The Demise of the Benefits Delivery Manager
Some of the larger projects around town are appointing a ‘Benefits Delivery Manager’ who is given accountability for ensuring the delivery of the project’s benefits.
This is a typical structural reaction to a process problem — appoint a person and give them accountability (regardless of whether or not the role is viable).
These people are on a hiding-to-nothing! They don’t control the project and they don’t control the business and so are not well placed to deliver anything. Worse, they’ll be seen as ‘the person accountable for benefits’ letting the lazier business manager off the hook.
But my objection is less than it is an unviable role that does not have the authority to do the job expected. Further, this role perpetuates the myth that benefits are something that happens at the end of or after the project’s completion.
Most of the value lost in projects is lost well before the project gets to implementation.
Indeed, by then most of the damage is done. Even with the best will in the world or as the world’s most capable Benefits Delivery Manager, you often can no longer realize many of the benefits. They don’t exist as possibilities anymore. They’ve been destroyed by how the project has been managed and governed to date.
Of more value would be a “Value Delivery Manager” who works with the project and governance teams to ensure that the value is accurately and comprehensively identified, planned for, protected throughout the project and beyond, realized progressively and banked.
The Value Delivery Manager needs to have the authority to question proposed decisions, have poor decisions reviewed, and report to the Project Investment Committee on where and how the value was lost on any project.
NB This value loss may occur due to business (in) activity rather than be the fault of the project.
The Value Delivery Manager in effect provides a value-focused QA role on the project. Does the business case capture all of the available value? Do the plans target the realisation of the value? Are the decisions that are being made enhancing and protecting the value? Are the outside environment or business conditions impacting the potential value? And so on.
It is not their role to make the final decisions but, a bit like auditors, to have the power and authority to question what is going on with access to the Project Investment Committee. This role would require the project, governance, and business teams to justify their actions when they go against the recommendations of the Value Delivery Manager.
A Value Delivery Manager is not accountable for the delivery of the value (which they can’t do anyway), but they are accountable for maximising the potential, planning, and realising the value of the project and explaining why, where and how any potential value was lost.
They are the guardians of value for the project who keeps everyone else focused on delivering the value.
Actually, we already have one of these — they are called the “Project Sponsor”!