12. One Thing to Think About: Put benefits in the hands of the CFO
The discipline of delivering benefits continues to be a challenge for most organisations. Almost every week I talk to someone who tells me ‘we’re not very good at getting the benefits from our projects, but then no-one is.’ Which of course, is an excuse. Many organisations are excellent at benefit delivery. I worked for one such company early in the 2000s and we consistently achieved the benefits promised by projects.
The difference lies in the behaviours of those accountable for achieving them. They were engaged in the project and took responsibility for decision-making. They were also measured at the end of the year on the benefits delivered, which was factored into their performance reviews.
Having said that, this approach is not common.
At one government agency, where I had responsibility for instilling a different culture around benefits, I found that many business cases overstated financial savings in order to have their initiatives approved quickly. There was no rigour around validating the numbers and the project sponsors weren’t measured on their delivery. It was a lose/lose scenario.
In order to change the behaviour, we decided to put the CFO and her team in charge of both validating benefit numbers and for ensuring that budgets were reduced the following year once the project had been completed.
The result? Realistic benefit numbers, engaged and accountable project sponsors and guaranteed delivery of financial benefits.
Put benefits in the hands of the CFO? It’s one thing to think about.
Contributed by Colin Ellis