The British Infrastructure and Projects Authority recently published a unique Guide for Effective Benefits Management , because benefits management goes to the heart of delivering projects successfully. The guide has been written to help project teams develop their benefits management capability and ensure benefits activities mature at the same pace as other areas of project delivery. It promotes a benefits led approach to project delivery which should ensure decision making, planning and risk considers the impact on benefits realisation throughout the project lifecycle.
Sarah Drake, the CEO of APM (member of IPMA), supports the guide with the following words: “APM – the Association for Project Management – is delighted to be able to endorse this guidance which will be another step in raising professionalism on project management across the government. We stand shoulder to shoulder with the IPA in the belief that the increased profile of the project management profession will be enhanced by the benefits created through the increasingly successful delivery of project and programmes in government.”
The guide aims to provide structure and set expectations for major project teams when undertaking benefits management. It is primarily aiming at Senior Responsible Owners (SROs), Programme and Project Directors, Benefits Managers and Business Change Managers working on major projects. The scope of the guide includes but is not limited to the following:
– key activities to be undertaken for effective benefits management;
– principles and good practice to adopt to ensure benefits are managed and realised;
– a suggested RACI (responsible, accountable, consulted and informed) matrix for the key roles involved in benefits management;
– a glossary of terms;
– suggested benefits management cycle and practices.
Benefits are defined as “the measurable improvement resulting from an outcome perceived as an advantage by one or more stakeholders, which contributes towards one or more organisational objectives”. It basically means that benefits should be measurable as an improvement resulting from the outcome (the end result) of the change. Different stakeholders will value the same benefits differently. Additionally, in some cases, a benefit to one stakeholder may be a disbenefit (an outcome perceived as negative) to another. Benefits create the link between tangible outputs and strategic goals. They ensure there is alignment of effort, resources and investment towards achieving organisational objectives.
Benefits management is “the identification, definition, tracking, realisation and optimisation of benefits”. It´s undertaken throughout the whole project lifecycle – before the project, during the project and after the project, not just during investment decision-making. Basically, (pro-)active and effective benefits management demonstrates the reason why a project should be undertaken, and as such should be managed as robustly as costs. Thinking about benefits before the project has been scoped and starting with the end in mind ensures the most adequate and suitable solution is developed. Considering the impact on benefits throughout the project lifecycle provides reassurance that the project is still viable and worthwhile. Planning for benefits activities to continue after project close.
However, in real life we are facing several challenges, e.g. project teams and stakeholders are overly optimistic about benefits, benefits management is seen as bureaucratic and time consuming, the project team is not engaging with stakeholders enough, or resources are not set aside for benefits realisation. Although some of these challenges are easier to resolve than others, there is a growing recognition across the project and programme delivery community that solutions need to be developed.
The guide for benefits management suggests that managers of major projects should consider applying (amongst others) the following principles throughout the lifecycle:
- Benefits management activities should be integrated into other project management activities as much as possible.
- Project benefits should be identified, quantified and managed in line with the programme or portfolio strategically above it to ensure consistency and strategic contribution to programme and portfolio or Departmental goals.
- There should be a clear and documented understanding of roles and responsibilities for all benefits management activity, with sufficient evidence that individuals have accepted the responsibilities and activities assigned to them.
- Benefits management activities should be appropriate, scalable and proportionate to the size of the project.
- Benefits management should be an evidence based activity driven by actual and real information as much as possible.
- Benefits management should be seen as a continuous activity, whereby the benefits realised and reviewed by one project should inform valuable lessons learned and determine the starting point for similar future initiatives.
The guide provides in an annex a detailed benefits cycle, from policy formation, via project initiation through to post-delivery operations and business as usual. The benefits cycle practices can generally be aligned to the lifecycle stages of a project when they are predominantly undertaken but are not necessarily sequential, however, there is no unique mapping of each benefits management practice to project stage. The table contains key activities and key products, such as a Benefits Management Strategy, a Benefits Register or the Benefits Realisation Plan.
Benefits management is not the responsibility of one person alone, but a combined effort of project and Business-As-Usual roles. Benefits management roles and responsibilities interface with many functions, most of which transcend the project management lifecycle. Outlined are key roles involved in benefits management and their specific responsibilities with respect to benefits management. For example, the role of a SRO, a programme director, PMO, Benefits Owners, and Operations. However, it is by no means an exhaustive list. Additionally, the guide provides an example RACI model.