Benefits Management: For or Against?
In this session, we take a closer look at benefits management and benefits realisation.
Just what are the expectations of the PMO when it comes to benefits management? How do we prioritise? Should we be reporting it, and if so what?
Or is there a case for the PMO not supporting benefits management? Would it make that much difference?
We were joined by Subash Tavares, the Founder and MD of thevirtualpmo, who talks about the realities of benefits management and the role of the PMO – sharing his experiences from Thames Tideway, Lower Thames Crossing, TfL Major Projects Directorate and other major programmes. He also covered what, how and why we in the PMO need to be at the core of benefits realisation.
This session also featured our first attempt at a debate – find out how we got on and what we learnt.
The role of the PMO is ultimately to the support benefits management process, and measure/monitor/report on benefits
We asked at the beginning of the session, who actually cares about benefits management in your organisation today:
- In relation to the poll results, “Execs certainly care as do we (PMO) but other staff find it a slog” seems to be a shared sentiment across the audience
- Wonder if it’s worth approaching it with the ‘what’s in it for me’ mindset with each different audience to get them to engage effectively?
- The question posed, “The impact of ESG on project business cases: what does Building Back Better mean for those projects already underway and those under development” – not many had heard of it – check out the simple definition. And also for Building Back Better.
- The HM Treasury Green Book Review Report 2020 widens out the definition of benefits to start (finally) include social, economic, environmental.
- “To do true ESG Benefits Management, you need an Economist along with Finance and BA support” Very few organisations have an Economist or access to models needed to support the identification of ESG benefits.
- “I find that discussion of benefits can turn people off as being too academic at the early stage of a project but are accepted as a necessary component of business case development. Then, they are seen to become a “softer” distraction to the tunnel vision projects during delivery, and then a serious area of interest and contention upon close-out and handover (often too late to be meaningful). The gap is often the lack of accountable ownership of benefits in core roles, together with the governance of programmatic environments which don’t always preference discussions of less tangible elements.”
- Disbenefit – instead of a good effect it makes certain things worse.
- Check out the guide for effective benefits management.
- Many PMOs also don’t consider risks to Benefits on their risk registers. “Interesting point about risk registers vs. benefits register. We would love to but our function doesn’t have the bandwidth to follow all capabilities within a textbook. We have to remain pragmatic to the current needs of the org whilst balancing perceived red-tape”
- “How about not calling it Benefits Management. IBM called it Benefits Harvesting, which I quite liked. A whole conversation about reaping what you sow etc”
- “I wonder how much difference it would make if you transferred all the energy used on risk management to benefits management? How many risks would still be managed (as we do a lot of this intuitively and the risk register adds little value per se)? How many more decisions would be based on benefits and more benefits delivered?”
- “Immature portfolio and strategic frameworks, or strategies that are disconnected from project delivery (and vice versa), is undoubtedly a cause. Where you can achieve a true portfolio cascade is a gamechanger. So project X is delivering xx% of strategic objective y, via benefit z. When we set up the new EPMO, we started with right to left, and then tied in left to right. Enabling close-down of non contributing initiatives, and highlighting gaps where a new project is needed to achieve a desired outcome.”
- The role of the PMO is ultimately to the support benefits management process, and measure/monitor/report on benefits.
- “Are we assuming that all benefits are continuously measured post-implementation? Surely we can change our approach and do a post-implementation of study of benefits as a one-off project in future years?”
- “If we stop tracking benefits/ support benefits realisation, how many other services should we/ will we be challenged to divest?”
- “Ultimately, for me, you need to be pragmatic and flex with the needs of the org. Yes for some highly strategic initiatives but for others, a light-touch or not-at-all approach. It depends on many internal organisation factors”
An overriding feeling about benefits management – especially benefits realisation is that the operations side of the business should be ultimately responsible.
The PMO has responsibilities up to and including handover to operations – focusing on the supporting role and the monitoring, measurement and reporting up to that point of handover. “The PMO has to leave the benefits management in a place where operations can deliver the benefits”.
There was also a lot of mentions about the benefits management process – the left to right and right to left. If you’re not familiar with this – it’s about the benefits mapping process – it’s often better to work back from the strategic objective rather than from the initiative. You can have a read of a guide from APM about using a benefits management framework here.
The debate around benefits management was about whether the PMO should be involved in the benefits management process – there was strong agreement that the PMO should focus more on the business case but don’t do the benefits tracking (see that note about the operations department picking the benefits realisation part of the process up). The most important thing the PMO could help with is getting people incentivised to deliver the benefits at the beginning of the project rather than spending tim
e tracking benefits.
What is clear is that the benefits management process will vary based on the organisation and the PMO has a role to play in helping to determine what that process is. There is also a role around supporting the business case development process. What needs to be clearer is where the PMO gets involved in terms of monitoring and reporting of benefits – and more importantly where it doesn’t get involved.
The action for any PMO here is about defining that PMO service – in conjunction with the approach the organisation wants to take – making it clear about what support it offers and also the likely metrics or KPIs involved if the PMO bows out before benefits are realised post-project.
Ultimately we asked after the debate – were they for or against the PMO being involved in benefits management – a close call.
Part of the answering here was perhaps also related to the fact that some of the PMOs were more focused on agile and DevOps delivery where benefits management hasn’t figured as highly.