Designing an effective survey on benefits and value management

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Beyond a handful of case studies, we don’t know how many nor what type of organisations in the UK are actively using formal benefits and value management methodologies. Nor do we know why and how organisations are using them. What we do know is that organisations adopting an established approach to realising benefits from projects and programmes outperform those which do not. We also know that despite this positive association, full adoption of formal approaches to realising benefits remains relatively low[1].

When the benefits and value management specific interest group (SIG), therefore, decided to develop their own survey of Association for Project Management (APM) corporate members to learn more about the quality of adoption, training and acceptance of benefits management, it was agreed to first evaluate a sample of existing surveys. We want to make sure that the responses we get for our own survey will be accurate, insightful and useful, and so looking at previous surveys and asking practitioners what matters to them when deciding whether to participate in a survey or not has been valuable.

Practitioner surveys developed in the past have helped to improve our understanding of the use of benefits and value management methodology but some of these surveys are problematic. An overuse of jargon tends to elicit social desirability bias whereby survey respondents will over-report good behaviour in order to be viewed favourably – even in an anonymous survey. So, what makes a good survey that delivers insightful data? And what’s the way to get people involved?

Following a review of ten surveys, eight interviews and contributions from LinkedIn, Knowledge Hub and email, we discovered the conditions that are important when creating a survey:

  • Relevance and motivation. The goals of the survey must be clearly articulated to the participants. Identifying the incentives and motivation for people and/or organisations to participate is a priority consideration. For the survey we are hoping to create, the nature of the engagement with APM corporate members needs to be specified and submitted to APM to facilitate subsequent contact with APM corporate members.
  • Identifying respondents. A clearly bounded sample for both the survey and any other methods must be agreed and this should occur prior to the design of the final survey. Finding the right people to do the survey is essential, so targeted engagement with the senior level on the business side of APM corporate organisations is both valuable and necessary for achieving the objectives of our project.
  • Aesthetics and questions. Give careful consideration to key themes, content and format. Too many questions that are leading, even if inadvertently, can cause problems. Keep the complexity, length and format in mind. Remember to also consider the distribution of the survey, advertising and incentives to participate in the survey.

For a more in depth analysis read how to design an effective survey on benefits management here.

Next steps

Funded by the APM research fund, the project team is engaging with APM corporate members and APM administration to co-develop the final design and distribution of an appropriate survey instrument. The aim is to design and distribute a survey which shows analysis of enablers and barriers to full adoption of benefits realisation management practices.

If you would like to participate in this project, then please contact the project lead Dr Rebecca Casey at rebecca.casey@ncl.ac.uk.

Have you created benefit and value management surveys to assess your project results or needs? Share your examples or thoughts by joining the discussion in the comments section, or by joining the APM Benefits and Value SIG.

[1] Breese, R., Jenner, S., Serra, C. E. M., & Thorp, J. (2015). Benefits management: Lost or found in translation. International Journal of Project Management33(7), 1438-1451. Waring, T., Casey, R., & Robson, A. (2018). Benefits realisation from IT-enabled innovation: A capability challenge for NHS English acute hospital trusts?. Information Technology & People31(3), 618-645.

Rebecca Casey

Posted by Rebecca Casey on 2nd Aug 2019

About the Author

Lecturer in Information Systems Management and member of the Centre for Knowledge, Innovation, Technology and Enterprise (KITE), Newcastle University Business School and committee member of the APM Benefits and Value Management SIG.

I am interested in how individuals and organisations can participate in a democratic and meaningful process for identifying and influencing benefits from investment in digital technologies. I am actively involved in research into establishing and maintaining a benefits management capability within the context of digital health and digital transformation in the National Health Service.

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