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Why Projects Fail: Part 10, Non-Existent Benefits Management

Why Projects Fail: Part 10, Non-Existent Benefits Management

Amazingly, the delivery of benefits from projects seems to be viewed by many as ‘an optional extra’ — nice if you can do it, a byproduct of the project

Amazingly, the delivery of benefits from projects seems to be viewed by many as 'an optional extra' — nice if you can do it, a byproduct of the project.

NO! Delivery of the benefits is the raison d'etre of the project. In all the rough and tumble of the project, it is easy to forget why it was commenced and its ultimate business measures of success — the delivery of the business outcomes and benefits.

For example, a bank was upgrading its mortgage processing system. It's measure of success was not the implementation of the new mortgage system, but the halving of the time it took to process a mortgage application, the reduction in paperwork from 233 pages to 11 per mortgage and the resultant reduction in costs and increase in competitiveness.

Our research has shown that the lack of a benefits focus or measurement process leads to most (over 50%) of projects' potential benefits being lost, missed or destroyed

Believe me, the business managers did not see the time, paperwork, cost and competitiveness benefits as optional extras, nice to haves or byproducts of the project — they were the reason for the project.

Our research has shown that the lack of a benefits focus or measurement process leads to most (over 50 percent) of projects' potential benefits being lost, missed or destroyed.

Project managers tend to take various views of benefits management including:

  • benefits are realized by business management and, therefore, are nothing to do with me

  • benefits are realized after the end of the project and, therefore, are nothing to do with me

  • benefits are not measured or tracked, so focusing on the benefits isn't worthwhile.
Let's take the last one first — the lack of benefits tracking and measurement; common to most organizations.

People resist measuring benefits because

  • they don't know how to deliver them (and therefore don't want to be accountable for them)

  • projects consistently don't provide the pre-requisites to deliver the benefits (making their realization difficult)

  • accountants are too keen to take dollars out of future budgets without any cognizance of whether they're actually realizable

  • it requires continuing focus after the project has finished.
In other words, benefits management is consistently surrounded by poor thinking, poor delivery and avoided accountability.

But all this can be avoided by joining the dots effectively.

  • Plan your projects to deliver 'desired business outcomes'.

  • Link all benefits to their enabling outcomes. Deliver the outcomes to enable the benefits.

  • Monitor the drivers and other assumptions on the dollars to adjust the dollar value (up or down) as circumstances change.

  • Generate 'benefits delivery plans' for all post-project delivered benefits to make them easy to deliver and track. It's not difficult it just requires additional discipline up front (defining the outcomes and benefits) and continuing project discipline after the completion of the formal project.

    Benefits Management is it also has another effect. If people know their benefits are not going to be tracked and measured, they can put what they like into the business case (within reason). However, once they know it will be tracked, monitored and measured, the contents of the business case take on a whole new meaning. Now they'll focus on the real benefits.

    Now we come to the 'nothing to do with me' syndrome.

    The more you can do to ensure the successful delivery of business benefits, the more successful your project (and your performance) will be seen to be.

    The difference between a 'good' project manager and an 'excellent' one is the realization of the business outcomes and benefits. So moving from the 'nothing to do with me' to 'I can make this happen with the business' can be a career changing (improving) decision!

    To do this, start planning from the realized benefits backwards to identify what has to be done to achieve each one. This gives you an end-to-end project and benefits delivery plan.

    Then ask how many benefits can be delivered now or soon so as to progressively and continuously deliver value to the business. We've actually made projects self-funding from the value of the early benefits delivered.

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