Verto: Supporting Integrated Care Systems at Eastern Cheshire CCG

 

 

Our case study on Eastern Cheshire CCG shows how Verto has improved digital collaboration by streamlining their processes and documentation, enabling a single view of programme information; this has simplified their reporting management systems, including instant visibility of its project performance and the ability to generate high-quality reports, including its Board Assurance Framework, with one click of a button. 

“Working with the Verto team has been brilliant – they have such a great ‘can do’ attitude. They are so responsive, listening to our ideas
and challenges and finding solutions so the system really works for us.  One of the key factors in choosing Verto was that it was in use at NHS West Cheshire CCG so we could see in detail how it was working and how good it was. West Cheshire were very impressed with the system and support.  In particular, we could see how using VertoGrid would enable us to run programmes and reports cross-oganisationally whilst retaining all the individual configuration of our own system. For us this was the best of both worlds and, combined with its ease of use and depth of functionality, it wasn’t a difficult decision”.

Adam McClure, PMO Manager for NHS Eastern Cheshire CCG

Read the full case study here http://bit.ly/2Wb61w5

 


Forecast frequently to enable tactical shifts

 

Good project management involves frequent forecasting. While it can be useful to forecast results right at the beginning of a project’s life cycle, the true magic of forecasting is that it allows for constant readjustment throughout. Forecasting allows you and your team to stay on track by anticipating extra tasks and resources for the project plan or budget and identifying tasks and resources that may no longer be necessary.

Frequent project forecasts facilitate proactive planning and flexibility. They can allow the project manager to regularly update the business case, which can help the team members keep the project on track, and also allow sponsors and other stakeholders to understand the reasons for any delays or changes.

A key element of project forecasting is to review the risk events that have already occurred and assess the remaining risk triggers. There are always a number of unknown, and often unpredictable, variables in any project, but frequent forecasting provides the project manager with valuable knowledge that enables proactive resource management as the work progresses.

What should we forecast and how frequently?

Frequent forecasting around time, costs and quality of deliverables is vital. Each forecast will allow the project manager to update the business case so that all team members and relevant sponsors know exactly how the project is moving along. The project manager will also be able to reallocate resources and seek sponsor approval in a timely manner.

Time forecasts allow for the reallocation of resources, including team members. To accurately forecast project duration, it is necessary to monitor the activities that will impact the project completion date as well as those that influence project milestones. Modern project management software lets you log updates on the progression of these activities as often as needed for any individual project, which will depend on its nature. You may need to do this daily, weekly or as you complete each relevant task.

Cost forecasts allow the project manager to plan for an injection of more resources and seek sponsor or management approval when necessary. Most projects can benefit from employing the Earned Value Management System in order to accurately forecast ongoing project costs. Depending on resources and the complexity of the project, you can also use trend forecasting, also known as “straight-line” forecasting, to estimate future project costs, although this can be less accurate. Cost forecasting is also something that software-based systems incorporating financial data to support budgeting decisions can help with, and again, using such software lets forecasting occur on an ongoing basis and as frequently as is appropriate for the individual project.

Quality forecasts also allow for necessary adjustments to the project schedule or resources. Frequently forecasting in the area of performance and the quality of the project deliverables increases the chances that the project outcomes will match those identified at the planning stage. According to the “Rule of Tens,” the cost of correcting a technical issue increases tenfold as a project progresses from one phase to the next. This means, of course, that you must identify and correct issues around performance and quality as soon as possible. You can do this as long as forecasting around these factors happens frequently and in advance of the project moving on to a new phase.

Understanding the limitations of forecasting

A forecast is not a prediction. Even the best forecasting is still simply a projection based on current data, which is why frequent forecasting is necessary. Data is always subject to change, and forecasts need updated as new information becomes available. Decisions made based on your current forecast should always stay flexible. They are the best that you can do given your current knowledge of the situation. Remember that as soon as that knowledge expands, you have the opportunity to do better.

Frequent forecasting also narrows uncertainty as the project progresses. At the beginning of the project, you are looking a long way into the future, and your team should be prepared for the fact that early on, forecasting has a lot of limitations. As the project moves through each new phase, forecasting should become progressively more accurate. Towards the end of the project, forecasting correctly should be much easier. At this stage, there are naturally less variables, although they still may exist. The project manager or software can also use the team’s past performance to forecast future performance.

Types of forecasting

There are a few types of forecasting that you can apply to project management, and they may change throughout the project’s life cycle. Qualitative techniques can be particularly useful when data is scarce, which is typically at the beginning of a new project. These techniques may involve human judgement and rating schemes to help forecast possible outcomes.

Statistical techniques become more important when there is a lot of data to support forecasting. In project management, this might happen in the later stages of a project or when there are many comparable completed projects to draw data from. You should, however, remember that statistical techniques assume that past performance predicts future performance. While this is a reasonable assumption, it is more likely to be correct over the short term than the long term. The recent past can forecast the immediate future better than historical data can forecast the distant future, unless data patterns are very stable with few variables that can potentially impact the project.

Ultimately, frequent forecasting that uses recent and relevant data is a key element of successful project management. A responsive project manager can use forecasting to implement an ongoing series of tactical shifts that will keep projects running on time and on budget throughout their duration.

Verto’s project management software gives project management teams the ability to customise their forecasting needs to their individual projects. To find out more, register for our free 14-day trial!


To be a great leader, first be a great follower

 

Being a great leader has a surprising amount in common with being a good follower. Whether you are leading a business, a project or a revolution, excellent leadership qualities will often develop from skills that you learned earlier in your career, often while following a great leader.

There is a great deal of crossover in the skills required of those leading a team, and the team members themselves. This is obvious in many project management scenarios, where both the project manager and the team members need to show openness, responsiveness, flexibility and excellent communication skills. There are several qualities of good followers that allow them to develop into inspirational leaders.

Good followers understand their role. They know exactly where they fit in and how best they can benefit their team. Good leaders are similar. The best leaders understand their role as leader, and recognise exactly where they can step in to support their team, make tasks easier, and move the whole team closer to their objectives.

Good followers listen. No team can move successfully towards their objectives unless team members are listening to and following instructions. However, listening is also a leadership skill. If anything, listening becomes more important when you are in charge of a project or programme where you will be receiving lots of feedback from different team members, staff and other stakeholders. Good leaders listen, process information and respond accordingly, using multiple sources of feedback to keep their projects moving forwards.

Good followers serve others. Within a team working towards a common goal, it is sometimes necessary to step up and do what needs to be done to support other team members. This is another “following” skill that is even more vital in leaders. The leader has a better overall view of a project and should be the first to step in and help when something changes and someone requires extra help or support.

Good followers are humble. They make their leader look good. And good leaders? They make their team look great. Humility allows leaders to step back and shine a light on others, give credit where credit is due, and make the whole team proud of their individual and collective achievements.

Good followers are loyal. They don’t criticise their leader or their project in public. They are able, of course, to disagree, debate and put forth alternative suggestions in private, but the world will see a united front. Great leaders do their team the same courtesy. Negative feedback happens in private, and with the sole aim of reaching a solution.

Good followers grow into good leaders. It is easy to think in either/or terms when it comes to leaders and followers, but in practice, most leaders grow into their roles over time. Being a member of a successful team is excellent training for future leaders. Often, it is only by observing how things work from the inside that we truly appreciate what it takes to lead a project or programme to a successful outcome.

 

To discover how Verto gives you more management information at your fingertips contact us for a demo!

 


Creating a business case for your project

Creating a business case requires time, thought and effort. In simple terms, a business case provides justification for a specific project or programme. In a budget-conscious, results-oriented world, it is no longer enough to simply deliver what you promised. Now, you also need to be sure that what you propose justifies the investment of time and resources needed to create it.

The business case focuses on the value that a project or programme brings to an organisation. In spite of the use of the word business, it is equally applicable to non-commercial organisations, such as government entities and non-profits, where it is sometimes referred to as a “ use case statement”.

What is the purpose of the business case?

The aim of the business case is to justify the existence of the project or programme. It should clearly demonstrate the value of the work being done and the deliverables being created. The business case is outlined during the concept phase of the project life cycle and is used to assess whether the project should go ahead.

Preparing the business case is generally the responsibility of the project manager. Often, they will have input from other experts and specialist agencies. Once the business case is approved and the project moves forward, the business case must be regularly updated to reflect any changes to the project as a whole. It is used at gateway reviews to ensure that the project is continuing to progress in a way that will deliver the required value to the organisation.

What should the business case include?

While the focus of the business case is on the value that a project or programme will bring to the organisation, this must be put in context. A business case will usually include information on:

The problem or situation that led to the project being considered

  • Why the project is needed
  • What might change about the situation that could make the project unnecessary
  • An options appraisal setting forward options considered, and options chosen
  • An appraisal of the “do nothing” option – what is the scenario if no action is taken?
  • Expected results and benefits, and their value to the organisation
  • The timescale in which the benefits are expected to be delivered
  • How the project team will assess whether benefits have been realised
  • Any unavoidable dis-benefits, with justification for why they are acceptable
  • Costs and funding arrangements
  • The risks involved, and their impact on the business case

The benefits review plan

Assessing whether benefits have been realised is an essential part of the business case. This is mentioned above, but it is important enough that it generally gets its own separate document, known as the benefits review plan. This should be developed by the project manager alongside the business case and should be updated as the project progresses through the project life cycle.

The benefits review plan identifies specific benefits to be measured. These are taken directly from the business case. It should also state how benefits will be measured, who will be accountable for measuring them, and what information and data will be needed by those accountable. It will also state when the benefits assessments will take place, who will carry out these reviews, and what the baseline measurements are, in order to measure improvement.

How a business case benefits the organisation

Every project undertaken should clearly benefit the organisation. The business case demonstrates in advance exactly why a project is being put in place and how much value the successful completion of the project will add to the organisation as a whole.

The business case encourages the project manager and team to focus on not just what they are building, but also how it will be used. It helps the organisation avoid wasted resources on projects that do not yield a justifiable amount and quality of benefits. It also allows the organisation to prioritise multiple projects, by making the immediate value of each project clear.

How the business case works

The business case is a guide and reference point, before, during and after a project. Before the project begins, the business case establishes and justifies the goal of the project. It puts the outcomes of the project in context, by clearly stating not just what needs to be achieved, but also why it is necessary.

During the project, the business case remains central to day-to-day project management decisions. When different options present themselves, the project manager can refer to the business case to ensure that the chosen option not only moves the project closer to the deliverables, but also closer to the real values to which those deliverables are aiming to contribute.

After the project, the business case allows for an assessment based on actual value added to the organisation. Instead of measuring success based on whether the deliverables were completed, the organisation can easily assess whether the expected benefits were delivered. If not, then why not? Perhaps benefits were not accurately estimated, or maybe the deliverables developed were the wrong ones, incomplete, or badly implemented. This allows the organisation to learn valuable lessons.

How the business case creates project success

The business case can be the guiding light that creates project success. Communicated clearly, it can keep the entire team focused not just on their tasks and deliverables, but also on how they are providing the value that is at the heart of the change they are implementing. The proper development and maintenance of the business case allows for:

A clear definition of the value that a project is intended to deliver

A way to prioritise projects and ensure that resources are used to deliver real value

An ongoing way to assess whether the project is worth continuing

A tool to facilitate decisions on when and how the project plan needs to be changed

A well-managed business case substantially increases the chances of a project being completed successfully, to the satisfaction of all stakeholders.

To see what Verto can do to improve the success of your project management techniques, register for our free 14-day trial today!


How to Prioritise Your Tasks

 

How you prioritise tasks defines the success of any project. Prioritising correctly can make the difference between an easy-to-manage, successful, on-budget project delivered on time and a stressful, failed project delivered late and over budget. But how do you prioritise tasks? And what can trip up you and your team, even if you have the best of intentions? 

The urgency effect 

 

We’re all familiar with the idea of urgent tasks and important tasks. Urgent tasks are ones that are getting very close to their deadline, while important tasks are the ones that will contribute the most to our desired outcome. A task can be very low value but still seem urgent if we feel that we need to get it done today. Another task can be vital to the success of a project, but if the deadline is a long way off, then it is not urgent.

 

Research has shown that people consistently prioritise urgent tasks over more important tasks. This persists even if the results of completing the urgent tasks are of very little value, and even if there’s ample time to complete all the tasks, meaning that the sense of urgency is actually an illusion. Researchers call this effect “mere urgency”, where the urgency of a task distracts us from the fact that the task itself is not important.

 

We tend to do the (rare) tasks that are urgent and important first. Understandably, we also leave the tasks that are not urgent and not important until last. However, in the middle, where we have a lot of medium-priority tasks, we keep prioritising urgent tasks with a low payoff, in terms of results, over important ones with a higher payoff.

 

Managers can, with the right systems, overcome the urgency effect. It’s done by keeping team members focused on outcomes over timelines. It can help to rank each task within a project by importance so that team members can clearly see when they are faced with a very high-priority task, carrying a very important outcome, over a very low-priority task that might have a tighter deadline.

 

Realistic timelines can also help to overcome the urgency effect. People revert to prioritising based solely on urgency when they perceive themselves as being pushed for time. When they feel that they have time to complete all their tasks, they are more likely to prioritise by importance.

 

Balancingindividual and organisational priorities 

 

There is often conflict between individual priorities and organisational or project priorities. In practice, this is often a problem of too many priorities, poorly communicated. If a team receives the message that there are several different priorities, then it can lead to team members placing self-identified priorities over priorities that are actually more important to the project outcomes.

 

The top priority must be clearly identified. If you state that both cutting costs and user satisfaction are top priorities, then every time an individual has to make a decision, it will be made on their self-identified highest priority. To work as a cohesive team, every member must know which to prioritise with every single decision they make.

 

It’s also important to accept that priorities can and do change – often as a result of new issues identified by team members. Therefore, teams need a system that allows team members to communicate easily so that they can log updates, new information, or factors that may lead to a priority shift for the whole team.

 

Approach to risk will influence priorities 

 

Within any project, the leader’s approach to risk will influence the way that priorities are set. More risk-averse leadership generally means that there will be a “spread” of priorities, creating more, and less ambitious, goals and outcomes for the project. Less risk-averse leadership will have fewer priorities, but they will often be more focused and more ambitious.

 

Neither approach is wrong, but they will affect how your project is managed and completed. As we’ve already mentioned, if there are multiple priorities, then they need to be managed carefully to ensure a cohesive approach. Most importantly, there needs to be a clearly identified top priority, to guide individual decisions and help team members prioritise important tasks. Having a spread of priorities also means ensuring that all priorities are compatible – otherwise, team members are at risk of working against each other by focusing on competing priorities.

 

The hierarchy of purpose within an organisation 

 

Understanding an organisation’s hierarchy of purpose is key to understanding what factors should influence priorities. Defining the overreaching purpose of the organisation, and the strategic vision supporting that purpose, is key to setting all future priorities for the organisation, and for individual projects that the organisation implements.

 

The hierarchy of purpose is also key to eliminating priorities. If a current priority does not serve that purpose or support that vision, then it is time to make a tough choice and abandon that priority. It’s also vital to do this with individual projects. Every outcome that a project team is working towards should be aligned with the organisation’s purpose and vision.

 

Managing  priorities  within the project management team 

 

There are a few best practices to follow when managing project priorities.

 

  • Brief the entire team on project outcomes and priorities.
  • Build the organisational and project priorities into the project schedule.
  • Ensure that every team member can easily access the project schedule.
  • Use a collaborative system that allows instant updates on completed or shelved tasks.
  • Create a project backlog system, and identify tasks that are progressing well.
  • Predict and communicate incoming priority shifts.
  • Consistently keep team members focused on important tasks.

 

Much of the above can be done with good project management software. The right software can allow the project schedule to be accessed, viewed and updated by every team member. Immediate communication of when a task is completed, shelved or down-prioritised, along with a clear picture of which tasks are falling behind schedule and which are ahead of schedule, can have a major impact on managing team priorities.

 

To see what Verto can do to improve your project management techniques, register for our free trial!


Risky Business: How decisive risk management can keep your projects on track.

 

Risk Management  is a balancing act.  Here's our thoughts on how managing risk and the approach to risk can be handled to keep your projects on track.

Risk management is, and has always been, a tricky conundrum. This is where you, as a Project Manager, need to identify, analyse and respond to uncertainties when making decisions related to your project. Of course, when you add the word ‘risk’ to anything, it can cause mixed feelings.  A risk that pays off is a huge uplift, but no one likes taking unnecessary risks.

This is where a solid risk assessment framework is key to making decisive and well-thought out decisions to reach the end-goal of your project with as few problems as is possible.

 

 

  • The likelihood of a negative outcome occurring
  • The impact if the negative outcome does occur
  • The likelihood of a positive outcome occurring
  • The impact if the positive outcome does occur
  • The feasibility of possible responses to a risk
  • The cost of possible responses to the risk

In many situations, there will be attendant risks whichever way a decision is made, and these will need to be compared. Possible negative outcomes also need to be balanced against possible positive outcomes. Though risk management tends to focus more on the former, there are situations in which possible positive outcomes play a significant role in decision making. It is not the job of a risk manager to make these decisions, only to ensure that those doing so are as well-equipped as possible to understand the balance of risk.

The risk assessment process needs to be carried out repeatedly across different project management phases to take into account changing risk profiles.

Risk management in innovation

An awareness of positive possibilities is especially important when it comes to innovation. Large businesses and organisations are particularly bad at this because they have a lot to lose, be it profits, funding or credibility, so they tend to be very cautious about doing anything new. This focus on the risk of failure, however, can distort the overall picture and means they miss out on opportunities, with strong ideas being ignored in favour of the status quo. Over time, this creates a risk of falling behind the competition.

A more positive approach to risk management, which balances possible losses against possible gains within each project and acknowledges that gains from a certain proportion of successful projects will balance out the losses from those that fail, allows established businesses and organisations to be more successful innovators.

Successful risk management in innovation requires a proactive approach. Because this is new territory, tried and tested solutions to identified risks won’t always work. Project management methodologies need to be flexible and ready to try new approaches – but that doesn’t mean indulging in projects where the risk potential is too high. It’s also necessary to be ruthless when risk tolerance levels are breached.

Avoiding natural bias

We all have inbuilt psychological biases when it comes to dealing with risk. Therefore, very few people can assess risk objectively without taking a formal, analytical approach. We can see this in impulsive people who are far too quick to take unreasonable risks, and in anxious people who play it safe to the point where they achieve nothing, but often it’s more subtle and harder to spot. Correctly structured risk management removes the danger of bad decisions resulting from this kind of bias. It also enables the production of reports that everybody can understand in the same way. This prevents complications resulting from crossed wires and means that if the risk manager changes part way through the project management cycle, disruption will be minimal.

Some areas of risk management are harder to approach in this way than others. Areas dealing with health and safety or consumer response, for instance, can benefit from expert assessment in the form of qualitative risk analysis, even though aspects of them might also be subject to quantitative risk analysis. The latter – also known as data risk analysis – is the natural choke for assessing risks that are easily understood in numerical terms.

Data risk analysis

Data risk analysis uses mathematical tools to calculate the balance of risk and establish priorities. It also makes it possible to run simulations to help establish the likely results of different approaches. It’s particularly useful in complex scenarios where multiple risks must be assessed together because it means the probable results of different strategies involving combined risks can be displayed side by side. Most of the best organiser software available today includes tools for use in this kind of modelling

Using data risk analysis to make numerical projections makes it much easier to compare strategies involving different types of risk. It means that everybody in a project management office is looking at the options in the same way, and it makes it easier for senior managers who lack risk management expertise to understand those options and make good decisions.

Building credibility

As well as making it easier to understand the options available, good risk management makes it easier to justify decisions, both at the time and retrospectively. It means that funders can be encouraged to support a project based on clear, quantifiable data, which demonstrates the value of the approach to be taken. It means that when negative outcomes do occur, managers can show that they nevertheless made the best decision possible in light of the uncertainties involved, reducing the reputational risks involved with failure.

Well-presented risk analysis reports demonstrate that the business strategies they relate to are based on fact and reason rather than on conjecture. This does a lot to establish the credibility of an organisation. Even if not every decision produces good results, it demonstrates that the potential for achieving good outcomes remains high. Over time, this is important to brand building, attracting investors and maintaining team morale.

Ultimately, every organisation takes a different approach to managing risk because they all have different objectives and priorities. Legal obligations may need to be factored into decision making, as may broader aspects of corporate policy. The underlying mechanics of risk management, however, remain the same. By systematising the process of identifying and analysing risk, an organisation can reduce human bias and place its decision-making on much firmer foundations.


Project governance: how to define a governance approach

Project management is the key to guiding a project from the initial planning stage to completion and ensuring that successful implementation as smoothly and efficiently as possible. Good project governance is essential for efficient and effective project management, helping everyone involved to understand, monitor and implement the policies and procedures needed to bring the project to completion.

What is governance?

The concept of governance is, at its purest, the establishment of policies and the monitoring of their proper implementation. Governance involves designing systems, structures and processes that ensure that all team members are aware of their duties and responsibilities, allowing them to work towards well-defined goals and outcomes.

There are several essential elements that are generally believed to be essential to good governance, including:

Accountability
Transparency
Responsiveness
Equity
Participation
Consensus orientation
Strategic vision

Governance is not a new concept. In fact, the very word has an old-fashioned ring to it, but don’t let that fool you. The way that good governance is being brought into 21st-century project management is modern, high-tech and increasingly implemented via solution-based software rather than stuffy men in suits.

What is a gateway?

In project management terms, gateways refer to key decision points that occur throughout the project life cycle. Gateway reviews are carried out at each decision point to assess the progress so far and rate the likelihood of success. Gateway reviews involve an independent and confidential peer review process designed to ensure that the project is ready to progress to the next stage of implementation or development.

You can probably already see the potential problems with that, of course. Without an excellent communication and project management system in place, the gateway process can be the very thing that stalls a project or slows its progress. With the right system in place, the project sails through the gateway process efficiently address any issues, and continues briskly in the direction of its desired outcomes. With the wrong system in place, not so much.

What is the purpose of governance?

The purpose of governance depends on the type of organisation employing it. When it comes to the not-for-profit sector, good governance generally has a dual purpose of achieving the organisation’s social mission while also ensuring that it continues to be viable. In this way, good governance is closely linked to public trust and accountability, as few things destroy an organisation’s viability as quickly as a lack of trust and respect in those whom it aims to serve!

Within this broad definition, there are a few core functions of governance that all teams within an organisation need to keep in mind. In general, governance:

Sets out the organisation’s objectives
Defines the organisation’s ethics
Creates the organisation’s culture
Ensures legal compliance

Governance, then, needs to permeate the entire organisation and will affect every project carried out within the organisation, from the initial planning stage through to final completion. At each stage of any project’s life cycle, managers and team members need to be working within a framework that incorporates all of the above.

Who should be involved in governance?

So that you keep to good governance best practice, responsibilities will need to be assigned and delegated to various people both within the organisation and externally. When it comes to project governance, it is vital to assign duties, authority, powers and responsibilities clearly, ensuring appropriate levels of accountability and transparency, and laying out a range of individual and team deadlines that often need to fit together like a (very complicated) jigsaw puzzle.

Those involved in governance may include board members, managers, workers, volunteers, and external review and assessment entities. Another important group often involved in governance is, of course, the community that the organisation is serving. This might be the students in an educational facility, the patients (and their families) in a health or social care setting, or the constituents in the case of local government.

How should communication work within a governance structure?

Effective communication is key to good governance, but it is far from easy to maintain. How often when dealing with large, bureaucratic organisations have you heard, or felt, that “the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing”? Clarity of communication is an ongoing problem for many organisations, especially large, complex ones such as local government departments, hospitals or social care facilities.

This is why those solution-based software options mentioned earlier are becoming increasingly important. While governance itself is an old concept, the solutions to developing good governance in a modern-day world are decidedly high-tech. Even most reluctant organisations realise that computer programs, cloud-based software and other technical solutions provide the answer to their many and varied communication issues. Solution-based software is increasingly the key to implementing and monitoring policies and outcomes, carrying out gateway reviews on time, and tracking projects through every stage of their life cycle to successful completion.

In an agile environment, project management necessarily works differently from in a traditional environment. Traditional project management establishes a detailed plan, with concrete outcomes for each stage, and then works towards the agreed finish point. Agile project planning involves defining the desired result, then working towards it by delivering each stage of the plan in a short period of time, and then clarifying what needs to be done next.

When project management becomes highly responsive in this way, project governance and gateway reviews need to be implemented differently. In short, they need to become “agile”. In agile projects, the gateway review process can still be carried out at pre-defined stages (such as pre-project, at the end of the feasibility stage, end of foundations, and so on). The steering committees of traditional project management will also take a different role, operating as a “management by exception” response in most agile projects. The good news? Solution-based project management software allows for adaptations to suit many different methodologies!

To see what Verto can do to improve the outcomes of your existing project management techniques, register for our free 60-day trial today!


A guide to successfully tracking benefits for your programme.

Benefits realisation allows organisations to plan, manage and monitor how time, effort and resources are invested into making desirable changes within the organisation. It is an essential part of project management, which invariably involves change for the better through a clearly defined, results-focused process.

Planning for benefits realisation, however, involves a lot more than identifying which benefits should be delivered and to whom. You also need a clear timeline, a plan for implementation, and a way to assess how well your actual results match up to the outcomes you planned for. This means that those involved in benefits realisation need to:

• Identify benefits
• Define in detail what each benefit will entail
• Assign dates for the delivery of the benefits
• Detail the necessary implementation procedures to ensure that benefits are delivered in full
• Plan for change management as the processes to deliver new benefits are implemented
• Track progress at every stage of the project lifecycle
• Develop methodologies to compare actual outcomes to planned outcomes

Benefits realisation generally involves a complex process that can, of course, be made easier by the right project management tools. A significant number of changes implemented by public sector organisations come under harsh criticism for not actually achieving the benefits that they aimed to deliver. This can often be due to a lack of benefits management, or sometimes a lack of any robust project management methodology at all.

Identifying benefits

Identifying the benefits that you’re aiming for is the first step. Ensuring that those benefits are well defined and quantifiable is the only way to know for sure whether you delivered them or not. You may also be identifying and monitoring benefits that are not quantifiable but are observable and measurable. Let’s look at each of those in turn.

Quantifiable benefits are benefits that can be forecast and measured. They are often financial, such as a specific amount of money that can be saved (particularly in the not-for-profit sector) or made (more commonly in for-profit organisations). They may also be quantifiable in some other way, such as cutting waiting times in a healthcare setting or improving exam results in educational facilities.

When it comes to justifying a particular project, quantifiable benefits can be fundamental in persuading stakeholders of the project’s importance. They can be defined in advance and accurately tracked at each stage of the project life cycle. It’s vital, of course, to establish a baseline by which benefits will be measured, and then capture all data relevant to the benefit. Omitting data related to outcomes is where project analysis often goes very wrong!

Observable benefits are those that may not be easy to measure objectively but can undoubtedly be assessed by experienced observers. These can include things such as staff morale, ethical standing within the community, and satisfaction levels among end-users of your service. These benefits can be incorporated into your objectives for your projects, and you may devise methods to assess them, but defining their success will rely primarily on observation.

Measurable benefits are those that can be objectively measured but not easily forecast. You can identify these benefits, but they can’t be incorporated into the outcomes that you are working towards as they can’t be predicted. Monitoring them, however, can be useful for future projects. Measurable benefits can be particularly valuable for pilot projects. Not sure if a change to your inventory system or a customer service initiative will make things better or worse? It can be implemented in one office or department and expanded (or ditched) depending on what your project analysis suggests regarding measurable benefits.

Mapping benefits to organisational goals

Excellent project management techniques will allow you to map benefits to overall organisational goals. Benefit realisation rarely serves just one purpose. Customer satisfaction is linked to customer retention. Employee morale is related to productivity levels. Patient experience is connected to public trust, complaints processing and even crisis management budgets.

Innovative, solution-based project management techniques allow organisations to link the desired benefits of any given project to the overall goals of their organisation, and assess how these two elements are moving forward together (or not) at each review point throughout the project life cycle.

Direct and indirect benefits

In every project, there will be direct and indirect benefits, which is why monitoring the non-quantifiable aspects of your project is essential. Indirect benefits include those intangible benefits that can’t be easily tracked, such as reputation, image and ethical standing in the community. Many organisations use a system of benefit estimation to assess the indirect benefits of a project, along with the more tangible direct benefits.

To track and measure the indirect benefits of a programme it is essential to observe and monitor every aspect of change that occurs within a system as a project progresses. Including both direct and indirect benefits in the final analysis of any benefit-driven organisational change creates a fuller and more valuable assessment on which to base future projects. It can allow potential change-makers to justify future plans that will potentially create indirect benefits.

Benefits framework

To make expectations clear during the project management process, it’s useful to define a benefits realisation framework. A benefits framework allows organisations to identify, deliver, analyse and sustain the benefits associated with any particular project that they implement. The framework must be driven by the strategic planning process of the organisation and, to be effective, it must become standard practice throughout the project life cycle.

A benefits framework will lay out best practices, processes and techniques to be followed throughout the transition (and beyond, to sustain the value from changes). Most importantly, the framework will present the benefits not as a random list but as a web of interrelated objectives, creating a clear picture of where the achievement of a particular benefit is dependent on the realisation of another.

Solution-based project management software is a valuable piece of the puzzle when trying to implement benefits-driven change. To see what Verto can do to improve project management outcomes for your organisation, register for our free 60-day trial today!

 


10 top tips to leverage technology in project management.

Unless your company is still using typewriters and rotary phones (and in that case, you need more help than we can offer here!), digital transformation is probably already an integral part of your project management methodologies.

Here are our top tips for leveraging the power of digital transformation in project management teams.

 

  1. Stay calm!

Project management is constantly evolving and even though new methods and approaches can seem initially disruptive to an established framework, the payoffs in agility and results are well worth making adjustments. Remember to use all the digital tools at your disposal to help take some of the weight off of your shoulders.

  1. Organize for flexibility

The speed at which the project management life cycle moves means that keeping things simple by using the best software as a result of digital transformation is key. The easiest teams to manage are small, collaborative and flexible.

  1. Don't forget to KISS

Keep things simple. You can keep things moving even faster by taking a simplified approach. Test rapid prototyping or break down complex projects into smaller, more manageable phases. Just be sure sprints aren't too rushed, as this can mean significant defects or problems may go unnoticed until it's too late.

  1. Work together

Keep lines of communication open, seek multiple viewpoints and encourage collaboration. This is especially important for large-scale project management concepts that span teams, departments or physical locations. It's essential for team members to stay open-minded and build up a tolerance for failure.

  1. Emphasise results over process

Planning, budgeting, forecasting, risk assessment and all the rest are still critical project management, but be sure to stay focused on results. Becoming a slave to 'the plan' can be a significant obstacle to reaching goals and project objectives. Don't be afraid to take advantage of the software available and adjust when necessary.

  1. Communicate

Digital transformation also requires an adjustment in the way you communicate with project stakeholders. One of the biggest ways to improve here is by building tools that facilitate faster, more accurate communication in real time, such as an online community where project stakeholders can access the latest updates and information.

  1. Make time for face time

Digital communication can help keep things moving and allow on-the-go face-to-face meetings with key stakeholders and your team to take place. This ease of communication and the speed at which it can happen is vital in the current digital age.

  1. Cater to the end user

Project management in the digital age is all about the end user. Always keep the client top of mind, striving to deliver products or services quickly and continuously.

  1. Get stakeholders on board

The nature of collaborative, high-frequency delivery in digital project management means that all stakeholders have to be kept in the loop. From top executives down to the last team member, everyone should be invested and motivated to see a project succeed.

  1. Understand the benefits

Digital transformation has a number of benefits for project management methodologies. If things get tough, remember the advantages:

  • More flexibility
  • Greater productivity
  • Better transparency
  • Improved quality
  • Less risk of overlooked objectives
  • Increased engagement and satisfaction for stakeholders

Conclusion

Managing projects and getting the most out of the recent digital transformation can be a complex process. By embracing agility and taking the time to focus on what's important, you can dramatically improve your chances of success.

For even more project management tips, insight, industry news and research, follow Verto Cloud on LinkedIn.


Project Leadership - Managing for Success

Project management is the art of guiding a project from initial planning to final implementation. Good managers possess a solid knowledge base, skills and expertise that let them see all project management phases clearly, as well as the specific steps needed to move through the life cycle efficiently and successfully – they understand what must be done and they make sure it happens, on time and within budget.

Maybe the most critical factor that determines the success of a project though is the personal investment of project cycle management leadership. When leaders are personally committed, and take ownership of a project, the results can be astounding.
So, how do you manage for success? It’s a loaded question, we know, but the following tips can help you exert more ownership over projects, approaching each one as an opportunity to engage your team, deliver great quality to your clients and the senior leadership.

The right leadership

Leadership establishes the tone for the entire project management framework. Will the work be frenzied and chaotic or predictable and (mostly) drama-free? It is ultimately up to you and the tone you set from the start.

The most important elements at the outset of a new project are to set clear goals and to make sure your team is held accountable for hitting benchmarks and reporting accurately. You can’t do it all on your own – delegate tasks, paying close attention to the unique skills and abilities of your team members to ensure you’ve given the right jobs to the right people. Everyone should know and understand their responsibilities and how they’ll be required to track their progress.

Focus on pushing deliverables and encourage team members to stay on top of their reporting responsibilities. Not only does this help you keep the project on schedule, but it also empowers your team to make decisions more quickly and intuitively. Too much time spent second-guessing or agonising over small details can bog down even the most efficient project management framework.

Communication
You. Must. Communicate. It’s essential, even on small projects. As a leader, it is your responsibility to make sure every single team member and stakeholder is in the loop and regularly updated on the overall status of the project. They also need to know they can come to you with questions, concerns or suggestions without fear of reprimand or reprisal.

For your team, you might create a master calendar as part of your project management lifecycle controls, with significant deadlines marked clearly for all to see. Schedule meetings well ahead of deadlines to check in with everyone, gather intel on their progress and make sure things are on track. This will also give you plenty of time to address issues and make adjustments before small problems become major headaches.
Another critical aspect of communication is to express the value of your project to those outside your team. No one wants to operate in a departmental silo, so create a compelling message that resonates throughout your organisation. Do this, and you may find it much easier to secure additional resources should you need them.
Prioritising activity

Maintaining a productive pace means understanding and mitigating risks. The easiest way to add this important element to your project management methodologies is to designate a risk officer to stay on top of potential problems. Ideally, this should be someone who is thoughtful, rational and more than a bit sceptical.

Managing risks effectively means:

• Every member of the team should feel comfortable reporting their concerns or difficulties. If people don’t believe they can speak freely, they will be more likely to try to hide issues and let them fester.
• Keep a real-time risk database for more effective project cycle management. This tool should record every issue, and its resolution, throughout the entire project.
• Not wasting time or resources obsessing over risk assessment. Yes, you must stay on top of issues before they derail a project, but if you see threats around every corner, you’ll quickly become paralysed by the fear that something could go wrong at any moment.

As a leader, you must be able and willing to make well-informed judgement calls from time-to-time that will mitigate potential risks. You must also have the courage and confidence to rethink your strategy should the situation call for it.

Resourcing and capabilities
Successful project management depends heavily on having the team and resources you need – when and where you need them – to deliver a quality finished product on time and budget.

This doesn’t mean you must become a master negotiator and secure unlimited funding and personnel support on every project right from the start. It means you have to learn to work with what you have been given to the best of your ability and be able to back up any request for more with robust data, clear communication, and conviction.

In addition to your critical role as project manager, you should recruit the following team members to improve your chances of success:
• Project sponsor
• Project coordinator
• Team leader
• Working team

Resource allocation is another essential part of your job as a project manager. Identifying resources at the start of a project and managing them throughout are essential project manager requirements, but so is knowing when and how to ask for more (time, money or people) when you need it.

Conclusion
Managing for project success involves a wide range of skills that work in concert to push a project through every phase and benchmark. If your ultimate goal is always to deliver high-quality finished products to your clients, while respecting the boundaries of time and budget, you will inevitably become invested in each project, exhibiting the kind of commitment and ownership that is a great predictor of success.

To see what Verto can do to improve the outcomes of your existing project management techniques, register for our free 60-day trial today!