The need to start by focusing on 'benefits' and their realization
Benefits? What benefits? Most organizations still have a paradoxical view of business benefits.
Even today, few organizations have a formal benefits management process. Our research found:
34% had none
23% were planning to implement one
17% had the rudimentary ‘take it out of future budgets’ approach
21% had post project search parties looking for the benefits
5% were trying to install an effective benefits management process.
For most steering committees benefits are ‘hoped’ for. The view of “build it (the project) and they (the benefits) will come” prevails.
The project teams see benefits as definitely not in their ambit — “They (the organization) are accountable for the benefits.”
Many steering committee members see benefits as “Their (line managers) accountability. We just need to ensure they are possible (to be delivered).”
Two different views lived comfortably side-by-side:
- Benefits realization is an automatic by-product of delivering the project, and
- Benefits are realized after the completion of the project, so are not the project’s (or steering committee’s) primary concern.
These views combine to ensure that ‘benefits realization’ is on few people’s agendas.
This is really a process failure. As when the benefits are not effectively (and fully) identified at the beginning of the project, the whole realization, tracking and measurement process is undermined.
The limited role of the business case
The business case is seen as a means of getting approval and funding, not the process by which the project’s value proposition and measures of success were defined.
I cannot remember a steering committee meeting where the business case or the project’s overall value proposition was referred too. Once the project was approved the focus shifted to the project’s outputs and deliverables.
A more direct link between the project and the benefits is needed.
Linking the business case, project and benefits
However, currently most projects have a ‘gap’ between what they plan to deliver and what is required to deliver the promised benefits.
What is required is an effective “Value Equation Definition” process that identifies the ‘desired business outcomes’, the associated benefits and consequential value — and the change activities required to deliver these outcomes and benefits. These change activities, outcomes, benefits and value establish the ‘stepping stones’ between the project and the benefits and enables each element to be progressively tracked and measured.
This ability to ‘track and measure’ is critical in that, if you are asking business managers to take on accountability for the realization of benefits, you also need to ensure they can see you have delivered the pre-requisites to their realization.
Clarifying the accountabilities
When you can clearly show that the pre-requisites for each benefit are being tracked to ensure each benefit can be delivered, the accountability for benefits can be assigned to
- The project team (in conjunction with the business) are accountable for the benefits delivered immediately as part of the project's implementation
- Business line management are accountable for benefits realized after the completion of the project
- The PMO is accountable for tracking and measuring the outcomes, benefits and value delivered both during and after completion of the project
- And the governance team is accountable for enabling, supporting and chasing the realization of benefits both during and after the project’s completion.
A more detailed benefits accountability matrix is provided in all of the TOP Benefits Management Program.
Explore benefits management with our entertaining book, "Solving the benefits puzzle"