Getting the very most from your projects.
Projects are the engines of change within most organizations.
When you decide that you need something new, or you need something old done in a new way, a project is born. From then on, efforts focus on planning, preparing, executing, monitoring, and managing this project. But have you ever had a project that ultimately didn't deliver the benefits you needed?
A great deal of time can elapse between the time that a project is created, and its completion. Things can change along the way as you overcome obstacles. And even very small shifts in project design and execution can affect whether the benefits you wanted when you created the project are still addressed in the final outcome.
When there's a weak connection between the project's deliverables and the organization's needs, then there's a risk that the benefits of a project may be lost along the way. (This is particularly the case when the project team is separate from the project's client.) This is where it makes sense to establish a clear case for the project – so that you can make sure that the deliverables meet expectations, and give the organization the benefits it expects.
"Benefits Management" is the process by which you ensure that your projects deliver what you want. Done effectively, it helps ensure that your project's deliverables give value to the business, and the appropriate return on investment.
In the benefits management process, you answer questions like these:
Investing your time in benefits management helps you reduce the overall risk of the project. It forces you to look at organizational issues that might hurt a project's success, and then deal with those issues in the project plan. After all you begin by knowing what you want the end result to look like, you'll likely improve your ability to predict and avoid many potential obstacles.
A benefit is the desired result of a project that was created to meet a particular operational need. For example, a project designed to reduce the time it takes to process an order has benefits such as improved customer service, increased sales, and reduced frustration for sales staff who have to deal with customer complaints.
The whole point of benefits management is to make sure that your project provides clear benefits – as opposed to simply making sure the project is completed within specific time and resource limitations. So, while the success of project management is to deliver on time and on budget, the success of benefits management takes it one step further – to ensure that the initiative delivers the expected results.
Here are the main phases of benefits management:
During project initiation:
Again, during project initiation:
As the project moves forward:
Towards the end of the project:
Benefits are the reason any project is created and implemented.
Benefits management is all about ensuring that the hard work and investment that's gone into the project gives the greatest possible business return. Projects tend to change over their lifecycles, and even small shifts can produce different results. That's why it's important to focus on the project's benefits, and not just its timely completion.
Benefits management forces you to stay focused on why you started the project in the first place. And it doesn't stop after the project ends, like traditional project management – it continues until all benefits are clearly achieved. You can use the same project planning framework as the rest of the project to do this, but you'll need to build in benefit-specific milestones, as well as establishing accountabilities clearly, and setting up appropriate communications systems. Done this way, benefits management can be a smart addition to a comprehensive project management plan.
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