All projects will produce benefits. Benefits are the reason that we undertake complex and challenging project work. When planning a project, we typically set out our benefits at the beginning of the project, usually as part of our business case, but how can we make sure that these benefits remain possible throughout the project and are achieved at the end of it?
What is benefits management?
Benefits management allows us to control our benefits by clearly identifying and defining them, planning how we will measure them and tracking them through to the end of the project when they will then be realised.
We outline the anticipated benefits of our project at the earliest stages of our project but we won’t realise those benefits until the end of the project. Benefits management offers us a method by which we can manage and monitor our benefits throughout the project life cycle.
The benefits management process
There are four stages to the benefits management process:
The identification stage takes place at the beginning of the project. This is where, simply, the benefits are identified. This can be done using a range of methods, including workshops and analysis. Identification is usually high-level, as they are defined in more detail in the definition stage.
The definition stage explores the benefits in more detail and clearly sets out what the benefit is. The main output of this stage is a benefits profile which will detail when the benefit will be realised, how much it’s worth, who will witness it and what needs to happen. You might like to use the DOAM approach:
- Describe the benefit
- Observe the difference
- Attribute the benefit to an aspect of the project
- Measure the benefit
During the definition stage, you will also determine the method by which the benefit will be measured, such as a percentage profit increase or an increase in positive customer reviews.
During the planning stage the strategy for managing the benefits throughout the project is set out. The planning stage confirms that the project is suitable for achieving the benefits that we have set out. This is the stage at which we might establish benefits milestones and a plan for monitoring the progress of the project towards the realisation of the benefits.
Once we have planned our approach for monitoring the benefits, the project can begin and we can move into the tracking phase. Tracking involves making sure that the project remains on track so that our benefits will be achieved in the timeframe planned. Tracking the benefits throughout the project allows us to check that our project is on track to achieve the benefits as intended. It will also help us identify if our project is going off track and may not achieve the benefits.
The final stage of the process is the realisation stage. This is the point at which we confirm whether the benefits have been achieved. The project manager will use the measurement method set out in the definition stage to determine whether the benefits are being realised. As this is the final stage in the process, it’s important to show that the project has achieved the benefits stated in the business case and demonstrate that the project manager and project team have carried out the project effectively.
3 benefits management tips for beginners
We have discussed what benefits management is and a process that you can follow, but what are some practical tips for a new project manager to use?
- Follow a process. Following this process will enhance your benefits management skills. Applying this process to benefits management ensures that each of the benefits of your project is clearly understood and can be effectively managed and appropriately realised.
- Use your team. Make use of the team around you, particularly when identifying benefits. Benefits management benefits from making use of the team. If your team help to identify the benefits, and therefore understand them, they will also buy in to your project and seek to achieve the successful outcomes that you want too.
- Clarify your benefits. Making sure the benefits of the project are clear is key. If you clearly identify and define the project benefits at the beginning of the process, the rest becomes much easier. It also ensures that your team and stakeholders understand exactly what the project is going to achieve.
Benefits management is one of the most important project processes. Benefits are the focus of our projects. As such, we want to ensure that they can be achieved by our project. By understanding and following the benefits management process, benefits management becomes simpler and will allow you to achieve the project benefits and enhance your project success.
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