Benefits and the PMO: getting it right

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Posted by APM on 28th Nov 2012

Convergence – the first joint meeting of the PMO and Benefits Specific Interest Groups

Benefit: the positive and measurable impact of change on the performance of an organisation, contributing to one or more strategic outcomes.

(Video kindly produced by Merv Wyeth, committee member of the Benefits SIG)

 

On 22nd November 120 people converged on Kensington Town Hall in London for this session. A good job we were able to relocate from the original venue holding 40 people.

We heard first from Peter Glynne of the Benefits SIG who introduced the topic of convergence - and not just the convergence between the discipline of benefits realisation and the functions of the PMO. Peter spoke about the need for convergence between the PPM community and other aspects of the business in particular the finance community and HR. A recent survey in Ireland showed increasing involvement in benefits realisation from finance and benefits is now on the ACCA accountancy training curriculum. One organisation drew together the PMO, change management, and operational performance functions into a single unit. This powerful combining of functions can be seen in many portfolio offices but where this is not the case PMOs need to develop engagement strategies to ensure that the business and other functions are all pulling together.

Ralf Finchett PMO SIG committee developed the theme of convergence and the role of the PMO in realising benefits. Ralf brought to life, real experiences of a PMO operating at portfolio level (outside the programmes), and within a programme.

With a portfolio PMO, Ralf mentioned, the portfolio PMO would naturally be the area to establish the ‘rules of the game’. By rules of the game, the PMO should establish the guidance on how benefits should be organised and managed in the organisation, and how they should ‘pick the right players’ i.e. the projects which align to the strategic objectives.

A portfolio level PMO, doesn’t necessarily need to make this an ‘exact science’, but they should be able to understand how the organisation operates and what desired outcomes or benefits measures are required.

Once the portfolio PMO is on the ‘journey’ with benefits management, the PMO should be the source of information to tell the organisation ‘are we nearly there yet’, and also the ones to spot and avoid ‘road kill’. Ralf pointed out that some new projects can wipe out the benefits on past projects with benefits being tracked. ‘It’s not to say don’t do the new project, but gain approval or find ways to avoid eliminating benefits from past projects with new ones’.

Finally Ralf moved onto the programme PMO and their role with benefits. The perception of benefits is usually much greater at the business case stage, than when they are re-assessed during delivery. The programme has moved on, and more is understood, so a PMO can help ‘re-position’ some of the benefits statements, and look for ways to re-define and articulate the perceived benefits in a slightly new way, by using positive and realistic language. He expressed, anything not delivering against business case should be reviewed, but sometimes the benefits might need updating, and the PMO should be central in this activity.

"If finance and the PMO are running similar operations to separately track financial benefits one of them will become irrelevant - and it probably won't be finance."

Next on was the main attraction, Steve Jenner, author of the new TSO guidance ‘Managing Benefits’ [a community of interest is established here] and all round benefits heavyweight (!). Steve didn’t disappoint or pull any punches, delivering a series of upper cuts and low blows as he savaged the audience and business case writers in the world at large for the cognitive errors, optimism bias and wishful thinking that mean benefits promised are rarely realised. Fortunately he also had some solutions ranging from starting with the end in mind, reference class forecasting, the ‘dog that didn’t bark’ test, ‘scout and beacons’, through to effective post-implementation review.

 The presentation is available to download here.

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