Project Benefits Management: everything you need to know


What is a project benefit?

A project benefit is defined as an outcome that is beneficial to either an individual or a group of stakeholders. In order to define project benefits, there initially needs to be a detailed understanding of why a project is being executed. If project benefits are clearly outlined, then it is far more likely that those involved in the project will have a higher level of confidence and the outcomes will be delivered more efficiently.

Project Benefits Management
Project Benefits Management

While some project benefits are easier to define and measure, there are others that are far less tangible. Some possible project benefits include: improved outcomes, a higher standard of customer service or reduced business running costs.

Before outlining project benefits it's important to ensure the team involved in the project have the relevant skills and background experience required.
These are all areas that have to be defined and outlined when isolating what the project benefits will be for a specific project.

What is project benefits realisation?

Project benefits realisation is the set processes in place that are used to identify, execute and measure project benefits. By having a project benefits realisation in place it ensures the project is defined and can be efficiently implemented, which leads to the delivery of outcomes. Having benefits realisation established is crucial for all projects, whether these are basic through to more complex.

Benefits realisation management encompasses the complete life cycle of a project and is separated into 4 distinct phases. The first of these is where the project is identified and structured and the phrase is known as initiation and approval. Then we move to the next phase where benefits are planned, this is referred to as the governance and planning phase. The third phase is where project benefits are monitored and optimized and is called the execution and control phase. Finally the last phase is defined as realisation and benefits evaluation, otherwise known as the project closure and project review phase.

By assessing the project benefits in these 4 different phases of the project it enables you to bring themes, processes and key principles together to assist with business prioritization and deliver outcomes from business changes.

The importance of having the 4 phases to evaluate project outcomes is it helps stakeholders to manage benefits, as well as assisting with benefits capability development.

How is a benefits realisation plan template developed?

A benefits realisation plan template identifies how the benefits processes will be implemented in a project. It provides a detailed description of the tasks as well as the time frame, resources and approach for the total project.

The plan template is normally separated into different sections. These sections are as follows:

1. Executive summary: programme overview, as well as how key benefits are tracked.
2. Business management phases: outlines how each phase in the project links in together.
3. Business case benefits reconciliation: economic and business case benefits appraisal.

4. Benefits ownership: roles and benefits accountabilities and resolutions.
5. Benefits activity plan: tasks for each phase of the benefits realisation plan.
6. Baseline measures: determines how measures are collected and time frames.
7. Benefits and organisational change: process changes as well as the initiatives required to ensure outputs.
8. Go live: listing of all the integral processes.
9. Posts go live benefits tracking: description of benefits data collection through to the reporting processes.
10. Benefit profiles: outline of each benefit.

Benefits realization report

The benefits realization report identifies how successful a project has been in achieving the benefits for which it was initially developed. As each benefit has multiple measurements established to determine whether or not the outcome has been achieved, the report tracks these before highlighting the findings to stakeholders. As different measurements are relevant to stakeholders in different departments, the relevant findings are given to each separately. The report also assesses why targets have been missed and investigates these in detail.

It's crucial that each of the phases before the reporting are researched and outlined in detail as inadequacies in these earlier stages will become apparent in the reporting after project completion. Some of the areas where a project can fall short, which are identified in the reporting, are failing to track sufficient benefits, targets that are unrealistic, measures that aren't appropriate to identify how successfully a benefit has been reached and targets that result in inappropriate behavior.

To more efficiently track and attribute measurements for reporting, building a benefits map is a smart decision. Benefits should be linked together with ways in which these are measured and the final outcome or outcomes that have been achieved. By creating a benefits map it's much simpler to follow measurements.

Each of the steps outlined above are essential for project benefits management. Although the benefits realization plan template will be tailored to suit different business' project demands, it's an integral part in following each stage of the project for tracking and reporting. By incorporating these steps you can ensure better outcomes from your projects, as well as identify any areas that require further investigation to discover why the benefits weren't achieved, so these can be rectified in later projects.

The key to effective project benefits management is initially identifying what project benefits or outcomes you desire in detail. If this isn't done at the beginning of a project, then it's more likely to fail.

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