Benefits management is a requirement of Treasury’s investment process. It measures the reality of the operating environment against the benefits argued in the business case. Among the benefits we proposed were operational improvements such as better staff communication and collaboration, and increased student numbers. Clearly, these take time to accrue so benefits management must extend beyond the project and into the BAU environment.
Keep the benefits relevant
As costs shift over the course of a project, so too can the cost/benefit ratio. For example, if budget is severely curtailed in a given area, the same level of benefit cannot be expected to flow from the reduced investment. Project duration is also relevant. Benefits outlined in the business case for a building that takes 5 years to reach completion may not be relevant to the new operating environment.
Keeping track of these changes and their impact requires a broad view so we recommend that benefits management is included in governance-level programme reviews to ensure targets remain realistic in the inevitably volatile rebuild environment.
Resource it or lose it
However, the Project Control Group winds up when the build is complete so ongoing benefits management needs to be resourced within BAU. We have a dedicated role which undertakes a Post Implementation Review (PIR) for all significant capital investments one year after occupancy.
The PIR is structured to feed into Treasury’s post-project evaluation, but benefits management can also provide insights for monitoring internal performance. Therefore, the process should include reviewing benefits criteria and outcomes, establishing a reporting process and agreeing actions to be taken if targets are not met.
It is also necessary to define appropriate soft metrics for difficult to quantify benefits such as improved communication. And some apparently easily quantified measures (such as increased student numbers) require interrogation for a robust understanding of the link between the project investment and the outcome. Do students come to a university because of a building or for other academic or social reasons? We are using student focus groups to understand the part the building plays in their decision making.
Benefits management is a complex activity and we recommend it be viewed as an iterative and evolving process, just like the construction projects it underpins.