Benefits Realisation Management: Panacea or False Dawn? Dr Richard Breese Senior Lecturer Sheffield Business School Sheffield Hallam University email@example.com Who is here tonight?
Outline of the session • Explaining the title • My background • Benefits realisation management in regeneration • The nature of organisations, and the implications for BRM • Cause and effect relationships • Some concluding thoughts • Discussion
Benefit Realisation Management (BRM) or benefit realisation management (brm) • People involved in any kind of performance management in organisations have been concerned with ‘brm’ for many years • ‘BRM’ incorporates ‘brm’ into project, programme and portfolio management processes and proposes specific management approaches and tools for achieving ‘brm’ in practice • BRM arose out of dissatisfaction with investment appraisal techniques (APM Benefits Management SIG, 2009), particularly as applied to IT projects and programmes in the 1980’s (Bradley, 2010)
Definition of BRM • ‘the process of organising and managing, so that potential benefits, arising from investment in change, are actually achieved’, (Bradley, 2010:29)
BRM as Panacea? • ‘as one manager rather succinctly put it, BRM is the glue that binds everything together’ (Bradley, 2010:32) • BRM as a ‘strategic business skill for all seasons…centred on using benefits management to align the journey from business strategy to delivery to the embedding of change within organisations’ (APM Benefits Management SIG, 2009:1) • The promotion of ‘a different mindset, based on an approach that manages value on an active basis’ (Jenner, 2009:2). Benefits management and portfolio management as complementary to one another (Jenner, 2010). Establishment of two new APM SIG’s.
BRM as False Dawn? • Yet another management fad? • ‘brm’ is common sense and we do it anyway. BRM just adds layers of bureaucracy • The illusion of progress • Practical difficulties with the concepts involved • The theory is all well and good, but it doesn’t work out in practice • Decision-makers don’t want detail • BRM is part of the project and programme way of organising, which isn’t right for all organisations
My Background • Qualified as a Town Planner • Managed urban regeneration programmes in 1990’s • Joined APM in 2000 • Doctorate in Business Administration, Sheffield Hallam University, 2001-2007, while working as sub-regional partnership coordinator • Brief period of self-employment • Now Senior Lecturer, specialising in organisational change management
Benefits hierarchy in regeneration Vision Make ‘Ztown’ a place where people want to live and work Increase wealth in ‘Ztown’ Objectives Increase % econ. active in ‘Ztown’ Outcomes People in ‘Ztown’ obtaining a job Outputs
UK urban regeneration programmes in the late 1990’s • Bid for funds for a disadvantaged area, perhaps concentrating on particular themes, eg education, economic development, housing • Include relevant targets • Programme approved or rejected • Negotiation of detailed action plan • Quarterly targets for core outputs, eg jobs created, area of land reclaimed, numbers of people involved in particular activities, regeneration funds spent and other funds levered in. Penalties if quarterly targets not met. • Specific times for external evaluation, including higher level targets (outcomes, objectives, vision)
The ‘benefits’(!) of brm in regeneration • Helped to ensure that ‘better’ programmes achieved priority over others • Provided a clear rationale for investment • Provided a framework for ensuring that benefits were achieved, because of the alignment with the programme life-cycle • Linked to the Audit process to account for the use of public funds
Issues with Benefits Realisation in Regeneration – operational • Defining benefits • Incorporating qualitative benefits • Aligning benefits at different levels. Cause and effect are sometimes highly contested • Attribution of benefits, at higher levels • Setting output and leverage targets that are challenging but realistic is very difficult, because of a lack of knowledge/understanding on the part of those setting them, and a lack of control over delivery of outputs and leverage • Unintended effects of performance targets Similar to other sectors??
Issues with Benefits Realisation in Regeneration – strategic • Different stakeholders have different priorities amongst the range of benefits • Balancing short term disbenefits against long term benefits • Benefits information is used highly selectively, to meet the requirements of the dominant stakeholders • Achieving transformational change is extremely difficult, and aspirations are progressively watered down • The timescale for meaningful benefits realisation is way beyond the timescale for programme management Similar to other sectors??
Types of Organisations (Schwartz, 1990) or Clockwork
Clockwork organisations • Everyone knows what the organisation is about • They are committed to the mission • People are happy at work • Anxiety is low • People work together in mutually supportive ways • There are no managerial problems, except technical ones which can be solved with the right skills
Snakepit organisation • Things are always falling apart • People’s main concern is that they don’t get the blame • Nobody cares much what happens, but knowledge is vital to protect your own interests • Anxiety and stress are constant • Contact with colleagues is avoided unless it is a means to use them to get your own way • Managerial problems are intractable
Clockwork and Snakepit (Schwartz, 1990) • Snakepit model fitted the organisations his students knew BUT • The students wanted to study the techniques for managing 'clockwork' organisations • Schwartz' interpretation was that the clockwork organisation represented an ideal • Management techniques, such as BRM, are associated with the clockwork organisation, but what if an organisation has elements of the snakepit?
A ‘snakepit’ phenomenon – ‘Benefits Fraud’ (Jenner, 2009) • Project sponsors put forward business cases which are at best guilty of optimism bias, and at worst of deception • The solution • - subjecting investment proposals to independent review, scrutiny and challenge Expensive, time-consuming • - validating benefits with the recipients, on an on-going basis Time consuming, bureaucratic • Using evidence–based forecasting Are past trends a guide to future performance? • Accountability mechanisms to hold people to account for results What about changes in personnel ? Changes in circumstances, against individual error? Timescale? • Governance to encourage robust and realisable forecasts Will it work?
Benefits dependencies/benefits mapping New software package in small business Enabler Change New processes More efficient business routines Benefits Higher productivity Business Objective Higher profits
Benefits dependencies/benefits mapping This is one of the the simplest kinds of investment, but at every step there is • A logical reason why the link should work • Certain assumptions which are made • Risks that the logical ‘cause and effect’ relationship might not work, if the assumptions are not met. Dependent on the business context. The complexity is magnified many times for major business decisions, eg out-sourcing decisions, expansion into new markets. Often the extent to which benefit realisation is within the control of the sponsor is over-estimated
Methods for linking benefits to programme activities • Logical Framework (Project Cycle Management) • Realistic Evaluation • Theories of Change • Evidence-based Policy • Network Theory • Dimensional Analysis Potential to integrate with approaches in Chapter 7 of ‘Managing Successful Programmes’, eg Benefits Maps, Benefits Profiles
BRM – neither a panacea, nor a false dawn • BRM is a management process – as such it only as good as the application to the specific context in which it is used, and the skills of those playing the various roles in the process • Organisational culture, previous experiences of BRM and the interplay between different stakeholders are key to its use and usefulness. It has to be integrated with the overall approach to strategy and change management • Developing strategic skills, changing mindsets is difficult, but worthwhile, to build a ‘Benefits realisation capability’ (Ashurst and Hodges, 2010)
References • Ashurst, C. and Hodges, J. (2010) ‘Exploring Business Transformation: The Challenges of Developing a Benefits Realisation Capability’, Journal of Change Management, 10:2, 217-237 • Association for Project Management Benefits Management Special Interest Group (2009) Benefits Management ‘A strategic business skill for all seasons’ • Bradley G. (2010) Benefit Realisation Management (2nd Ed), Farnham: Gower • Jenner, S. (2009) Realising Benefits from Government ICT Investment – a fool’s errand?, Reading: Academic Publishing • Jenner, S. (2010) Transforming Government and Public Services, Farnham: Gower • Office of Government Commerce (2007) Managing Successful Programmes, London: TSO • Schwartz, H. (1990) Narcissistic Process and Corporate Decay: The theory of the organisation ideal, New York University Press