How to identify the benefits in change
When moving to another country with your family, you would hope that things go smoothly and settling down is easy. But if I look at the past 5 months, it has been anything but smooth. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the whole idea of doing normal stuff was thrown out of the window. Total lockdown during March and April, uncertainty of the future, and the fact that everything was delayed. These were the building blocks of our first months in Dubai and also, the first months of Sulava in the UAE. During our process of moving, we did some sort of a risk analysis (personal and business), but global pandemic was not on the list, to be honest.
These past months have really got me thinking about the thing called ”change”. I know this word is somewhat a buzzword of our era, but I think it is for a reason. The thing is, however, that we usually do not fully grasp the details of the change, the drivers, or even the benefits that come with it. Or possible risks in our case. I do not say that we should examine and plan every single change that we are up against. But on strategic changes and the ones that could have a major impact our lives / business, we should understand certain elements.
Business and IT world is full of different frameworks and methodologies, and I am going to use one here too. But bear with me, this makes sense. The framework is called Benefits Management, and it was originally created by Cranfield University. It is a comprehensive model for mapping different elements of benefits and change.
Inside Benefits Management framework, there is one tool that I learned over 10 years ago and it has helped me on several occasions when planning IT investments or drawing the line between business goals and technology. That tool is called Benefits Dependency Network (BDN).
This tool can be used in most complex change projects but the basic idea is quite simple. I will guide you through the process.
Note: I added TL; DR (too long, did not read) section at the end for those who are in hurry.
WHY WE NEED TO CHANGE?
We start our thought process with DRIVERS, usually external and internal. Global market, environment, or legislative requirements can be examples of external drivers. Company mergers, difficulty of finding capable workforce, or outdated business model could be internal ones.
WHAT WE ARE OUR OBJECTIVES IN CHANGE?
These typically come from the organization’s strategy or scorecard. But in this context, the objectives should come from the identified drivers. So (in this example) when the driver for change is outdated business model, the objectives could be something like “New business model helps us to deliver products faster and gain market share in our new region”.
WHAT WILL BE THE BENEFITS?
In my example of drivers and objectives, the measurable benefits can be: 16 days faster time-to-market, calculated market share gain +4% YoY, customer satisfaction index +10%. These are tangible benefits with numerical value.
There usually is that other side of the coin. We have now identified the benefits, but with what cost? And what are the risks? But let us not try to find obstacles and excuses to not make the change. This needs to be done, but not at this stage.
WHAT NEEDS TO BE DIFFERENT? (AKA THE CHANGE)
Then we must identify the actual change or changes. If we want to have the benefits that we have calculated, what needs to be done? Now this is not the place where we should just throw words to the table without thinking. We need to find a real business / process / function / mindset / organizational change.
With something new, there needs to be something that we stop doing or discontinue. No sense to build a new digital business model for sales and delivery, if the old processes or ways of working are things that we do not know how to let go. Or even DO not want to let go.
WHAT ENABLES THE CHANGE?
What are the items that make the change possible? Now particularly in IT industry, this is the slot where we too easily state all the different new technologies and product names. Although I believe that the right technology can be (and often is) the engine for making the change possible, we still need the fuel to run that engine.
Before we can identify what technology solution/application/platform is the one that we are deploying, we need to find the real enablers for the change. So ask yourself what we need to do to make that change happen.
Ok, we got answers to all the questions, now what? I believe that if you are able to answer all of these 5 questions and you see the solid connection all the way between the drivers and the enablers change, you will see two things.
- Our planned change is aligned with our objectives and drivers, and we can identify the benefits (and that the benefits exceeds the risks / costs. → We know what we want and why
- We can determine the change items and identify the things that will enable the change → We know how to do it
Now one last thing. This is a good way to justify decisions on both business and IT. We can present the IT programs in a way that business groups and business leaders understand. We are not taking new solutions or technology into use just for the sake of it. We do it because it has a direct impact on our business objectives. Secondly, we can help IT to understand the business requirements better.
When planning the change, identify Drivers, Objectives, Benefits, Change and Enablers for Change. This gives you a better understanding and view of the change. We get clarity on why we are changing, what we are trying to achieve and how do we do the change.