Claire Ross joined the Met Office after leaving university as a “support programmer” developing products for the marine sector. It was during this time she had her first brush with project management - a project to calculate the climatology of the North Sea to help appropriately design offshore structures.
Claire has managed many diverse IT projects, for example the introduction of processes to handle FOI requests, the implementation of ITIL tools, the upgrade of mass storage hardware and the retirement of old computer prediction models. In 2014 she joined the recently established High Performance Computer [HPC] Programme Office as “benefits and dependencies manager”
Setting the Scene
From start to finish, Claire’s presentation was engaging and informative. After all we ‘brits’ love to talk about the weather!
Claire explained the difference between internal and external benefits in the context of the Met Office and that the benefits she was referring to in this case were to be realised on behalf of the UK as a whole; not just the Met Office.
Claire gave many practical examples of where the Met Office is far more than just a weather forecasting agency but a supplier of valuable information to a large customer base including; airlines, supermarkets, the military etc. She showed how ‘customers’ relied on the data made available to them, and most importantly, acted on it. For example, supermarkets who use forecast information to decide what products need to be stocked on their shelves during a particular period – such as suitable food for our beloved summer BBQs.
Claire’s current assignment is to evidence £2bn worth of external benefits that can be attributed to the purchase of a new supercomputer costing just short of £100M. An ROI of 2,000%! As you can imagine, this had the audience on the edge of their seats.
The goal of the HPC initiative is to improve the accuracy and availability of forecast data for use by its broad information-hungry customer base.
Claire described a number of different models used to estimate cost v benefits along with the various influences that impact the data and effectively serves to diminish its value! See diagram below.
The Met Office are developing an approach to Benefit Management based on the use of logic models, as outlined in HM Treasury Magenta Book (Guidance for Evaluation).
A logic model describes the relationship between an intervention’s inputs (such as an increase in super-computer capacity), which in turn leads to, activities, outputs, outcomes, and impacts (such as improved customer specific services) as per the diagram below.
In order to fully prove a causal relationship appropriate measures should be identified along the entire value chain.
In reality, the Met Office has found that certain measures are actually quite easy to obtain, and attribute to the initiative, for example verification stats for weather forecasts; however, where the measures in question sit outside the Met Office, such as socio-economic benefits, these are far more difficult to obtain or attribute.
Claire recognises the importance and challenge of demonstrating such a significant return on the Met Office investment. After all, with the continued growth of computing power (Moore’s Law) the Met Office will undoubtedly need to make a case for further investment to HM Treasury at some point in the not too distant future. Clearly, Claire relishes the challenge.
APM Benefits Management SIG Chair
The presentation can be viewed below and on the APM Resources page of the website.
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- The Synergy between Benefits Management and Change Management workshop 2 session write up.
- Why are you here? - workshop 5 session write up.