Benefits management is one of the areas that is lowest on the maturity model of most organisations. Are your benefits managed? Yes, the majority will document some benefits as a part of the business case and justification for the project. But the business case documents claim that will soon be orphaned. Any benefits forgotten when the project is complete.
Benefits when selecting projects
Ideally an outline of the benefits should be formed when the project or programme is still an idea. At that point the stakeholders will have input into the project . They can help clarify and refine the benefits before the business case is assembled. Change management functions are improving this engagement pre-project. PMOs could help with consistent tools to track the benefits through a complete lifecycle; right from the start of an idea to post project benefit realisation. Engaging key stakeholders is easier when they are helping to justify a project.
Starting the Project
Project managers in most companies have to be able to justify the purpose for the project. They must demonstrate that the project is worthwhile. The objectives clearly providing a set of benefits that outweigh the cost of the project. This part is well used and understood. It is documented in business cases, projects charter and PIDs. This sells the reason for the project and secures funding. You should stop the project if benefits do not justify it.
Once funding is secured for the whole project, then the benefits management begins to run into difficulty. Benefit owners believe their job is done. Project management have other more pressing things to focus on. Tracking and adjusting benefits and business case starts to fall into disrepair. Even in projects that have a reasonably robust change control process the impact of the change seems rarely to be mapped against the effects, positive or negative on benefits.
Benefits become out of date by the time the come to deliver. Well before that Benefit are difficult to maintain. The project close process should assess achievement against objectives, the benefits position and use them to inform lessons learned. Some project managers do attempt to implement these steps.
The post project is the area of most concern. In organisations that do not have a change management function; benefit management post project is at best a background task for the PMO and project managers. Some companies have benefit managers that can help the process. Post project, benefit owners are most keen to disengage. go on to disown the benefits suggested at project start. The organisational benefit might in some cases mean that they have a reduced budget or reduced resources. If benefit owners have been bullish with the original business case then they might find it very difficult post project. When the project includes approved change requests; their impact might not reflected in the update of benefits. Realising those benefits might prove impossible.
In some cases, the realisation of some benefits could be many months or years after the project was completed. This only serves to increase the problem.
Do you recognise some or all of these issues; if so your PMO or Change Management need to look at how your benefits are managed. Either creating benefit management roles and/or enabling more consistent benefit management. You need to establish a clear process and a method of recording status. Tracking progress at each stage across the whole journey of ideas. Possibly, to the end of life of products delivery from projects.