Programme Management

by Andy Taylor

How do I manage benefits realisation?

The management of benefits is a task for the business manager who has been given the responsibility for controlling the changes being made to the operational side of the organisation – the business change manager or change agent. This role is best performed by an internal staff member because they need to have an intimate understanding of the business and its operations if they are to be successful. They also need to be reasonably senior, in order to ensure they have the necessary authority to make changes to the way the organisation works. This is not to say they can’t delegate some of the work to more junior people; indeed, a change management team may well be the best option if the requirements demand this.

Note

It is worthy of note here that benefits do not stop accruing simply because the programme finishes. This means that the management of benefits – actually ensuring that at least the full value is achieved as expected – will continue to be necessary well after the programme has been disbanded. The role of benefits manager should therefore be considered a permanent position linked to a specific programme and any subsequent ones.

Managing benefits effectively and efficiently requires some preparation. Once again, doing this preparation at the end of a programme is always going to create more problems than the value it achieves. The preparation starts, as suggested above, with deciding why the senior managers want the programme to be undertaken at all – why they should invest what is probably a significant sum of money. Once they have given their views and some agreement, or at least consensus, has been achieved, then the management of those expectations begins.

Their views will be expressed as aims, goals or high level outcomes (see The vision and the blueprint). These aims are not directly manageable, so they must be converted into benefits. Initially, these may be high level benefits – share price, return on investment and strategic benefits that are perhaps only measurable indirectly. These will mean very little to shop floor workers, for example, and yet it is these people who need to buy into the benefit model if success is to follow.

Mapping benefits

Taking these high level or end benefits and mapping them to the strategic objectives is therefore the first step. It could well be there is a many-to-many relationship between the benefits and the strategic outcomes, although it is more likely that one strategic outcome is measured by several benefits. These high level benefits may then be broken down into their component parts, much along the lines of product-based planning or work-breakdown structures. There will almost always be a many-to-many relationship between these so-called intermediate benefits and the high level ones – any one intermediate benefit will contribute to more than one of the high level ones, and each end benefit will need contributions from several intermediate benefits.

This mapping is useful to check for consistency and to make sure all the required outcomes have intermediate benefits to measure their delivery. The intermediate benefits may in themselves be useful and may be appropriately measurable. They may, though, still be at too high a level for the shop floor workers to buy into. Thus, we may need to break these down again into simple benefits or initial benefits. These will be things that, for example, the shop floor workers will recognise and be able to contribute towards. It could be a decrease in the time taken to do a task, to turn around an order or to deal with a customer’s complaint. Once again, it is likely there will be a many-to-many relationship between these low level benefits and the intermediate ones. If these are mapped onto the intermediate and then the high level benefits and hence to the strategic outcomes, the workers can then see where their ‘little bit of effort’ fits in to the overall picture and this helps to gain buy-in.

There should be a word of caution here, though. It is possible to get a bit carried away with loads of benefits. While attractive in the justification stakes, multiple benefits can become an enormous overhead of management, unless care is taken to limit them to those which are really useful and beneficial to the organisation. It is tricky, but essential, to decide which benefits actually to manage and which are likely to appear without any formal management. It might be useful to consider some benefits which, while not very significant overall, have the effect of gaining buy-in from staff. There can also be some quick-win benefits: things that appear soon after the start of the programme and help build both the momentum and a strongly-held desire for the programme to be successful.

Defining and monitoring benefits

So, having decided on a sensible set of benefits and mapping them to show how they build to achieve the strategic aims, you then need to define them in a way no one can misinterpret. A benefit profile giving all the key details, including the owner, the measure, the baseline value and information about the value, cost of realisation, cost of measurement and related information is a useful way of capturing all the relevant information in one place. This should ideally be written by the benefit owner or at least one of their team. If they are unable to write these details, they must at least approve and sign up to them. After all, it is that person who will be responsible for delivering the benefit in the end, so it is in their interests to get it right.

The combination of the valuation of all the benefits can be put together and used in a cost-versus-benefit analysis to justify the programme. This must be approved by a senior member of the organisation, probably at board level or the equivalent. It is on the basis of this assessment that the financial commitment is made.

It is also essential that the re-assessment of this justification is made on a regular basis throughout the programme. It is quite possible that the total value of benefits falls, the cost of the programme rises, or some other combination of these occurs, reducing the overall benefit to the organisation. It is even possible that there may be there is no net benefit to be accrued at the end of the programme, which completely removes the justification for the programme. This must be watched on a regular and ongoing basis.

Preparing staff and implementing changes

Once the deliverables from the projects begin to appear, the business change team needs to ensure the recipients are prepared for the changes being implemented and this work must start before anything changes. With regards to the training of staff, for example, it is often suggested that three sessions are required for each person. The first will be a while before implementation and will explain the broad principles of the changes and how they will work after implementation.

The second is at the time of implementation – perhaps even on the day of implementation, if practical – and will give a much more detailed view, with lots of information that they can take back to their work place and implement, ideally immediately or at least within a few days. The implementation might be accompanied by floor-walkers or the equivalent – people there to solve problems and troubleshoot immediately.

The final session of training might be a few weeks after the implementation, when more issues can be addressed, any corrections or enhancements that have been made can be explained, and the idea of exploiting the new system can be firmly embedded with the workers. All the training must be targeted at those using the system or delivering it in some way and they should have ample opportunity to challenge and test the system before it goes live. Once the new system is in place, it should be a priority to remove all traces of the old system whenever possible. This will stop the natural inclination to revert to old ways when things get a bit tricky.

The preparation for implementation, the implementation itself (including the precise timing for such implementations) and the post-implementation follow-up activities should all be under the direct control of the benefit and change management team, since the overriding purpose is to achieve the benefits as soon as possible. At an appropriate time prior to implementation, it is vital to take a current baseline of benefits measurements whenever possible. If this is not done, any improvement will simply be a relative figure of ‘more’ or ‘less’ rather than the unequivocal precise measurement. In some cases, such a baseline will not be possible until implementation, since a new system cannot have a baseline until it is in use. In these cases, a baseline at the earliest operational time will have to suffice, and it is vital that such a measure is the same as that which defines the benefit.