When the Auckland University of Technology (AUT) merged its student management, support and registry units with its student relations division last year, it formed what is thought to be the first student lifecycle unit in New Zealand universities that interacts with students through to alumni.
“Universities are very complex organisations with large programmes of work going on all the time across a number of portfolios,” says Angela Butt, of the new University Relations unit. “We had to get visibility of everything, how you chase the investment, and meaningful gains.”
As part of the integration of these business units into a cohesive team, University Relations introduced the concept of benefits management, to align with overall university strategy and ultimately prioritise projects.
“My role was public relations, marketing and student support services,” Butt says. “In financially tight times, everyone questions spending on marketing. We were able to show we contributed to the university by adding value. Benefits management immediately gave us this ability.
“With a number of projects, it enabled us to get really good efficiencies.
“I used the framework throughout the organisational restructuring. A number of efficiencies fell out of that. We brought in dedicated staff where necessary.
“We’d looked at a number of options. Traditional project management tools don’t allow you to enhance staff capability as do benefits management.”
AUT engaged Xelocity, which had had a relationship with the university for more than six years.
Xelocity has a methodology called Strategic Journey Mapping (trademarked as SJM) that has been developed to help businesses identify, understand and execute the correct combination of business change initiatives in the correct sequence to achieve defined strategic goals.
The SJM methodology includes a visual modeling approach called benefits mapping, which allows staff, senior executives and other appropriate stakeholders to clearly understand the initiatives, planned outcomes, and how these contribute to the strategic goals.
In an environment where projects must be prioritised for competing resources, SJM allows risk to be considered as well as the timing of planned benefits delivery.
Butt says working from the map allows AUT to understand how to get the business outcomes.
“We’re doing internal analysis before we embark on any spend. That’s very worthwhile. It speeds up the process, and we’re getting good staff buy-in.”
Xelocity principal consultant Gary Philip describes SJM as a top-down approach, that uses benefits mapping, starting with strategic objectives and breaking them down in a cause and effect manner.
“It’s highly visual and easily understandable, creating first a compelling graphical model rather than a wordy project document, or a Gantt chart”, he says.
“Most importantly, it’s an approach that enables distributed ownership of benefits.
“It creates a picture of logical cause and effect, then introduces a time element around when changes should occur, in terms of effort and outcomes,” he says.