create and
successfully implement, advantageous new ways of conducting business. This
implies that the investment objectives and scope may well change during the
implementation process, as the organization learns more about what can be achieved
and how. A potential issue with IT enabled innovations is that too much attention is
paid to what the IT can do, i.e. the means, rather than the changes the organization has
to, or could make, to exploit fully the capabilities of the technology.
10 For more details of this research see J. Peppard and J. Ward, “Unlocking sustained business value
from IT investments”, California Management Review, 48/1 (2005): 52-70.
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Thus, with problem-based or ‘ends driven’ implementations – i.e. focused on the end
result – the organization is primarily investing in IT to improve performance in order
to:
overcome an existing disadvantage against competitors
prevent performance deteriorating in the future to a level that would be a
disadvantage
achieve stated business targets
remove constraints that are preventing opportunities being taken.
Examples of problem-based interventions include: integrating customer data to
provide a single point of contact for customer enquiries; implementing an ERP system
to remove reconciliation problems between production and finance; providing
employee self-service applications via a portal to reduce administration and
purchasing costs; and providing lap-tops to mobile sales force to ensure the accuracy
of customer quotations.
With innovation-based, or ‘ways and means’ driven interventions, the organization is
investing in IT to exploit a business opportunity or to create potential competitive
opportunities or new organizational capabilities by:
doing something new involving using IT
doing something in a new way using IT
using new IT to do something it could not do before.
In all these situations, the innovation is dependent on combination of the technology,
the organization’s technical expertise and the ability of the organization to change in
order to make effective use of the capabilities.11 Examples include: creating an on-line
sales channel to reach new customers; introducing vendor managed inventory for key
suppliers; allowing customers to undertake self-billing; deploying a data warehouse
and analytics to automate operational decision making; and introducing mobile
technologies for professionals to work on-line during client engagements.
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MANAGING THE REALIZATION OF BUSINESS BENEFITS FROM IT INVESTMENTS
The Benefits Management Approach
Any approach to realizing benefits from IT investments must be able to address the
principles identified above for both problem-based and innovation-based
implementations. Through our research we have developed an approach to benefits
management that is simple to use, yet flexible enough to accommodate the very
different starting points for the two investment types.
We have adopted the term ‘IT benefits management’ to refer to the process of
organizing and managing such that the potential benefits arising from the use of IT
are actually realized. The term ‘benefits management’ was chosen to emphasize the
crucial point made above, that benefits arise from the changes made by individuals or
groups within or outside the organization. These changes must be identified and
managed successfully if the benefits are to be realized. ‘Benefits realization’ and
‘change management’ are therefore inextricably linked. This is obviously the case
when the project is explicitly an IT-enabled or ‘techno-change’ program, but is also
true in most contemporary IT projects, except perhaps a limited number of pure
infrastructure investments.
The process of producing a benefits realization plan can be summed up as a series of
questions that have to be answered in order to develop a robust business case for the
investment and a viable change management plan to deliver the benefits. The
questions are focused around organizational or business improvements and changes
and not IT. The knowledge required to address these questions is unlikely to be found
in any one individual, rather it will be distributed across a number of people, who
must be brought together to provide the answers.12
1) Why do we have to improve?
11 This has been referred to as ‘technochange’. See L. Markus “Technochange management: using IT to
drive organizational change”, Journal of Information Technology, 19/1 (2004): 4-20.
12 In an empirical study of projects to implement ERP systems, Newell and colleagues noted that “[a]
project team, set up to design and implement a large-scope IT system, is essentially tasked with
integrating distributed knowledge”. See S. Newell, C. Tansley and J. Huang, “Social capital and
knowledge integration in an ERP project team: the importance of bridging AND bonding”, British
Journal of Management, 15 (2004): S43-S57, 2004.
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MANAGING THE REALIZATION OF BUSINESS BENEFITS FROM IT INVESTMENTS
2) What improvements are necessary or possible? These have to be agreed by the
key stakeholders and become investment objectives.
3) What benefits will be realized by each stakeholder if the organizational
objectives are achieved? How can each benefit be measured?
4) Who owns each of the benefits and will be accountable for its delivery? The
benefit owner will be responsible for the value assigned to the benefit in the
business case.
5) What changes are needed to achieve each benefit? This the key to realizing
benefits through identifying explicit links between each benefits and required
changes.
6) Who will be responsible for ensuring each change is made successfully?
7) How and when can the changes be made? This requires an assessment of the
organization’s and specific stakeholder group’s ability and capacity to make
the changes.
The benefits management approach includes a set of linked tools and frameworks13 to
enable organizations to use their collective knowledge to develop answers to these
questions and hence produce a benefits realization plan, which will guide both the
implementation of the project and the subsequent review process.
Only when this assessment has been completed and the feasibility of achieving the
target benefits thoroughly tested, should a business case requesting funding for the IT
investment be put forward. More importantly, this case will be supported by a
comprehensive benefits delivery plan which greatly increases the likelihood of the
benefits actually being realized.
The Benefits Dependency Network
The core tool in addressing these questions and in constructing a benefits’ realization
plan is the Benefits Dependency Network (BDN). The BDN provides a framework for
explicitly linking the overall investment objectives and the requisite benefits with the
13 More details about the complete process and tools and techniques involved can be found in J. Ward
and E. Daniel, Benefits Management: Delivering Value from IS and IT Investments, (John Wiley &
Sons, Chichester, 2005).
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MANAGING THE REALIZATION OF BUSINESS BENEFITS FROM IT INVESTMENTS
business changes which are necessary to deliver those benefits and the essential IT
functionality to both drive and enable these changes to be made.
Figure 1 illustrates part of a network for a CRM application developed during our
work with a large European paper manufacturer – the actual network was
considerably more detailed. The company, which manufactures high quality papers
and paper-based packaging materials, sold their products via distributors, to printers,
large corporations and packaging manufacturers. Sales were achieved by advertising
and promoting (A&P), a key part of which were targeted marketing campaigns, in
which samples and marketing collateral were mailed out to customers. This mailing
was then followed up by either a visit from a member of sales staff, or a telephone call
from the sales office. On average, the company carried out around 50 such campaigns
per year to its 6000 end customers, costing a total of some $15 million.
Two objectives for the investment were agreed: to improve the effectiveness of A&P
expenditure (defined as the ratio of sales revenue generated/A&P costs) and to
increase sales volume and value, particularly from new customers. The specific
benefits expected to be delivered by achieving these objectives included: reduced
costs by avoiding wasted mailings and product samples to ‘irrelevant’ customers,
increased response rates from A&P campaigns, increased follow up of leads generated
by campaigns and an increased conversion rate of leads to sales
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MANAGING THE REALIZATION OF BUSINESS BENEFITS FROM IT INVESTMENTS
Campaign planning
& management
system
Customer &
Prospect database
Contact
management
system
Enquiry quotation
& response
tracking system
Wireless P Cs
and PDAs
for sal es staff
Introduce project
management for all
A&P cam paigns
Reduce marketing
staff time on admin
activities
Redefine customer
segments
Introduce new
account
management
processes
Release sales time
from post-sales
activity to pre-sales
Measure outcome
of campaigns re
objectives
Use database to
improve targeting in
segments
Realign sales
activity with new
customer segments
New sales staff
incentives
Identify most
appropriate
communication
medium for target
customers
Co-ordinate sales
and marketing
activity in follow-up
Allocate sales time
to potential high
value leads
Increase sales time
with customers
Reduced cost by
avoiding waste on
irrelevant
customers
Increased
response rate from
A&P campa igns
Increased rate of
follow up leads
Increased
conversion rate of
leads-to-orders
Use system to
target sales
activity/contact
time
To improve the
effectiveness of
Advertising &
Promotion
(A&P) spend
To increase sales
value and volume
from new
customers
IT Enablers Enabling
Changes Business
Changes Benefits Investment
Objectives
FIGURE 1 An example of a (partial) benefits-dependency network for a new customer
relationship management system (CRM) for a European paper manufacturer.
The network was constructed over a series of workshops involving sales and
marketing managers, from the 15 countries in which the company operated, and the
central IT staff. To develop the BDN, the team worked backwards, or right-to-left,
from the agreed investment objectives and the benefits that the sales and marketing
managers identified, through the required changes in how staff would need to work, to
the new IT necessary to enable those changes to be made. This way of working is
appropriate for most IT investments, and is an important feature of the benefits
management approach. It ensures that investments are driven by business-demand,
shown on the right hand side of the network, rather than IT-supply on the left, which
has traditionally driven many projects. This right-to-left working also ensures that
investments in IT are only made if they will provide explicit business benefits.
However, as discussed later, innovation-based investments often require some
evaluation of the technology before the objectives and benefits can be clearly stated.
Changes can typically be categorized into two types: business changes or enabling
changes. Business changes are permanent changes to working practices, processes,
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MANAGING THE REALIZATION OF BUSINESS BENEFITS FROM IT INVESTMENTS
and/or relationships which will cause the benefits to be delivered. They cannot
normally be made until the new system is available for use and other necessary
enabling changes have been made; e.g. allocating more sales time to potentially high
value customer leads identified by the new system, requires the system and other
enablers to be in place. In contrast, enabling changes are typically ‘one-off’ changes
which are pre-requisites for making the business changes or are essential to bring the
new system into effective operation. These often involve tasks such as defining and
agreeing new working practices, redesigning processes, agreeing changes to job roles
and responsibilities, establishing new performance management systems, training in
new business skills (as well as the more obvious training and education in using the
new system). They can often be made, or have to be made, before the new system is
introduced; e.g. redefining the customer segments or agreeing a new sales account
management scheme to ensure rewards reflect the increased attention to new or high
value customers.
Once the initial BDN has been constructed, measures for each of the benefits and
responsibilities for all of the benefits and changes must then be assigned and time-
scales established. Assigning ownership increases accountability for both achieving
the desired outcome and carrying out the activities needed to get there. In a major UK
bank, managers have to personally sign the business case for each benefit they are
claiming to show their commitment to realizing them. These benefits were then
included in their future targets.
In addition to agreeing measures for all the benefits, establishing metrics to assess
progress across the range of changes is important to ensure the changes are completed
successfully. These can also be linked to staff compensation. A global pharmaceutical
company developed a BDN for the implementation of its Shared Service Center
across 13 European countries. The savings expected depended not only reducing
support costs by standardizing applications for many administrative functions, but
also introducing common IT service processes across all the units. All of the change
activities identified in the BDN for rationalizing existing applications and services and
transferring them to the new centre were cascaded down to the level of individual
managers and built into their 6 monthly performance objectives.
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For the paper company, the resulting network highlighted how individuals and groups
had to change the way they worked, individually and collectively, before the benefits
could be realized and the investment objectives met. Involvement in the process of
building the network helped the managers identify the interdependencies among the
required changes and how they had to work together to bring about the those changes,
leading to more realistic planning for the realization of the benefits.
On a number of occasions, building such a network has enabled organizations to
avoid unnecessary IT expenditure, since it is possible to achieve the benefits by
merely changing current working practices or by using existing systems more
effectively. For example, in a UK Health Trust consisting of five hospitals it was
proposed that a new system be implemented to schedule and co-ordinate the
allocation of beds across all five sites to maximize the utilization of resources. In the
process of developing the BDN it soon became clear that the actual processes and
practices in place were quite different across the five sites, although they all used the
same existing system. By merely making those practices consistent, the main benefit
of increasing capacity by 15% was achieved almost immediately without incurring
any additional IT costs. As a result, waiting times for patients were reduced and the
avoided IT expenditure of $600,000 could be spent on new medical equipment.
Some organizations have used the BDN to help in scoping individual work packages
on a large-scale project. By identifying all the necessary changes to deliver a
particular benefit or set of benefits, one insurance company created a number of sub-
projects, which were then implemented on a phased basis. Each sub-project focused
on achieving particular ‘benefit streams’ and provided focus to what was a complex
project. This is in contrast to the fragmented approach that organizations often adopt
with IT projects, where phased implementation is based on technical components not
business benefits.
Failure to complete a network may illustrate that the expected benefits are not
achievable. Alternatively, it may signal that a pilot may need to be undertaken to
identify changes and assess whether benefits are actually feasible. If a network
ultimately cannot be constructed than the investment should not be made as the
analysis indicates that benefits are not achievable.
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Benefits Dependency Networks for ‘Problem-based’ and
‘Innovation-based’ Investments
Our research also identified that the process of constructing the BDN varies,
depending on whether a problem-based or innovation-based investment is being
considered. However, to complicate matters, large-scale IT investments, such as
rolling out an ERP system globally, will probably include both problem and
innovation components.
Problem-based Investments
The primary purpose of constructing the network for problem-based investments is to
identify the most cost effective and lowest risk combination of IT and business
changes that will achieve explicit quantified improvements i.e. they are mainly ends
driven.
As shown in Figure 2, in such cases it is first necessary to define as precisely as
possible the improvement targets that can be achieved if the problems or constraints
are removed. These form the objectives for the investment. The benefits that
achieving the objectives will deliver are also identified, along with who will own each
benefit and how it will be measured. Current processes and ways of working are then
analyzed to identify possible combinations of business changes and IT functionality
that could deliver the benefits. Emphasis should be on using existing systems or off
the shelf software and avoiding new IT development or extensive customization. The
preference should be to change business processes and procedures and even people’s
roles and responsibilities wherever possible, to reduce the technology costs and risks.
The objectives and benefits are then finalized for the preferred option and a full
business case developed, by quantifying the expected levels of improvement and their
financial values.
In the paper company this careful analysis revealed a number of causes of the
ineffectiveness of the A&P spend: the badly structured database made it difficult to
select relevant customers; responses were inconsistently followed up and the database
was not always updated with the responses received. Even more importantly there was
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MANAGING THE REALIZATION OF BUSINESS BENEFITS FROM IT INVESTMENTS
poor co-ordination across campaigns, so customers could be either inundated with
mailings or neglected for long periods. Objectives for particular campaigns did not
consider the expected level of wasted mailings and it was not measured. Lastly it
transpired that the majority of campaigns ran late compared with the plans, which
made it very difficult to synchronize and optimize the sales activities across all the
campaigns. Relations between the sales and marketing staff were often tense and each
blamed the other for the poor sales/expenditure ratio. The last of these problems was
solved by implementing a project management approach and a common process for
all campaigns, supported by simple software. The schedules and progress of all
campaigns was visible to everyone.
IT
Enablers Enabling
Changes Business
Changes Benefits Objectives
Remove
existing
problems
or
constraints
Business
Driver
2. Identify the combinations of IT enablers
and business changes that could achieve
each of the potential benefits
1. Define the performance
improvement targets and
potential benefits
3. Iterate to decide the most cost
effective and low risk combination
of IT and business changes to
achieve the major benefits intended
Ends
Means Ways
Areas of greatest certainty Areas of least certainty
FIGURE 2 Developing a Benefit Dependency Network for problem-based
interventions.
As a result it was clear that about 40% of the direct costs of A&P could be saved. By
making changes to the ways that sales and marketing staff worked, combined with
changes and extensions to existing systems this saving of $2m was achieved in the
first year, whilst achieving the same level of responses as previously.
Innovation-based Investments
For innovation-based implementations, the main purpose in building the network is to
understand how a combination of organizational changes and technology deployment
will create a worthwhile advantage by pursing an opportunity and what the
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MANAGING THE REALIZATION OF BUSINESS BENEFITS FROM IT INVESTMENTS
organization has to do to gain the advantage. Developing a BDN for innovation-based
investments is inevitably iterative, since the benefits are difficult to define and are
dependent on the nature of the changes the organization is willing to make and its
ability to develop and deploy new technology.
Innovation-based implementations are of two types, both of which are aimed at
creating advantage for the organization. The first is essentially ways driven while the
second is means driven.
The first is where an identifiable opportunity exists and the purpose is to assess
whether the organization can make the necessary changes that will enable it to gain
advantage from the opportunity. As shown in Figure 3, in such cases it is necessary to
first create a ‘vision’ that describes the nature of the advantage – this is, a set of initial
objectives that ‘paint a picture’ of what the situation would be if the advantage is
gained. Potential business benefits that would be realized from the advantage and the
types of business changes that would be essential to achieving them can then be
identified. Since this is an innovation, it is likely that many enabling changes will be
required to create new processes, competences and redefine responsibilities to develop
the new ways of working. The ways in which technology can then be best used to
enable each of the business changes can then be assessed.
A telecoms equipment supplier realized that it needed to increase revenue from its
service operations to offset the reducing margins on its hardware and software, but
this could only be achieved by providing high levels of service support to its
customers. From discussions with its largest customers it was clear that the potential
revenues could be several times higher, if the company was able to service other
suppliers’ equipment within one contract. However it could not afford the risk of
creating a large force of service engineers. By implementing a new Service
Management System, which linked it and its customers directly to several hundred
independent qualified engineers it was able to create a national service network,
which could guarantee 24 by 7 cover to service almost all the equipment a customer
possessed – at a premium price. Developing this new type of networked service
required it to think less internally and use IT to create new relationships and ways of
working with both its customers and suppliers. The quality of service it delivered
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MANAGING THE REALIZATION OF BUSINESS BENEFITS FROM IT INVESTMENTS
also gave it the opportunity over time to increase sales of its products to replace those
of competitors.
IT
Enablers Enabling
Changes Business
Changes Benefits Objectives
Deliver
innovation
from new
ways of
working
Business
Driver
3. Assess
how IT can
enable the
changes
2. Describe the new
ways of working and the
benefits these would
deliver.
1. Create a
Vision
4. Assess the feasibility of
making each of the
changes & achieving each
of the benefits
EndsMeans Ways
Areas of greatest certainty Areas of least certainty
FIGURE 3 Developing a Benefit Dependency network for innovation-based
interventions gain advantage from new ways of working.
The second type of innovation is when a new technology appears to offer
opportunities to create an advantage, such as with RFID or business process
management software. Whilst such investments should be focused on the potential
business opportunities, i.e. what type of advantages could be obtained, this needs to be
balanced with an understanding of the capabilities of the new technology and the
business changes that would be required to exploit those capabilities. It is then
possible to identify potential benefits and agree the overall objectives (see Figure 4).
By definition, innovations based on new technology are inherently risky, and before
making a significant investment a pilot study should be carried out as part of the
evaluation. This should not only focus on the technical feasibility, but also on
confirming the changes that are required to deliver benefits and the magnitude of
expected benefits.
In the paper company, the increase in sales through better conversion of leads,
required completely new systems and ways of working for the sales staff, in particular
they would be directed as to which customers to visit by the responses to the
campaign and the incentive component of their pay would depend on the success of
those visits. The company also needed to know that this directed new approach would
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MANAGING THE REALIZATION OF BUSINESS BENEFITS FROM IT INVESTMENTS
not jeopardize existing customer relationships, for instance by dealing with them
through the telesales channel rather than personal visits by sales staff.
IT
Enablers Enabling
Changes Business
Changes Benefits Objectives
Deliver
innovation
from new
IT
Business
Driver
1. What is the
new capability
that IT could
provide?
2. What changes would be
needed to ways of
working?
Ends
Means Ways
Areas of greatest certainty Areas of least certainty
3. What benefits could be
realized and what
objectives achieved?
FIGURE 4 Developing a Benefit Dependency Network for new IT innovation-based
interventions.
Having identified that changing how resources were used could enable customer
contacts to be addressed more efficiently and effectively, thereby increasing the
number of sales contacts made, the remaining issue was whether the more productive
use of sales staff, combined with the improved targeting of campaigns, would actually
deliver more sales, and specifically more sales caused by those campaigns. The
company carried out a pilot implementation over 4 months and compared the results
of the new approach with those from the same campaign run traditionally in a
different country. After allowing for the effects of the extra effort and enthusiasm by
the staff in the pilot, it was clear that sales were at least 20% better than the control
group. In the year following implementation campaign based sales increased by $12
million (15%) and to nearly 30% in year two.
Benefits management: a way of increasing the value
generated from IT investments
The benefits expected from any IT implementation are unlikely to emerge
automatically. Any benefits sought must first be identified along with the changes in
ways of working that will bring about and sustain each of the benefits. Ownership and
responsibility for the realization of each benefit must then be assigned and how it will
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MANAGING THE REALIZATION OF BUSINESS BENEFITS FROM IT INVESTMENTS
be realized needs to be planned by the benefit owner and those responsible for making
the changes on which it depends. As our research has consistently found, through this
type of benefits realization planning the likelihood of the benefits being achieved is
greatly enhanced. Development of the BDN not only enables the knowledge and
experience of business managers to be applied more coherently to planning the
investment, it creates a clearer understanding of how different groups need to work
together to achieve the benefits they and the organization wish to gain. A leading
supermarket in the UK used the approach as part of a $4.5 billion transformation
program which included outsourcing of IT development and services. The benefits
management approach was used to ensure that ownership of the benefits and
associated significant changes to business processes and ways of working remained
within the control of the organization.
The benefits management approach described here has now been used by well over a
hundred organizations of all sizes, in both public and private sector across the world.
It has been employed to increase the value derived from investments undertaken and
also to avoid wasted expenditure on projects that, when rigorously analyzed using the
approach, would not deliver sufficient benefits to justify the spend. Further examples
of its use include one of the top five global pharmaceutical companies, with sales in
excess of $37 billion, that used the approach to rationalize and optimize its IT
investments following its formation from the merger of two already very significant
firms. Development of benefit dependency networks for all major projects underway
in each of the firms allowed the new entity to identify where projects were duplicated,
ensure effective joint working on the common projects and also prioritize those that
were essential to ensuring the expected benefits of the merger were achieved as early
as possible.
Constructing a BDN can also prevent organizations from embarking on investments
that have no chance of success. A chemical company developed BDNs to review and
prioritize all the requested IT investments in their two year strategic plan. The review
revealed that nearly 50% of them were unlikely to deliver any worthwhile benefits,
given the level of investment involved, enabling resources to be concentrated on those
that would produce a significant return from the existing $20 million IT development
budget.
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MANAGING THE REALIZATION OF BUSINESS BENEFITS FROM IT INVESTMENTS
The approach has also been used successfully in many smaller firms. A family owned
publishing firm used the approach to explore the benefits and implications of
developing an e-commerce offering to distributors and major retailers, concluding that
they needed to change both marketing and customer account management strategies
before launching new on-line services.
It has also been used extensively in the public sector organizations including
healthcare, defence, police and taxation. The emphasis in many cases has been to
increase the involvement of managers and professionals in large IT projects, to ensure
the investments are driven by the need to deliver benefits both within the service and
for its external stakeholders, rather than allowing the projects to become technology
driven. As we write, the benefits management approach has been adopted as the basis
for the ‘best practice framework’ for all IT investments within the State of
Queensland in Australia and is being introduced by a European Government to
improve the management of its IT investments.
Appendix 1: About the Research
This paper is based on three related research projects conducted at the Information
Systems Research Centre at Cranfield School of Management. The first is a
longitudinal study that explored how organizations can realize business benefits and
value from their investments in IT. The researchers worked with 20 large
organizations in both public and private sectors in the UK. The key findings of the
study can be found in J. Ward and J. Peppard, Strategic Planning for Information
Systems, 3rd Edition, (John Wiley and Sons, 2002) and J. Ward and E. Daniel, Benefits
Management: Delivering Value from IS and IT Investments, (John Wiley and Sons,
2006).
The second was a study of customer relationship management (CRM) projects in a
variety of different organizations in a range of business sectors. Case studies were
undertaken in 15 companies. The findings of this study have been published in S.
Knox, S. Maklan, A. Payne, J. Peppard and L. Ryals, Customer Relationship
Management: Perspectives from the Marketplace (Butterworth-Heinemann, Oxford,
2003) and S. Maklan, S. Knox and J. Peppard, “The missing link of CRM
profitability: Building marketing capabilities”, California Management Review, under
review.
The third project studied the particular change and organizational issues associated
with the successful deployment of enterprise systems. The scope of the project
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MANAGING THE REALIZATION OF BUSINESS BENEFITS FROM IT INVESTMENTS
included 5 in-depth case studies of different types of enterprise wide systems. The
findings are published in J. Ward, C. Hemingway and E. Daniel, “A framework for
addressing the organizational issues of enterprise systems implementation”, Journal
of Strategic Information Systems, 2005 and in J. Peppard and J. Ward, “Unlocking
sustained business value from IT investments”, California Management Review,
2006.
Manuscript for MIS Quarterly Executive
March 2007 22
... Gomes et al. (2014) claim that this "productivity paradox", the gap between expected benefits and realized benefits, comes from the fact that investments in technology do not always result in productivity improvements in organizations. Peppard et al. (2007) argue that organizations struggle to realize benefits from IT investments mainly because the focus is on implementing the technology rather than achieving the expected benefits. Research has shown that organizations generate a low return on IT investments, and IT has gotten a poor reputation among several organizations (Peppard et al., 2007). ...
... Peppard et al. (2007) argue that organizations struggle to realize benefits from IT investments mainly because the focus is on implementing the technology rather than achieving the expected benefits. Research has shown that organizations generate a low return on IT investments, and IT has gotten a poor reputation among several organizations (Peppard et al., 2007). Peppard et al. (2007) also argue that IT has no inherent value, and according to Brynjolfsson and Hitt (1998), IT only generates benefits if the new IT is complemented with organizational change. ...
... Research has shown that organizations generate a low return on IT investments, and IT has gotten a poor reputation among several organizations (Peppard et al., 2007). Peppard et al. (2007) also argue that IT has no inherent value, and according to Brynjolfsson and Hitt (1998), IT only generates benefits if the new IT is complemented with organizational change. The problem regarding low return on IT investments is largely caused by organizations focusing on the criteria such as if the investment is within budget and delivered on time, instead of identifying and following up benefits that should be realized (Peppard et al., 2007). ...
Thesis
Full-text available
Several projects are underperforming due to a lack of return from IT investments, resulting in low profitability. The thesis seeks to uncover whether the absence of value creation applies today and for investments in lightweight IT. It elaborates on different factors possibly improving profitability and challenges previous research. In addition, the thesis investigates whether benefit realization management (BRM) leads to better results within lightweight IT projects. The theoretical framework provides insight into lightweight IT projects and BRM and derives equations for measuring profitability. Our focus is on how the profitability of the customers of the start-up company RPA Supervisor has developed due to the implementation of their software. The software automates monitoring, managing, and orchestrating a company’s digital workforce, i.e., their robots. The customers’ profitability is investigated by evaluating the technology’s benefits and risks. We performed a structured interview of the customers of RPA Supervisor to gain insight into viewpoints regarding their experience of the software and benefit realization. Furthermore, to answer our research question, the profitability development was investigated through a comparative analysis that addressed and analyzed factors that influence profitability. The results were examined in light of the development in profitability and the use of AI in Norwegian companies. The analysis revealed that the implementation of the RPA Supervisor software leads to benefits such as improved supervision and performance of the digital workforce. In addition, we found that the most prominent risks were discrepancies in performance and general errors. The discussion exposed that the positive effects of the benefits were high and that the risks were low. Moreover, we discovered that using BRM is unnecessary to achieve more benefits. Finally, we proposed a greater focus on business value than financial parameters when implementing new IT software. Although our findings could not determine with certainty how large the change in profitability has been, we concluded that a marginal change in benefits leads to a development in profitability.
... Gomes et al. (2014) claim that this "productivity paradox", the gap between expected benefits and realized benefits, comes from the fact that investments in technology do not always result in productivity improvements in organizations. Peppard et al. (2007) argue that organizations struggle to realize benefits from IT investments mainly because the focus is on implementing the technology rather than achieving the expected benefits. Research has shown that organizations generate a low return on IT investments, and IT has gotten a poor reputation among several organizations (Peppard et al., 2007). ...
... Peppard et al. (2007) argue that organizations struggle to realize benefits from IT investments mainly because the focus is on implementing the technology rather than achieving the expected benefits. Research has shown that organizations generate a low return on IT investments, and IT has gotten a poor reputation among several organizations (Peppard et al., 2007). Peppard et al. (2007) also argue that IT has no inherent value, and according to Brynjolfsson and Hitt (1998), IT only generates benefits if the new IT is complemented with organizational change. ...
... Research has shown that organizations generate a low return on IT investments, and IT has gotten a poor reputation among several organizations (Peppard et al., 2007). Peppard et al. (2007) also argue that IT has no inherent value, and according to Brynjolfsson and Hitt (1998), IT only generates benefits if the new IT is complemented with organizational change. The problem regarding low return on IT investments is largely caused by organizations focusing on the criteria such as if the investment is within budget and delivered on time, instead of identifying and following up benefits that should be realized (Peppard et al., 2007). ...
Thesis
Several projects are underperforming due to a lack of return from IT investments, resulting in low profitability. The thesis seeks to uncover whether the absence of value creation applies today and for investments in lightweight IT. It elaborates on different factors possibly improving profitability and challenges previous research. In addition, the thesis investigates whether benefit realization management (BRM) leads to better results within lightweight IT projects. The theoretical framework provides insight into lightweight IT projects and BRM and derives equations for measuring profitability. Our focus is on how the profitability of the customers of the start-up company RPA Supervisor has developed due to the implementation of their software. The software automates monitoring, managing, and orchestrating a company’s digital workforce, i.e., their robots. The customers’ profitability is investigated by evaluating the technology’s benefits and risks. We performed a structured interview of the customers of RPA Supervisor to gain insight into viewpoints regarding their experience of the software and benefit realization. Furthermore, to answer our research question, the profitability development was investigated through a comparative analysis that addressed and analyzed factors that influence profitability. The results were examined in light of the development in profitability and the use of AI in Norwegian companies. The analysis revealed that the implementation of the RPA Supervisor software leads to benefits such as improved supervision and performance of the digital workforce. In addition, we found that the most prominent risks were discrepancies in performance and general errors. The discussion exposed that the positive effects of the benefits were high and that the risks were low. Moreover, we discovered that using BRM is unnecessary to achieve more benefits. Finally, we proposed a greater focus on business value than financial parameters when implementing new IT software. Although our findings could not determine with certainty how large the change in profitability has been, we concluded that a marginal change in benefits leads to a development in profitability.
... Projects can deliver outputs that create capabilities, which in turn are transformed into outcomes that can enable the realisation of benefits [23]. Benefits (ends) are linked with business changes (ways) and IT capabilities (means) [24]. Berg et al. [25] highlight that project output or project deliverables are sometimes presented as benefits. ...
... In a study investigating how 36 companies in Australia defined and measured the success of IT projects, Thomas & Fernandez [[46], p. 739] report, 'We found that companies that formally defined success, consistently measured success and acted on the results, had improved IT project outcomes and better utilised project resources'. Peppard et al. [24] and Maes et al. [47] stress the importance of a continuous focus on benefits throughout (and beyond) project execution; ongoing focus and commitment to the benefits are required for effective benefits realisation. Such attention should also be directed towards change management to ensure that actual benefits are realised [5,48]. ...
Article
Full-text available
Organisations spend much money on Information Technology (IT) development and maintenance activities with the intention that these activities will create results that enable benefits for the organisations. This paper seeks to understand potential associations between IT development and maintenance activities and the adoption of benefits management practices to realise value for the organization. The aim is also to uncover potential differences between public and private organisations. We surveyed 86 Norwegian public and private organisations, including data collected in similar surveys every five years since 1993. For the period between 1998 and 2018, we observe a stable pattern of IT work distribution. We found that organisations that managed benefits put more effort into advancing functionality for the end‐users than other organisations, and they realised more benefits. This advantage was particularly true for organisations that managed benefits beyond the early stages of the development lifecycle. Private organisations both managed and realised benefits to a larger extent than public organisations. Our findings can enable organisations to be evidence‐based when choosing management practices to achieve a higher return on investments in IT development and maintenance activities.
... This paper describes the progress of a developing methodology to reuse implementation knowledge in a modular way [16], ensuring that the delivered PLM implementation has value to a customer (the value in this context is defined as the contribution to a measurable improvement in the customer's processes and organization). This methodology is based on Benefit Dependency Networks [17] and then evaluated in the operational environment of a VAR in explorative case studies. With the results from the case studies, we enhanced the methodology with additional contextual elements described in Section 2 of this paper. ...
... Benefit Dependency Networks (BDN) [17,18] can describe the relations between business value, process, and IT. The PLM Vendor Dassault Systèmes and their VARs use these BDNs (value models) to build a high-level business case for specific customers [19]. ...
... Articles published before 2010 were considered as not relevant. Except for three articles (Agrawal and Sambamurthy, 2008;Peppard et al., 2007;Williamson et al., 2004) that contribute foundation knowledge. The initial filtering stage was title relevance. ...
... Because this is "easier said than done," the aim of this paper is to advance theory about the effective use of the business case. Here, "IT projects" refer to business projects with meaningful IT content because IT deliverables, on their own, seldom result in business benefits (Coombs, 2015;Peppard et al., 2007). Also, the IT project "lifetime" extends from when the project is first conceived until the benefits have been substantially realized. ...
Article
Purpose The paper responds to calls in recent research for a model that shows how the business case should be used throughout the project's lifetime to achieve sound governance and thereby project success. The aim of the paper is to advance theory about the effective use of the business case. Design/methodology/approach Besides the processes and information required, the literature identified 43 organizational facilitating factors, structured into 5 categories, which are required for effective use of the business case. To offer a useful model, the authors' approach was to do a factor analysis, based on existing survey data, to reduce the number of facilitators and to validate their categorization. Findings The findings of the paper were as follows: (1) the classification of the proposed facilitating factors was validated; (2) the number of facilitators needed to ensure that the business case is used effectively was substantially reduced and (3) a “business case effectiveness model” is proposed to clarify the relationship between the organizational facilitating factors, the business case processes and the information required to effectively use the business case. Originality/value This is the first time that a business case effectiveness model has been proposed. Besides consolidating business case theory, it can be used to guide people and organizations on simple, affordable ways to improve their use of the business case to achieve sound governance and hence business/information technology project success.
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