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Phase 6

Phase 6 Guide: Action Decision

 

This short guide provides some advice on implementing the Innovation Process. It specifically focuses on the final ‘Action Decision’ phase. It is part of a broader toolkit, which provides advice, with tools and worked examples, on a full process that has been developed, tested and refined in partnership with a number of local authorities and is firmly rooted in innovation practice as well as theory.

 

Aims and Objectives

 

The key aims and objectives of this phase are to make a clear milestone decision on how to proceed with projects for which business cases have been developed, and then to develop project initiation documents as the first stage to implementing the projects. If the project is intended to provide a ‘proof of concept’, or is being run as a pilot initially, then an evaluation should be established from the outset to measure against clear success criteria.

 

At the start of this phase you will have:

At the end of this phase you will have:

- 2-3 business cases for projects: - a clear milestone decision on if and how to take forward one or more of the projects
  • to provide a strong foundation and justification for implementation
- an implementation project manager identified
  • of ‘necessary and sufficient’ detail to support funding and implementation decision process
- one or more project initiation documents to commence projects agreed
  • in correct local format
- an evaluation established
  • validated by key stakeholders to be involved in project delivery 
 

 

Phase 1 Activity Map

 

Key activities are outlined in below, with additional detail later in this guide:

 

Milestone Decision

Funding


Project Initiation


Establish Evaluation

 

 

Timescales and resources

 

The bulk of the time and effort in this phase will be spent on arranging and preparing for a final milestone meeting with the senior stakeholder to gain project approval, resolving funding issues and establishing a delivery project manager. The project manager will need to write the project initiation document and set in place an evaluation or performance measurement workstream if the initial project is short term.

 

Supporting Documents and Tools

 

A number of supporting tools and guides are available to help with this phase:

Overview

Guides

Tools

Examples

Innovation Briefing

Short Process Guide

Phase 5: Business Case

Prince 2 Project Initiation Template

 

Milestone Presentations

PIDs

 

Description of Activities

 

This is point at which the innovation process generates real action and activity as a result of all the ideas captured at the innovation event and the maturing of these through successive phases from high level ideas and solutions to clear projects with robust business cases. At this point there should be 2–3 projects with:

 

  • clear, traceable foundations in the problems and issues raised at the beginning of the process,
  • clear business cases,
  • clear definitions and delivery strategies,
  • potential partners standing ready to help to deliver them,
  • a broad level of support from a wide cross section of local and national stakeholders who helped to conceive the original ideas on which the projects are founded,
  • a measure of user/ client group support and feedback.

 

All the necessary information should therefore be available to close out the innovation process and to move forward with delivery. So the key activities involved in this phase are around establishing a clear milestone decision and then moving forward on the initial practicalities of delivering projects.

 

Milestone Decision Meeting

 

There are 3-4 times in the innovation process that the senior stakeholder is involved; the kick-off meeting for the innovation process, setting the context at the innovation event, selecting project definitions for business casing, and finally this milestone decision meeting. Typically this meeting should be chaired by the senior stakeholder and will cover:

 

  • a brief recap of the entire process
  • each business case in turn:
    • project definition, delivery approach, partners, user views, costs and benefits
    • a discussion on funding approaches
    • potential project managers and a senior responsible officer for delivery
    • outstanding issues
    • decision and immediate next steps.

 

The objective of the meeting is clearly to agree a way forward on each project. A wide variety of decisions might be made including:

  • agree not take any project forward,
  • defer the decision until outstanding issues that are raised at the meeting are addressed,
  • agree in principle to take them all forward – but prioritise which one to start first.

 

However the meeting is critical in a number of respects. It is the key point in the innovation process that all the other phases have been working towards. It is a clear fulfilment of the commitment given to stakeholders who attended the innovation event to seriously consider their ideas and make a clear decision on whether to take them forward or not. It is also the decision point that the senior stakeholder was engaged to deliver at the outset of the process.

 

Preparation for this meeting might include developing a short recommendation paper or a short milestone presentation. Example presentations are provided in this toolkit.

 

Funding 

 

Funding and resources may be a significant issue to resolve at this stage and unless adequate resources are committed then projects will not be able to commence. There are various approaches to consider:

 

  • Mainstream funding; as far as possible the innovation process should be aligned with corporate planning processes so that the business cases emerge from the process in good time for departments to build in to their annual budgets. This allows the projects to be clearly compared against other incumbent approaches and decisions can be made whether the emerging projects represent more effective and efficient ways of achieving the same outcomes. Having innovative new proposals available when budgets are being set and work programmes planned is advantageous. It introduces new opportunities and timely alternatives to ‘business as usual’, which are particularly important during a climate of shrinking budgets and tough efficiency targets.
  • Grant funding; similarly the innovation process can be timed to produce business cases to coincide with calls for applications for specific grants. These business cases should provide a strong foundation for successful grant applications. This approach might be more appealing that using mainstream funding, however sustainability is an important consideration. When grant funding runs out there will be an issue around continuation that will need to be built in to the project for resolution.
  • Short-term shared funding; the various partners in a project might stand to gain, possibly financially, from the successful implementation of a project, and therefore be prepared to invest financially, or ‘in-kind’ into a project. This is particularly true of private sector, which might see the project as a product or market development opportunity. A ‘social’ project, which might deliver future revenue, would be an attractive proposition for corporate social responsibility funding. In which case there is the potential to set up a short-term partnership for a proof of concept project where each partner contributes financially or ‘in-kind’ to demonstrate the project can deliver the intended outcomes.

 

Back to activity map

Project Initiation

 

Once the project has been approved and resources allocated then it is important to develop a project initiation document (PID). This document will establish an essential ‘bridge’ between the innovation process to develop ideas and the process to deliver the projects. Without this document there is the potential, during delivery, for a project to lose its original roots in the problems and needs identified at the innovation event. This is particularly a risk if a new project team emerges to deliver the project.

 

Ideally the project manager allocated to deliver the project writes the PID but with input and approval from someone involved in the original innovation process to ensure continuity. PIDs are standard documents that build on the outputs of the Innovation process and typically include:

  • Project definition
  • Business case
  • Project governance, organisation and controls
  • Initial project plan
  • Project risks

 

PRINCE2 is a process-based method for effective project management and within its toolkit there is a simple template for writing PIDs. Beyond start-up, PRINCE2 and local variants provide a good basis for managing and controlling any projects emerging from the innovation process.

 

Evaluation

  

Finally, many projects that will emerge from the innovation process for delivery will be attempting new way of working, or be run as short-term proof of concept projects that will attract longer term funding if successful. In both these cases it is important to establish an evaluation at the very start of the project so that baseline measures can be taken before the project is implemented, allowing a full impact assessment to be made. Without an evaluation there will be nothing substantial to indicate success and no basis to extend, disseminate or scale the project. 

 

Key success criteria and performance measures should have been identified during project definition, and refined through the business case process. A typical evaluation against these success criteria might involve one or more of the following:

 

-          ‘before and after’ interviews with a selection of service users,

-          interviews with other key stakeholders and beneficiaries such as  frontline staff,

-          ‘before and after’ focus groups,

-          surveys to collect data on key measures,

-          automatic collection of usage statistics for services deploying ICT,

-          development of a few case studies,

-          an assessment of project delivery and key lessons learned for extending, scaling and disseminating the project.

 

For social projects that use technology it is important to focus on social outcomes rather than intermediate digital outputs, such as use of computers. These outcomes are often more difficult to measure, however a good logic model that links project activities and inputs to outputs and outcomes provides a solid basis for an evaluation.

 

Where possible the evaluation should be independent of the delivery team and a local college or university can often provide excellent value for money.

 

Back to activity map

Dos and Don’ts

 


Do hold a milestone/ action decision meeting to close-out the innovation process and mark the start of the delivery phase.


Do ‘build up’ and raise awareness of the action decision meeting throughout the innovation process as one of the most important milestones.


Do ensure that the senior stakeholder chairs the action decision meeting and realises from the outset of the innovation process that this is a key decision point that they own.


Do feedback the results of the action decision meeting to innovation event stakeholders.


Don’t wait until half way through, or the end of the project to consider evaluation and measurement against success criteria.

 

Key Questions to Think About

 

  • Which of the projects with business cases should be implemented? And what to do with the others?
  • How will the project(s) be funded? Can partners make a financial or in-kind contribution?  
  • Run the project as a short term proof of concept or a pilot, or implement as a mainstream operational service from core funding?  
  • Is the project sustainable in the long run? 
  • Who will manage the delivery of the project? 
  • Does the PID accurately address the problems, issues and solutions identified in the innovation event? 
  • What will success look like? 
  • Will robust data on the success of the project be required to support future extension, dissemination or scaling of the project?  
  • If an evaluation is required – who is best placed to deliver this independently? 

 

© City of London 2010