A conversation about history and future
- First, who is the person Tyrone Skogstrom?
I share my time with consulting assignments, writing the ‘Reliable Business Case Handbook’, and the time spending with my wife and family. I also am also by history a triathlete but now find myself competing in road cycling, in senior and master classes. I live in Uppsala, nearby Stockholm in Sweden, and I do my consulting assignments as an employee, not running my own company any longer. Besides consulting assignments, I also offer training in the methodology.
This is what I do, but how am I as a person? I find myself easily motivated as soon as there is a challenge, no matter what I have in front of me. I like good order, planning, and to be surrounded by motivated people. Maybe that all came into me during my earlier military training in an Arctic Commando here in Sweden. Can't recall me to be like this in my youth, but again, who can? I benefit much from earlier extensive selling experiences and in influence and persuasion skills since you always find reasons in work and personal life to motivate people and trust you.
I often find myself impressed by all skilled people there I meet and desires to be more like them. That's a way to improve yourself I guess, to find role models, and try harder.
- Your work. How come you found the interest in business investment and business change?
It all started around 1997, my employer was Telia, Sweden’s former national telecom operator. I was a specialist salesman of telephone banks, IVR, and contact centre solutions, and later I became Key Account Manager. The IT solutions automated processes for both our customer’s staff and their customers and had a significant financial upside. I started to motivate my customers’ functions and investments by clearly show them tangible and intangible benefits. I even started to support my sell process with business cases, and the customers’ responses were great.
Much later, I found myself in management consulting and supported procurement and investment programs. I realized that most – nearly all – of the customers paid attention to control their IT implementation phase but totally lacked a benefits realization phase. They killed the project as soon as possible, throwing the steering group, project manager, reports and controlling, out through the window. Following year, they forgot all about their 10 MEUR investment – read: cost – and did nothing to proactively ensure the business case’s income side should come true. They didn't measure results, it was just simply ignored. Is that a way to work professionally, I thought? No!
I soon understood what a business case was to most managers: it was a kind of proof their IT-investment was the right thing to do - but on the false ground! The usual concept is;
1. Feel an intangible need for business change, and find an IT investment claiming to be the solution.
2. Spend most time to find positive effects.
3. Convert the positive effects into money, even if the money will never be seen.
4. Forget the investment and cost as soon as possible.
5. Never measure ROI and report payback, and never ever look back, you might find things your management doesn't like to see.
For me, the business case was just the first step to describe a business change that had to be controlled and realized on purpose! It was part of a process where you take KPIs from the case, and identify process change, process owners, and made action plans telling who, how, and when, the change and results should be achieved. Who can see this happen, knowing about all the money wasted for nothing, and not feel an obligation to do something about it?
- What do you want with your method and the Excel tool?
Based on a lot of customer assignments, I had the opportunity to develop the method. The impact my method has on global scale is today still low, but I hope the method can find its ways out into a global use in time. The method is really simple and straightforward. It is a benefit-cost analysis that separates the cost and benefits into three reliability categories: Assumed, Visible, and Reliable. They are based on two things you ask yourself: Are the results financially visible, and is the source of data reliable? Two critical questions every decision maker asks themselves. Actually, there is a fourth category too: Not Evaluated. It's there to raise the importance of the intangible benefits into decision making. Qualitative benefits in the organization shouldn't be justified by financial terms, it's absurd. They should be able to stand for their own justification.
I also wish the method more seriously is used for lifetime cost analysis. I have much support from it when I assess long and short term IT cost reduction strategies. All should use it more for this purpose! Soo much money wasted on expensive and poor IT strategies.
The method tells the rule of thumbs on how to objectively and systematically evaluate business change and investment benefits into monetary value. And when you can't, you should just leave the intangibles as they are. It supports and encourages you to define business change and to define KPIs you can measure. That goes for both the tangible monetary results and the intangible, qualitative results. The method also supports you to identify the risks and to document important things like the source of data, formulas, variables and KIPs, dependencies, and the changed process' owners.
To support the execution of the analyses based on the method, I developed the RBC Excel Tool. Today it's free and downloadable and hopefully, it can serve as strong support for any business case, not only when you run a Reliable Business Case. Anyhow, the RBC Excel Tool manifests the method in important ways. It makes the analysis an easier thing to do, basically. It offers a full business case with ROI, Benefit-Cost Analysis, BCR, cash flow, payback, IRR, etc. It supports you with diagrams and charts you can select and pick from what you need to analyse and express in your reports. The tool’s report sheet tells you if you can trust the case, and about weak issues, you should deal with. Additionally, with its information you can first make what I call a QuickAnalysis, then identify what's most important to get right figures, and put all you rest efforts and hours into these things that really matter. It offers with this a time efficient analysis. It also contains a table that offers great support to follow-ups for the benefits realization process.
I want all these features and strategies be used because they are made with a purpose to improve things. A lot.
- What's the status and what do you see coming?
In this area? Well, in Sweden there is increased attention to what is called ‘Benefits Realization’, due to communication and papers from our eGovernment. In the public sector, people are now more aware of the need, and many are interested to align their project management methods to the eGovernment concept. What I see coming is more action than today’s talk only. I surely will make my part of the action.
In U.K and other parts of Europe, and Australia, I find a lot of attention to PRINCE2 and the concept of Benefits Management. However, in PRINCE2 I find little about the actual benefits realization. It is more like ‘Gateway 5: Did the organization achieve what was expected’. What I miss there is a heck more about the process of how to manage the actual business change, measurement and reporting, and a clear “this is how this case ensures the payback’. USA I know less about, but it seems to me you had to look more on a state level to see how good they are, they differ a lot.
I tell you; the IT sector uses to bring up Standish Group’s CHAOS report, the report that tells you how common it is IT investment projects fail to meet the goals. But it focuses on project goals – time, cost, and functions. If we had a report taking into account also the business case fulfilment, the results would really scare the hell out of you. But we can't see that kind of report since most organizations don't measure their results.
Also, remember the method offer support to carry out all investments in business change, not only these with an IT-system as an enabler. I don't see it, but hopefully, in the future the organisations have a program management unit that manages all business improvements the same way.
I hope to find a network of interested in more countries and make a body of influences that eventually make a global change. Of course, I gladly take global assignments too, maybe in cooperation with a local consultant or one from your organisations' staff. I believe in the expression 'Learning by doing' and rather suggest real cases than training only if you want to introduce the method in your organisation.
- What will you do in the future?
I'll as soon as possible finish my writing of ‘Reliable Business Case Handbook’. I recently had to prioritise to build an RBC Excel Tool that more easily can be translated into other languages. A native tool is critical in many non-English countries, especially if you want to work with customers in the public sector. First out is now an English and Swedish set of translations.
What I do know is, there's a huge opportunity for assignments all over the world to assure business benefits arise for real. I'd like to as Change Manager carry out more business change programs, rather than today often work with investment decision-related analyses. I like to continue with more business analysis, investment requirements, and reliable business cases. Yes. But what really matters, in the end, is if the business change is measured and if it occurs in real. Therefore, I'd like to see my RBC training be increased and to find enthusiasts in other countries who like to carry the message further. I believe networking is the best way forward. I welcome both consultants and people who want to improve their own organization. Management consultants, IT consultants, CFOs, CIOs, CEOs, controllers, procurement officers – all that find they can use the method in their work, or that have the position to influence there an organization to do right.
The RBC Excel Tool is also great support when you as a lector want to teach university students in business and economy classes to do investment analysis. I also start to receive requests from researches to investigate and benchmark the method against other methods. Fantastic, but a bit early, it will be easier to do when the RBC Handbook is available. But why not, their findings might inspire me to improve the first edition!
I also would love to manage change projects to improve organizations’ procurement, program and project management processes, PMOs, and to comply with what I think's common sense - avoid ROI by Chance.
- You like global assignments. Why, and what motivates customers to choose you?
Yes, I live in Sweden and like taking assignments in other countries. I believe that it is the best way to grow attention about RBC and it brings rings on water. I prefer to work in a team together with local consultants or staff members since it'll leave a mark; more people know RBC. I like to support the full phase until payback, but admit most organisations aren't ready for that yet. To do just one moment right is a win. I find interest in program management, requirement analyses, procurement support, process improvement, business cases and investment strategies, short and long term IT cost reduction, benefits realisation management, and business change management. And training, teaching and act as a speaker on seminars about the method of course, and to support you to deploy the methodology into your own organization, or training your management or business consultants.
The reason why customers should pick my help from a longer distance, and not a local consultant, is because my skill cannot be found nearby: With my experience and the RBC methodology, I can define and prioritise a need or business change better. Depending on the goal, it can offer higher ROI, earlier payback, lower long term cost, better user perceived value etc. I can for decision makers explain cost, value and upcoming need for action in a way they really trust. I will insist to manage the change, measure and realize the benefits until I can report “payback achieved”.
More, I'd like more organisations and corporate management dared to appraise already made investments paid back. It is never too late to do the right thing. I know there is a lot of money wasted out there.
/Stockholm, August 2018
If you want to contact Tyrone you can use the contact form you find in the menu to the left, or just call him +46 709 37 38 00