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Author  Martin Stretton – Transformation Programme Director, NFER

June 15, 2021 |

 3 min read

  • Blog
  • Programme management
  • MSP

Why should we care about change programmes in organizations and what difference do they make?


Let’s say you’ve communicated the change vision, designed a blueprint of the future state and galvanized people and activity to develop and implement a new capability in the business.

Along with all that, you’ve successfully navigated the ambiguity and uncertainty that comes with breaking new ground and changed the way things are done “around here”. Great, job done but so what?

The answer lies in the improvements in organizational performance demonstrated by a programme’s benefits.

Luckily, Managing Successful Programmes (MSP®) – now in its 5th edition – includes the principle of realizing measurable benefits.

How to measure programme benefits

While a project is focused on outputs – e.g. delivering a new customer relationship management system – a programme is interested in the capability and outcomes that will change an organization’s operating state and realize benefits.

Tangible and quantifiable benefits from a programme should demonstrate measurable improvements.

These benefits might carry a Dollar, Pound, Euro or Yen sign, but that’s not all. Increased revenue and profit can sit alongside increased market share, customer satisfaction, reduced costs, faster time to market or fewer customer complaints.

A useful format for framing benefits that I use in my management practice is to think about measurable improvements in terms of “from x to y by when”. So, for example that may look like “increased product sales from £x in 2021 to £y by 2024” or “reduced customer complaints from # in 2021 to # in 2022”.

However, less tangible benefits may reflect how, for example, new digital solutions and automation have made life easier for people to do their job and focus on value-add activities – but even these may become measurable through increased employee experience in staff surveys!

Increasing the chances of delivering benefits

The genesis of a future benefit often comes from discussions among senior leadership. For example, how might utilising artificial intelligence or machine learning improve our legacy business model? This becomes the change mandate, which evolves into the business case where you’re thinking more about return on investment (ROI).

In our case, at the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), the need to enhance the experience of our clients and research participants and leverage data to generate deeper insights and value to education at large became a working hypothesis for change and improvement before it was formalized as a business case.

A programme is particularly effective in bringing together different projects that feed into the ultimate benefits and value the organization requires. Managing projects within a programme of work enables synergies and the ability to deliver coherent capabilities. In the end, the sum of the benefits from a programme should be greater than what each individual project can deliver separately.

Translating programme benefits into business value

Organizations have certainly got better at realizing benefits.

Previously, the culture was very much focused on deliverables – getting things to market based on business cases with an eye on risks, issues and milestones. Today, measuring realization of benefits rightly has parity of esteem with measuring how a programme is progressing against the plan and with an increased emphasis on return on investment for organizations.

Best practice approaches like MSP are there to provide a framework for turning an often verbal and light mandate into a programme of work with real business benefits attached. This also includes a solid business justification with control mechanisms – such as the end of tranche reviews in programmes – to make sure the business case remains attractive, affordable and achievable.

This offers an objective view of whether an organization is investing in the right things, that are value for money and will deliver optimal business value.

Discover more about the benefits of MSP