Managing Successful Programmes – Benefits Category interview – click if you would like to download as a pdf
An interview with the OGC lead author.
As a result of the political developments in the last 12 months, nobody can deny, benefits are now BIG. High on the agenda of all organisations, and the days of fluffy benefits being acceptable in business cases are evaporating fast. Our work on P3M3 organisational maturity assessments has been showing that this is still a weak area for most, but judging by the popularity of our benefits management courses things are changing fast.
The chapter in the current MSP® manual is very popular, but we’ve seen little signs of people using the guidance in the real world. This is one of the chapters that is having a makeover in the upcoming refresh, so we asked Andy Murray, the PRINCE2® lead author to have a chat with Rod Sowden, the Lead Author and find out what he’s been up to.
When they caught up, Andy asked him “Well Mr S, what have you been up to with the Benefits Chapter in the new version of the manual ?”
Rods response was, “It’s had a bit of a going over to be frank, we’ve tried to bring it down to earth a bit, people liked the current chapter but it was possibly too hairy fairy to put it into practice. There were a couple of key things that we’ve taken from research, experience and findings from P3M3, about the problems of describing benefits in words that fit the organisation.
A benefit in the MoD is totally different to a benefit in a bank, and I don’t think organisations were putting enough effort in taking ownership of what a benefit in their sector or organisation meant”.
One thing that really worked in the last book was differentiating between cashable and non cashable, so we wanted to build on that. Another big lesson has been that what MSP was previously calling Intangible benefits were actually outcomes or simply meeting organisational objectives or targets”
“Have you got any examples” intervened Andy.
“A couple of examples that come to mind are headcount reductions don’t necessarily have the benefits people expect but they may reflect the achievement of an organizational objective and there was one local authority that we met were trying to work out the benefits of putting a new public loo in a high street, they’d met an objective, it was a good thing to have but the benefits were too obscure and weird to even contemplate documenting. These could probably be called positive outcomes, but without being a benefit, that isn’t in the book by the way, it would confuse the examiners too much” replied Rod with a grin.
Andy said “OK, so Rod, one new thing for the bulletin, what is it”.
Rod replied “Categories, we’ve done quite a bit on categories to help focus the minds and reduce the randomness of benefits statements that some programmes have suffered from, if you have decent categories, then you can balance the mix of benefits that are being sought and the associated risk profiles. It helps with effective reporting and tracking and the identification of overlaps. By allocating ownership and identifying stakeholder impact it helps understand the effect of changes on different parts of the organization.
Very importantly, categories help us track the relationship between objectives and benefits, and if priorities change for whatever reasons, it will be more agile in it’s ability to see the impact across the programme or portfolio.
That’s not all, it also helps provide a common set of terminology with which to refer to benefits and bring greater transparency and enable a Portfolio level view of benefits across programmes and projects through consistency
There are many different ways to categorise benefits. Any categories can be used and they can be applied in sequence or combined, organizations really need to take this forward and apply it to their own environment, generic headings don’t work too well across organizations and sectors as we have found out.
In the new book, these are the categories that we’ve highlighted.
Value – which is the type of value being delivered and uses the 3 E’s of economic, efficiency, effectiveness or all three. These should have found their into the manual before really.
Financial Impact, are they cashable or non cashable – so can you see more money in the bank as a result
Corporate Objective – these are the things that are important and may apply across your portfolio, for example, risk reduction, loos in high streets or supply chain rationalisation. These could come from a number of different initiatives so you would be able to track the cumulative effect.
Stakeholder Impact helps illustrate whether which areas are receiving the biggest impact, either positive or negative, if one area is overdosing then the chances of the
Timeline, when are the benefits expected short or long term, quick wins versus strategic investments
Levels of Risk is quite an interesting new category, we are encouraging people to think much more about the likelihood of the benefit actually turning up, how much is certain and how much is marginal – most benefits forecasts fail to recognize this ambiguity”
“OK Rod, thanks a lot, any idea when the book is going to be out?” said Andy
“It’s looking like end of June, just in time for Glastonbury !”
Contents of this interview are the copyright of Aspire Europe Ltd and Outperform UK