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How do PMOs make benefits management happen?

In The State of the PMO UK survey by Wellingtone and APM PMO SIG [published January 2016], benefits management and realisation was reported to be the hardest part of a PMO structure to successfully embed in an organisation.

The way I see it, there are a number of options for PMOs of any scale and type to achieve success in the benefits management space.

Control everything: from project inception to closure and realisation. Supporting the team in defining benefits and measures, tracking opportunities, and facilitating the realisation reporting. This is tantamount to PMO doing benefits management in its entirety, and does carry with it a significant overhead of time and resources to manage effectively. Maybe this approach would suit a large scale enterprise PMO?

Beginning and end view: focusing on the what and the when of benefits realisation. Helping to define up front means that initially benefits are identified and aren’t double-counted – a real problem in benefits management. However, if the project changes, PMOs may have to ‘dip in and out’ of the project on an ad-hoc basis – rather more often than they would like! 

This ‘gap’ in the project life-cycle leads to a lack of ‘benefits visibility’ for the PMO – often mirrored in the project team. When things change, as inevitably they will, reviewing the benefits tends to go by the wayside. 

Define key touchpoints: for the PMO to work with the project team regularly to define, refine, and review benefits throughout the life of the project or programme. This ensures that the PMO keeps the project Team focused on the end goal. However, it can also mean that as changes occur, the time to adjust can take longer due to a built-in lag in before the benefits logic is re-validated or plans re-profiled.

One thing is for sure – whichever option a PMO does select the post-project facilitation of benefits is key to making things work!

However, following the closure of a project, team members go their respective ways, leaving the accountable owner[s] responsible for tracking benefits.

Now, I don’t know about you but, the accountable owners that I know are usually senior in the organisation and therefore; busy, involved with multiple projects and wearing many hats. Do they really have time to track all the benefits and chase information relating to the benefits of their projects? I strongly doubt it. 

Is it any wonder, with the odds so heavily stacked against accountable owners doing tracking the benefits, they don’t get tracked?

Enter the PMO. The PMO is well placed to collaborate with their peer teams [e.g. Finance and HR] to facilitate monitoring and reporting of post-project benefits. This simple step adds enormous value to accountable owners and the organisation as a whole, as they come to see the PMO as a trusted business partner providing, amongst other things, benefits realisation services. 

Arguably, a similar options-driven approach to other project disciplines [e.g. risk or project accounting] will help to successfully embed other parts of the PMO structure in organisations.

As chair of APM PMO SIG I will be sharing the stage with Reinhard Wagner, IPMA President as they present on ‘The Rise of the Enterprise PMO’ at Bringing Projects to Life on 17 June.

EVA21 is going to be a great couple of days and I’m really looking forward to learning together with an international cast of practitioners and thought leaders.

Why not come along and add your own thoughts to the mix – it’s all about the newest thinking; who says you don’t have the next big idea? 

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  1. Vince Hines
    Vince Hines 14 June 2016, 12:24 PM

    Hi Emma,Good practical summary!  ...and very similar to what we recommend as a practical approach to our clients.  During the project benefits management should sit under the ownership of the PM (ideal I know) but as you stated...once the project finished is when the gap appears.  The PM and project team scatter leaving the Sponsor to track the benefit...which they won't.  This is where the PMO needs to step in.  We recommend they maintain a Benefits Log to track defined benefits from all projects after they close.  This is sometimes completed in cooperation with finance (for cost driven benefits).  This focus ensures completed projects are not just left to disappear in the background and, more importantly, benefits being sold on proposed projects can be judged with a more critical eye..."yes, you said that we would save £x last year from that other project...and we didn't...the PMO tracked the benefits and they were half what you stated."Benefits tracking should be at the top of the list for everyone...its why we are doing projects in the first place!