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Benefits Management: the essential ingredient for change, 10 Jan 17 - Southampton

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It takes something a bit special to attract 49 Wessex branch members and guests on a cold evening after a busy day working day to attend a presentation, but those who attended the talk about benefits management at the Ageas Bowl, Southampton were not disappointed when they attended the first Branch meet of 2017. After an enjoyable buffet and time to catch up, the presentation was divided into two, the first half given by Neil White, Chairman of the Benefits Management SIG, and he was followed by Merv Wyeth, also from the SIG.

Neil demonstrated an ALEXA and flew a drone to make the point that benefits are inextricably linked to transformational change and all the dynamics that involves. It also became clear that benefits and their management are not confined within a single silo of project management, evidenced as the talk soon widened to include: stakeholders, efficiency, change, leadership and performance. The case was made clearly for the need to engage in benefits management and that constant change was one of the key drivers.

Merv continued the theme of benefits management and pressed the need for measurable improvement. That brought to mind one of Einstein’s quotes, "Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts." One of the challenges of benefits management is to identify which benefits are the ones to address, not necessarily just because they are measurable. Some frameworks to help were given and it was refreshing to see that while the positive points of benefits management were made, the practitioner reality that some, if not most projects exist within a zero sum game environment, which creates an environment that while benefits can be achieved, they don't exist without the likelihood of dis-benefits and that a watchful eye must be kept at all times to spot if some stakeholders may obtain a negative outcome due to a new project while other stakeholders obtain the benefits. Five Key Points were discussed which it is believed are important in the process of benefits management.

The five points were:

1. Stakeholders
2. Leaders
3. Responsibility
4. Capability
5. Complexity

The talks finished with the speakers successfully fielding a series of questions which included a brief discussion about how value and benefits differ but are both part of the subject area within project management. Neil and Merv were left in no doubt how well their talks had been received by the positive feedback from the evening’s delegates. It was then for all to venture back into the cold evening and head for home. However, while we had all heard the same talk it would be for each person to reflect and decide how benefits management could work for them within the context of many different organisations, types of projects and associated stakeholders, and therein lies a cause of complexity ...

Dr Roger Atkinson Senior Academic
Faculty of Management, Bournemouth University and Wessex committee member


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