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13 November 2018

Benefits management: Bringing power to the people

Simon Cox

Simon Cox
Senior Consultant | Energy, utilities and resources | London

For most organisations, executing rigorous benefits management is a people-driven process – requiring multiple cycles of analysis, critique and decision-making. Having the right people involved, with the right skills and incentives, is critical for effective benefits management and value-driven decision making.

For effective benefits management to happen, a focus on value needs to be embedded from inception of the project through to delivery. However, the drivers of this focus will change over the project lifecycle:

  • Project mobilisation: a change originator will need to articulate the value of the change
  • Project assessment: the portfolio/programme benefits office will need to assess whether the value of the project can justify the cost
  • Project delivery: those working on the change need to believe in it and understand the outcomes they’re delivering
  • Value realisation: those being impacted by the change will need to ensure their behaviours allow the value of the change to be realised.

If any of the above fails to happen, it’s likely that the change won’t deliver what’s expected. So – how do you ensure the right people are identified and engaged in the right way, to maximise value? In our experience, a fundamental step is to develop clear and consistent roles across an organisation’s benefits management process. Each role needs an occupant that is fully committed to delivering their responsibilities, with a clear job description and performance related incentives directly linked to business outcomes.

Key roles should be considered as follows:

  • Programme sponsors should own the delivery of the change. They should be incentivised for their change to deliver as much value as possible, and be accountable for successful benefits realisation. They should ensure the delivery team understands what outcomes they are working towards. Whilst they should support the delivery of the change, they will not necessarily be the recipient of the value
  • Benefits owners should own the budgets or capabilities that will be impacted by the change. They should be incentivised to ensure benefits are realised within their area, through supporting their own programmes, cross-company programmes and BAU change. They should hold the programme sponsor accountable for ensuring articulated benefits fairly represent the value expected to be realised
  • Finance business partners work on behalf of the benefits owner to ensure business cases are accurate and best reflect what is expected to be actually realised. They should use their financial insight to facilitate value-driven decision-making, and ensure agreed benefits are captured in financial plans
  • Project experts work with the finance business partners to ensure the true value of the project is articulated, and should support with analysis of benefits data
  • The project delivery team ensure the project actually delivers as much value as possible, and collaborates with other stakeholders to ensure the scope, timelines and risks associated to the benefits case are understood
  • The benefits management office is responsible for assuring the benefits management process, and capturing the cross-organisation benefits profile. This person is best suited to a senior role within the PMO or Finance function.

The balance of incentives across these groups is key: whilst someone needs to push the change to deliver as much value as possible, other roles need to ensure the value is articulated fairly, and that decisions aren’t made based on an over-ambitious view of investment. Only through clearly articulating roles, and filling them appropriately, can a benefits management process truly enable value-driven decision making.

The third and final blog in this series will look at how benefits management should handle risk.

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