Refocusing Projects onto Business Value, Part 5: Value-based Project Planning

Refocusing Projects onto Business Value, Part 5: Value-based Project Planning

Projects alone rarely deliver the business value expected, and there’s a very good reason for this

When 'value delivery management' is considered the central focus of your project, it changes the whole project.

Because some of the standard project methodologies don't even mention 'value', it is considered something that happens outside the project, after the project has finished, 'somewhere in the business'.

Because of this, most project plans are not focused on value delivery but on project output delivery (in the hope and expectation that these outputs will deliver the expected value).

This leads to one of the great disconnects with projects.

  • The project team focuses on its outputs and largely ignores the value.
  • The business team expects the project outputs to deliver the value.
Sorry folks, but projects alone rarely deliver the business value expected, and there's a very good reason for this.

The realization of value requires a change from the current business state to a new business state. Just putting in a new computer system, for example, does not do this — it may deliver some value (measured at around 20-25% of the potential total), but the majority of the value is realized through organizational change and commitment.

Only the business manages the organization. Only the business can change the organization. Therefore, it is only the business that can realize the benefits and associated value.

Now, before project managers sign off from any focus on value again, a few things need to be cleared up.

  1. Value is derived from the delivery of measurable business end states (what we call, 'desired business outcomes').

  2. The primary task of all projects is to define these desired business outcomes and plan all of the activities required to deliver them. This is a joint accountability of the project, governance team and business.

  3. The project alone will not usually deliver all of these desired business outcomes in full, but should be planned to deliver a sub-set that enables or supports the subsequent delivery of the full business outcomes and their associated value.

  4. The project team (in conjunction with the business) is also accountable for planning the additional non-project team delivered work required to move the organization from the project-delivered outputs to the desired business end states with their benefits and value.

This value-focused planning approach ensures:
  • The project outcomes are measurable.
  • The gap between them and the desired business outcomes is known.
  • The workload required to realize the benefits and value is planned from the outset.
With this value-focused project planning process you'll end up with:
  • Activities enacted totally within the project (Project delivery plans).
  • Activities enacted by both the project team and the business (Project and Benefits delivery plans).
  • Activities enacted totally within the business with no project team involvement (eg. post project benefits delivery plans).

This value-planning approach securely 'locks' the business into both the project and the delivery of its (and their own) outcomes and value.

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Click here for the fourth article in this the series "Refocusing Projects onto Business Value, Part 4: Redefining 'Success'".

Click here for the first article in this the series "Refocusing Projects onto Business Value, Part I: The Need".

Jed Simms is CIO magazine's weekly project management columnist. Simms, founder of projects and benefits delivery research firm Capability Management, is also the developer of specialized project management and project governance Web site


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