Getting the most out of your project benefits
While benefits management is not a new concept, in fact we wrote a 101 guide back in 2008, it’s still something that isn’t done particularly well.
We’ve spoken to a number of project management professionals over the years and some common areas of concern keep popping up.
Below are the top five, with some potential solutions:
- Identifying too many benefits
When writing a project’s business case, it’s really easy to inflate the number of benefits that the project is likely to achieve in order to get your project across the line. This is a bad idea because if the project is approved you’re likely going to be expected to deliver the benefits that were outlined in the business case.
- Struggling to make the benefits measureable
One of the trickiest parts of benefits management is putting measurements in place. This goes back to making sure your benefits statement is meaningful. For example, you might have a benefit statement that says “we will improve the quality of housing for our tenants” which is almost impossible to measure. This could be changed to “we will reduce the number of maintenance call outs from our tenants by 15% in the first year” which can easily be measured.
- Difficulty identifying a post-project implementation benefits owner
Project benefits are usually achieved long after the project that identified them has come and gone. Therefore it is important to identify an owner that can continue to measure and report on the achievement of those benefits. There is no point making the project manager responsible as they will have moved on long before the benefits could be realised. Consider making the benefits owner an end-user, that way you are more likely to get the continuous monitoring required. Also, make sure the benefits owner is empowered to take the necessary actions to ensure the benefits are realised.
- Not linking the benefits back to organisational goals
By aligning benefits to the organisational goals you ensure any projects that are undertaken are actively contributing to achieving what the organisation has been established to do. It also lets you see which projects are not contributing and makes the decision to cull them much easier.
- Not re-evaluating the benefits during the life of the project
One of the biggest mistakes in benefits management is to have a number of benefits outlined in the business case and then ignoring them until the project finishes. Some of your benefit assumptions may be proven wrong or the environment might’ve changed, reducing the actual benefit(s) you are likely to achieve. If the project scope is changed or reduced, this can also seriously impact the benefit(s) you can achieve. It could even get to the point where the cost of the project outweighs the adjusted benefits, i.e. your business case no longer stacks up. By re-evaluating your benefits during the life of your projects you can detect this early and make a decision to stop further work on that project to prevent any further costs for little gain.
One sure way to get to grips with benefits management is to implement a tool that helps you both capture the benefits your projects are meant to achieve and measure progress against those goals.
- Develop a benefits map that gives an overview of your project benefits
- Define your key performance indicators (measurements) for each benefit.
- Automatically aggregate sub-benefits to calculate the achieved value of a benefit
- Track and plot achieved values against the target value over time
- Add comments or assumptions on each benefit
- View the overall status of the benefits map.