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Benefits Management: What Every Project Manager Needs to Know [and Do]

Benefits Management - What every Project Manager needs to know [and do]

Benefits Management is coming out of the shadows. For many years, it has been a part of Program Management: not Project Management. But that is changing, and Project Managers need to keep up with the times – and get ahead. Benefits Realization is increasingly on the list of skills our sponsors and clients desire… Even require.

No longer can we afford to ignore project benefits and simply ‘leave them to the operational teams’. We need to take responsibility for realizing the benefits our projects promise.

So, it’s time to learn the basics of Project Benefits Management. And, if I have you convinced, you can go on to take our new course: Project Benefits Management. If you are reading this during the launch period (February 2021) then we have a launch offer.

What is the Case for Benefits Management?

Let’s start with why you need to understand Project Benefits Management.

Essentially, it seems to me to be very simple. Our organizations, bosses, and clients commission projects because they want the benefits that they will lead to.

In the ‘old days’, we read that as ‘they want the products’ so they can get the benefits. But now, that seems lame. They want the benefits and they want us to make sure they get the benefits.

Turnaround times on innovation are shortening. So, if the project fails to plan for and deliver benefits realization, then we are short-changing our stakeholders.

Two Scenarios

What that means for you, as a project manager, is simple:

  1. If you have the skills and expertise to deliver project benefits management – as well as products – that will be a career asset. Which PM would you hire?
    1. one who can deliver benefits realization, or
    2. one who can only deliver products?
  2. In ten years’ time (maybe less), most PMs will have benefits management skills. You want the most interesting, challenging, well-paid project management roles. But, how will you get them if you are the only one competing for them who does not have the expertise to assure your sponsor that you can realize their project benefits?

For me, the case is clear. You need to get out ahead of the trend. And you ought to do it now.

  • Perhaps because your career-based self-interest drives you, or
  • Maybe because you know it’s the right skill to add to your professional toolkit.

More Thoughts on the Why You Need Benefits Management Skills

I develop these thoughts in this short video…
[Video available from 2 February 2021]

So, read on. And consider investing a small amount in our new Project Benefits Management course.

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

Benefits Management - What every Project manager needs to know [and do]

7- Step Benefits Management Process

In the Course, I define Benefits Management in detail, along with defining what a benefit is. Here is a short introduction that answers the question, ‘What are Project Benefits?’ It’s from our YouTube channel:
[Video available from 4 February 2021]

My Project Benefits Management process has seven steps. In this article, we take a look at each one in turn:

  1. Benefits Management Strategy
  2. Identify & Analyze Benefits
  3. Optimize Benefits Portfolio
  4. Benefits Realization Plan
  5. Realize & Track Benefits
  6. Review & Optimize Benefits
  7. Grow & Sustain Benefits
7-Step Benefits Management Process

And this is the framework I use as the structure for a brand new course. It’s called Project Benefits Management.

The standard price is US$57 (+ any local taxes). Until the end of February 2021, there is a substantial launch discount of $30 (Pay only $27).

If you prefer a short summary video to reading on, this is a 7-minute summary of the full article, below:
[Video available from 11 February 2021]

Step 1: Benefits Management Strategy

Your Benefits Management Strategy oversees all of your Project Benefits Management activities. It can be either:

  • An Organization-wide strategy that applies to every project.
    However, you may adapt that strategy to particularise it to each project.
  • A project-specific document that guides your benefits management process and activities for that one project.

It is an overall framework for delivering a project’s or program’s strategic objectives.

What Goes into a Benefits Management Strategy

Either way, it needs to accomplish a number of things. These include:

  • Tools, methodologies, and processes you’ll use
  • The Benefits Classification you will use
  • Roles and Responsibilities
  • Governance
  • Definitions

The Details are in the Course

These are just the main elements. In our course, we cover all the things you need to include. And we support you with:

  • Benefits Management Strategy:
    • checklist
    • template
  • Roles and Responsibilities (including a checklist)
  • Benefits Management Dictionary

Step 2: Identify & Analyze Benefits

This step is where you get started on delivery. And you do so, by identifying potential benefits and assessing them.

But not all benefits are equal. So, you will need to prioritize which ones you pursue. If you don’t, you will lose focus and risk failing to realize the most important benefits. However, that is looking ahead to step 3. In this step, you’ll lay the groundwork by analyzing your potential benefits.

There are four principle parts to this step, each with its own tools:

  1. You’ll start by creating a long-list of potential benefits. And you will document it on a Benefits Register.
  2. Then, you’ll evaluate the benefits on your register, using one or more tools.
  3. For substantial benefits that are likely candidates for prioritization, you will build detailed benefits profiles.
  4. I recommend creating a benefits map that allows you to see how the different benefits relate to one another.

The Details are in the Course

These are just the main elements. In our course, we cover all the things you need to include. And we support you with:

  • Templates for:
    • Benefits Register (simple and full versions)
    • Benefits Profile
  • Checklist
  • Benefits evaluation methods
    This includes a detailed introduction to Discounted Cash Flows with a cheat-sheet and spreadsheet
  • Benefits Map and other tools
  • Discussion of Disbenefits

Step 3: Optimize Benefits Portfolio

Ruthless prioritization will prevent you from pursuing lesser benefits at the risk of being distracted from those that matter most.

Of course, the substance of prioritization and selecting your optimum portfolio of project benefits is easy to state… You need to identify which are the most important benefits.

There are a number of considerations that will include:

  • Strategic impact
  • Economic impact
  • Stakeholder politics

Having made your prioritization, the next step is to build your optimised portfolio into your project Business Case or Project Proposal.

The Details are in the Course

These are just the main elements. In our course, we cover all the things you need to include. And we support you with:

  • Details of your Project Business case, including templates:
  • Full list of benefits prioritization criterial
  • Checklist
  • Balanced Benefits Scorecard approach

Step 4: Benefits Realization Plan

Your Benefits Realization Plan is a detailed description of how you will achieve each of the benefits in your Business Case. Clearly, it needs to integrate with other components of your project plan, along with detailing your:

  • Benefits review points
  • Benefits handover plans

Integrating with your project plan means thinking about things that include:

  • delivery schedule
  • risk management
  • stakeholder engagement
  • communications

The Details are in the Course

These are just the main elements. In our course, we cover all the things you need to include. And we support you with:

  • Three approaches to creating your benefits schedule
  • Creating real benefits ownership in the business
  • Benefits realization plan:
    • checklist
    • template

Step 5: Realize and Track Benefits

Finally, let’s start delivering! This is the step where you manage risks and realize benefits. And, of course, you need to track your progress and report to your sponsor, client, and stakeholders.

You will need to develop a benefits tracking process and that means having a combination of:

  1. Primary Output and Performance Measures
  2. Secondary Performance Indicators

The Details are in the Course

These are just the main elements. In our course, we cover all the things you need to include. And we support you with:

  • Benefits realization and tracking checklist
  • How the benefits tracking régime fits into the project monitor and control cycle
  • Example Benefits Management dashboard

Step 6: Review and Optimize Benefits

Realizing your benefits is not the end of the process. It’s a core part of the process to review how well you have done. And from your review, you need to learn lessons and make changes to further optimize the level of benefits your organization or client can enjoy.

This is likely to result in a number of remedial actions to both optimise your Benefits Realization and improve your benefits management process.

The Details are in the Course

These are just the main elements. In our course, we cover all the things you need to include. And we support you with:

  • Two Benefits Review templates
  • Benefits Review checklist
  • How this step relates to the Project Stage Gate Process

Step 7: Grow and Sustain Benefits

Clearly, your ultimate objective (for your organization) must be to create a benefits-led culture.

However, at this stage, we recognize that benefits management is a whole-life activity. Beyond the time-span of your project, the operational teams need to grow and sustain the benefits your project realized. And that means putting the groundwork in place during the project delivery and close stages.

The Details are in the Course

These are just the main elements. In our course, we cover all the things you need to include. And we support you with:

  • Step 7 checklist
  • Creating a Benefits-led Culture
  • Benefits Management Maturity Model

Learn More about Benefits Management

Project Benefits Management

Our Project Benefits Management course consists of 20 core videos and some bonus videos too. The core content is over 2½ hours of viewing and I estimate the total content is work 4 hours of PDUs or CPD points.

If you are reading this during the launch window (February 2021), there is a substantial discount available.

Loads More Benefits Management Goodness in the Course

There are a lot of extras in our course. And it is likely we will be adding to it – at no extra cost to people who have bought it. At launch, these extras include:

  • 10 Templates
  • 14 Checklists
  • Over a dozen tools
  • Benefits Management Dictionary (50+ entries)
  • Benefits Management Maturity Model
  • Comparison with proprietory Benefits Management Methodologies
  • Where to learn more
  • Course benefits plana and benefits review

What is Your Experience of Benefits Management?

I’d love to hear about your experiences with project benefits management. And also, about questions? And, my question to you…

How do you assess my assertion that the time has come for Project Managers to turn our attention squarely onto benefits management?

About the Author Mike Clayton

Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.

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