Is it possible to manage a project, without taking account of benefits management? I could ask, I suppose, “what did project managers do before benefits management came along”? I could ask, “do project managers use benefits management”?
Project management is about getting the job done. For many project managers, this means having a clear definition of desired outcome, usually in the form of highly specific outputs. Successful project managers are successful because they control the scope, and set severe penalties (in terms of change budget, change timescale, or changed quality) whenever a client (Internal or external) wants to change the scope. This can mean that what the project delivers is not fit for purpose, even though it is on time and on budget, simply because it doesn’t address the need.
Benefits management approaches this from the opposite direction. Benefits management looks at the problem that needs solving, or the opportunity that needs a response. It allows to changing circumstances, either for a changing environment (changes in priorities which can lead to changes in the allocation of resources, new opportunities for new regulatory requirements), or for changing internal obstacles (the loss of a key member of staff, the change in the price or cost of one of the components). Benefits management aim is to “keep your eyes on the prize”, to remember why you are doing this project, and to be flexible in what you do, so long as you achieve the best possible benefit.
This can mean changing the deliverable outputs, change in the quality/time/budget, changing all the things that are now anathema to an ordinary project manager to change. This makes benefits management something quite challenging,
something to be “resisted at all costs”. It also means that some of our most successful companies is benefits management internally, as well as helping their clients use benefits management.
Projects deliver outputs – the capability to deliver benefits. Even a programme, which consists of a number of projects linked together, which together may deliver a new culture in an organisation, and certainly a new capability, usually don’t deliver benefits of himself. Benefits are delivered by regular day-to-day employees doing things differently.
This means that the realisation of benefits is outside the control of the project manager – another reason for project managers to “resisted at all costs”. It means that we need a new approach to start engagement, so that people feel a part of it. It means that we need a new approach to project handover – one that includes a clear explanation of what the project intended to achieve, in terms of benefits, whether expressed in cash terms or non-cash terms. And it means that we need to monitor how people use the capabilities delivered, and understand whether the benefits promised in the business case have been delivered.