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Reflecting on an educational experience

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Change Managers Workshop on Benefits Management
12 February 2014 at the Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes

Early Days


Some 25 years ago, and after a pretty woeful formative education, I decided to embark upon an Open University (OU) degree course. With Maths being my strongest - strongest here being a relative term - subject I decided to undertake what turned out to be a Maths and Computer Science based Bachelor of Science course. Although my study was to be interrupted by the first Gulf war (I was serving in the Royal Air Force at the time) I eventually gained a meaningful qualification and was able to lay the ghost, a suspected learning inability, to rest which had haunted me since my school days.

Lunchtime working session

The reason for mentioning this was that during our last Benefits SIG committee meeting, a request was made for someone to present on Benefits Management at a lunchtime working session at the Open University (an APM Corporate member) in Milton Keynes. I immediately volunteered with a view to both giving something back and having a genuine interest in what the OU were doing to tackle this subject of which I am a keen proponent.

Will Levy, an experienced Portfolio Manager, is currently working to ensure that the OUs transformational change initiatives are fully aligned with its strategic development plan. He has, during the last year, introduced both Benefits and Portfolio management to the OU where it is apparent that developing these capabilities together is enabling both disciplines to gain traction in a way that approaching them independently would have been less effective.

Will runs lunchtime sessions every six weeks or so and on this occasion had to deny access to fifteen applicants for the event. The evident popularity and success of this event is in no small part due to Wills energy and approach but it is also apparent that OU is a progressive organization with a strong desire to succeed and flourish.

The event gave me an opportunity to present on my firmly held belief that effective Benefits Management is a wonderful enabler for sustainable organizational change. The BM processes themselves becoming much more effective when viewed and implemented through a Change Management Lens.

There were two other speakers in the line up; Jim Yates, an OU tutor and lecturer, gave a presentation on the importance of recognizing and accommodating the different perspectives of an organizations stakeholders; and Sean Sellers, a Business Transformation Manager, presented on the progress of an OU change programme for which he has Benefits Management responsibilities.

The Q&A session, held at the end of the presentations, though shortened due to time constraints (my presentation ran over by 5 minutes, or 25% for those that are keen on measures), was lively with some considered and incisive questions being asked. I particularly liked the question from a lady who asked Why, when we know that all of our changes must be focused on achieving benefits do the mapping techniques seem to favour a change driven approach whereby the benefits appear to be a consequence of the changes themselves? I was pleased to answer this question and explained that some of the mapping techniques stemmed from a time when organizations, having invested heavily in new IT based solutions, sought to retrospectively identify the benefits. This historic representation still works today, especially where Benefits Management is being introduced far down the change lifecycle.

Future Relations
This rewarding event, which I was pleased to have been involved in, was finished off by a networking opportunity, fuelled by a great selection of sandwiches, and some enthusiastic Benefits and Change conversation. Will suggested that he would be interested in seeking presentations from other APM SIGs to further help inform and develop his organisation's Change Management capability.

I look forward, with great interest, to learning how the OU are progressing with their change initiative; especially their approach to Benefits Management. Maybe we can ask Will to present the OU BM experiences back to us at a future Branch or SIG event?


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  1. Elisabeth Goodman
    Elisabeth Goodman 29 April 2014, 11:04 AM

    Hi Neil,  I really like the way you have linked the two topics of benefits management and change management.  For me, the key message is that:Effective articulation of benefits enables effective change management and effective change management enables effective realisation of benefits!I think your elegant presentation gets this across.Elisabeth