Benefits Summit 2016 - Addressing the common challenges of Benefits Realisation Management workshop 1 session write up

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Posted by Maya Creasey on 23rd Nov 2016

Laura Geddes-Brock, Benefits and Savings Lead, Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA)

Laura Geddes-Brock is the Benefits and Savings Lead for the Infrastructure and Projects Authority. The IPA provides expertise in infrastructure and the financing, delivery and assurance of major projects, to support more effective management and delivery across government. In her current role Laura provides insight on the benefits of the Government’s major projects as well as developing a framework and capability for the effective management of benefits across government.

Laura developed a demonstrable track record as the Benefits Lead within Transport for London’s surface business group for developing processes and building capability to successfully manage and realise benefits. This has required Laura to manage requirements and engage with stakeholders to ensure an appropriate approach and scalable framework for benefits management is adopted. She also has significant experience in project and programme delivery from her previous role as Benefits Lead for the Metropolitan Police Service.

Laura adopted a unique, but highly successful, format for this very popular workshop, covering five challenges for Benefits Realisation Management (BRM), namely;

  1. Introducing BRM into an organisation
  2. Confusion over terminology
  3. Projects focussing on time, cost, quality
  4. BRM capability and maturity
  5. Seeing BRM solely as appraisal, rather than as management and evaluation

Laura introduced each theme briefly, then invited everyone present to prioritise some issues on that theme, using an individual polling device. The results were instantly available, so Laura reviewed the findings, and then summarised what the IPA are doing at the moment to address the particular challenge. Finally, for each challenge, comments and questions were invited, with the aim of identifying ways of addressing the key issues, for participants to take back to their organisations.

1. Introducing BRM into my organisation

The biggest challenges amongst workshop participants were perceived to be 'Lack of buy in and support', and 'Perception of BRM as bureaucratic and time-consuming'.  Laura described how the IPA has developed supplementary guidance entitled 'Assurance of benefit realisation in major projects' to help achieve consistency. She also suggested that there is sometimes a tendency to over-complicate BRM.

2. Confusion over terminology

The issues explored included definitions, e.g. what is a benefit? and the relationship between different terms, e.g. outputs and outcomes. The pattern of responses suggested that the issues on this challenge are less pronounced than for the first challenge.

Laura explained how the IPA has started categorising benefits relevant to different stakeholder groups - Government, Private sector partner and the general public - and the types of benefit most relevant to each group.

3. Projects focusing on time, cost, quality

The most common issues here were 'outputs are easier to measure than benefits' (links to Challenge 2 above) and 'benefits are only thought about to obtain funding'. Often business cases focus on benefits but after that benefits are neglected and the business case is not updated or used as a monitoring tool.

Laura explained how the IPA is trying to encourage the better integration of the work of policy experts and delivery experts, to improve the deliverability of policies that will be delivered through projects.

4. BRM capability and maturity

Three issues were highlighted against this challenge, 'lack of professionalism and dedicated BRM roles, compared to other PPM disciplines', 'the difference between having tools and processes and actually changing behaviour' and 'difficult to achieve consistent application across a large organisation'.

Laura explained how the IPA are using case studies and workshops to spread best practice, focusing on the most important benefits in line with the wider message of 'keep it simple'.

5. Seeing BRM solely as appraisal, rather than as management and evaluation

The most common issue here was 'some benefits won't be realised for years', reflecting a difficulty in maintaining a focus on benefits when projects are completed and handed over. A secondary issue was 'lack of understanding about BRM roles and responsibilities'.

The IPA are promoting Post Implementation Reviews and encouraging better liaison between those responsible for projects and 'business as usual', so there is more of a focus on benefits in the longer term.

At the end of each challenge there was a lively debate, suggesting that the five challenges that Laura had identified were common ones, and that the workshop had given the participants ideas as to how to address them in their workplaces.

See Major Projects Authority: Assurance toolkit

Richard Breese
APM Benefits Management SIF committee member

The presentation can be viewed below and on the APM Resources page of the website.

 


Also available from the Benefits Summit 2016 conference:

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