Before we look at the task of saving your project more money, it’s time for a reality check.
Start by being really honest and transparent about your current situation. Maybe you think you’re £200K short of your target, but a good check on reality will show you the real figures so you can move forward appropriately.
To perform a reality check, ask yourself a few questions:
First, assess the target you were given and be really clear about the number you estimate you’re going to reach.
Then go a little deeper and ask, in this current situation, what's possible? What would the range of benefits be on a scale from your best estimate, right the way up to the largest possible amount you might get?
Often, when we're looking at building benefits on the project, there are a number of different places that those benefits come from. These different sources are often really different in how easy it is to calculate benefits and sometimes we are tempted to just use the easy money and leave the rest out of our calculations. However in the end it is about the big overall number and the different sources of benefits all come together to create a total benefits number that we compare to our target.
This is going to be somewhere between the maximum and minimum. It's unlikely to be either ends of the range, but where does the probability suggest it’s likely to be?
I'm a great fan of data, but what does your gut instinct say is possible? It might be that there is a wide range of potential benefits numbers but that you think a much smaller range is likely. It's important to compare that smaller range to the target you're looking for. If your gut instinct says your smaller range probably contains the end benefits then you are probably right.
After all of that additional thinking you may think you’ve solved your problem and although that’s always possible, it’s a bit unlikely. You wouldn’t be looking to increase your benefits if just understanding the existing benefits profile better was the extent of your problem. So what happens next?
Often, when we're setting up a project, we try to hold the scope down to a minimum to deliver the outcomes required. Having boundaries around scope is sensible, but if you release that scope barrier a little bit, is there additional scope that’s complementary to what you're doing that will allow you to derive additional benefits?
Sometimes tweaking the scope is about doing exactly what you are doing in one service area, in a complementary service area. There can be numerous advantages for doing this, such as the lower implementation costs than doing the same project three times over, thereby generating even more benefits.
Sometimes it's staying in the same service area, but expanding the scope to look at other areas that weren't already involved in the project.
The different ways you could tweak the scope to find more benefits are almost innumerable. So look at what applies to you, where there are pockets of money that are just outside your current scope and consider extending out to include those.
It’s possible that the work you’re doing on a project will generate additional positive outcomes, for example, making staff happier and therefore reducing staff turnover.
This comes up a lot in benefits realisation plans, either as a benefit which is measured, or an outcome which is not. Although you might think staff turnover is hard to monetise, actually it's perfectly possible using industry standard numbers.
If staff turnover is key in your project, you can absolutely realise a number by looking at the component aspects of staff turnover - such as costs of training, loss of productivity and recruitment.
Although it might take some time to nail down exactly how to monetise those benefits, there’s no reason why your project shouldn’t get credited with savings that are inevitably going to come to the organisation.
Don't get sucked into thinking that a £100K saving is the same £100K saving whenever it is delivered. Cash is King, (and your finance director will love you forever if you appreciate the time value of money) so without turning this blog into a lecture on net present value, in general terms the sooner money is delivered into your organisation, the more it's worth.
A supplementary question you need to ask is: how do we get benefits quicker?
Firstly, look at the fundamentals to ensure your benefits forecast as it exists now is time-phased based on how your finance department like to account for this (by months, quarters, or financial years).
Once you've got a time-phased baseline, plus any additional benefits from increasing scope or monetising non-financial benefits, consider rescheduling the scope to get more money earlier in the project.
For example, iterative projects where you do a trial implementation and then make tweaks before rolling out more widely, have far better financial returns. This is partly because in putting a trial in place, you're getting some of the money earlier, but also some of the optimisation process (which is often missed out completely in big bang implementations) helps drive greater benefits.
My last blog was all about how to speed up a change project stuck in the slow lane, so take a look for details about:
Benefits are all about the savings you make less the costs of making them.
A number of companies, particularly if they have centrally allocated resources for transformation, think transformation time is free, and clearly that’s not true.
If you can use resources more efficiently, whether those are project management resources, change management resources or indeed resources from the organisation, then you're spending less to get the same amount and that's going to give you more net benefits.
If you need specific help for your organisation in delivering additional benefits in your projects, get in touch and ask about the Benefits Booster, my one month program designed to optimise your benefits on any transformation project.
As founder of Oakwood Management Consulting, I help companies achieve successful and sustainable change by solving their transformation problems. I’m a change and transformation expert and I have turned around countless failing initiatives. I’m not an ex-management consultant, I have worked directly for clients delivering successful and sustainable change and now I help companies solve their own transformation problems.
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