Welcome to the third in a four-part series exploring Benefits Management and the simple things that you can do to ensure you get the value you need from major projects.
This article describes how measuring the benefits well will be what the future will demand of any major project. We share how Benefits measurement is a key lever to elevating benefits management for simplicity and consistency.
Benefits Management 3.0 … I can’t wait!
What is the future of Benefits Management? Yes it’s performance measurement, yes its portfolio prioritisation, and it’s a critical part of business case management and strategy execution and governance – it’s knowing what good looks like and making sure that you are always working to achieve that before, during and after a project. That’s why it’s sometimes tricky for people to do well.
It’s about getting the best data and having the right people use it for their decisions every day, not a tick box exercise. It’s about benefits thinking embedded in every process you have to drive corporate performance.
If Benefits 1.0 was reading a book and Benefits 2.0 was following a couple of key processes and guidelines from experts, Benefits 3.0 has to be about embedding benefits thinking in every process in your organisation.
Let’s face it, if your organisation or project isn’t focussed on ensuring it delivers the value it promises, and reflecting that in all its decisions, isn’t it wasting its time?
So there is a journey towards Benefits 3.0 and we are all on it. However, there may not be a silver bullet or box you can tick so that you can say ‘that’s done now, all finished’. No one aspect of benefits management alone will help you to achieve marvellous success in your project. It’s a continuous way of working and thinking. But there is one area that we find makes the most difference and makes you more confident in the value you are going to deliver.
Improving benefits measurement
Improving the predictability of project or organisation performance is everyone’s job and this is one area that we are finding everyone is struggling with more these days, due to the lack of opportunities to bump into people in corridors.
So even if you aren’t managing to get benefits thinking into every aspect of your work yet, it’s important to improve your thinking about how to measure the performance of projects and communicate about the true value of your projects.
Keep it simple and involve the right people
To make sure that the evidence that proves benefits are being delivered is valuable to the business the evidence needs to be believable and tangible. People have to be able to see how they can do something within their initiative to make a change in the measure.
If you want to define the most useful measures to demonstrate progress, you need to talk to the people who know what is honestly possible to measure. As well as those who understand what matters in terms of practically adding value. No one wants to just capture loads of data because they can, keep it simple and only track what will make the biggest difference.
Anyone who has done any work in benefits management will know that the right measures are fundamentally important. Good measures are rarely defined in a back room without the right people testing their veracity and the likelihood that they will improve over time as a result of the projects.
The more every function in a project is involved in collecting data and tracking change in benefit measures the more you can refine and hone the measures down to a reasonable set. What you want is a simple set of measures that collectively demonstrate the benefits of the project.
Be clear about how they are calculated
So these measures need to be clear, and human wherever possible, and where calculations are required to sum or cascade measures up from multiple sources, these calculations should still be comprehensible to anyone who has a role in collecting data or reviewing it. The data collectors, the benefits owners and the leaders need to be able to see when you are heading in the right direction. Sounds so simple and yet how often do you see that? (We’d be interested to hear)
The very sensible guides from the MPA (Major Projects Association) on managing benefits always recommend ownership of benefits, but too often, even with this governance in place the very machinery of people collecting data and analysing it distances everyone from the crucial evidence and what it should mean to them.On top of this, with distanced working and excel spreadsheets flying around requiring data collection or data pulled from many different source systems the process of collecting data can start to feel more arduous than informative.
How to do performance measurement 3.0
I recommend that you keep your measurement focused on the measures you can most closely attribute to the capability you are building or change you are making. If you do everyone will understand and believe in the value of the data. Find the most useful measures, measures that motivate and are clear, measures that you don’t need a PhD in economics to understand, that are possible to track in the short and long term as true indicators of the value you are looking for.
If you can’t be simple, because you have so many interdependencies or many government requirements to meet, keep it central and consistent, reuse measures where possible. Then everyone can trust that the data is up to date and accurate.
And most of all make the process collaborative. Make it easy for people to give you the measurement data, make it easy for those collecting the data to not have to act like data ‘police’. Make sure that as many people as possible are empowered to say when a different measure might be more useful in assessing the delivery of benefits. The aim is to have the focus on the value you want to achieve in the forefront of everyone’s mind, so the way you collect data and share results has to be engaging and succinct.
Benefits 3.0 – Predictable performance is achievable
Where I see this key function of Performance Measurement embedded in our client’s business and not just as an afterthought, I see better results delivered and sustained.
If your project isn’t using data it truly believes in to know whether benefits are in trouble or even outstripping the early expectations how will you know if your project has been a success?
Benefits measurement might actually be best done virtually, whatever the global situation. If you are still reliant on face to face sessions to continuously ask for the right data and ensure that benefit owners can see all the data they need to make good decisions you aren’t quite at Benefits Management 3.0 just yet.
Let’s face it, given the challenges of working right now doing benefits management 2.0 is good going, but if the value and delivery of your benefits and strategy aren’t central to everything you do what is? And who has time to waste?
Getting to Benefits Management 3.0 is part of a long journey we are all on to focus on the ends not the means of projects, and if anything it seems more crucial today than ever before.
Read Hannah’s first blog post: The Scope of Benefits Realisation Management
Read Hannah’s second blog post: How to Manage Benefits in a Virtual World
Hannah McBain: I work with our varied customers to support them to deliver greater value from projects, programmes and portfolios. That might include benefit mapping, which visualises the impact of their decisions so that they can better deliver strategy, or building their own benefits data hub and management processes within Wovex.
Sometimes, the priority is to provide assurance and oversight. Sometimes to track and analyse the benefits delivered or to optimise portfolios and quickly uncover and address risks. My focus is to help customers to remain agile and deliver whatever benefits they promise.
Wovex is the easiest way to get greater benefits for your organisation.
The global market leader in benefits management software. Customers include Fujitsu, Syngenta and major programmes such as HS2 (Europe’s largest infrastructure project).
The reason you do projects at all is to get the results and value you need from them.
We bring our expertise in benefits realisation management to a simple engaging product that supports and structures the collection of your benefits information to deliver powerful insights. Wovex allows you to make better decisions and to be more successful.