Benefits management is one of the areas that is lowest on the maturity model of most organisations’ project delivery and change management. Yes, the majority will document some benefits as a part of the business case and justification for the project. But the claims that are documented in business cases will soon be orphaned when the project is finished and the benefit needs to be measured and realised.
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 and 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. It is easy to get your key stakeholders engaged 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 with the objectives clearly providing a set of benefits that outweigh the cost of the project. This part of the journey is well used and understood, business cases, projects charter and PIDs will sell the reason for the project and secure funding. If your benefits do not justify the project, then it should be stopped at that point anyway.
Once funding is secured for the whole project, then the benefits management begins to run into difficulty. The benefit owners feel their job is done and the 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.
By the time the delivery and implementation phases of the project are reached the benefits are out of date and even more difficult to maintain.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.
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. The original benefit owners are most keen to be disengaged at this point, the organisational benefit might in some cases mean that they have a reduced budget or reduced resources to carry out their function post project. If benefit owners have been bullish with the original business case then they might find it very difficult post project. Also if approved change requests have been included in the project but their impact 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 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 and progress at each stage across the whole journey of ideas to the end of life of products from the projects.