Would you rather be a ‘Project Manager’ or a ‘Benefits Manager’?
After all, a project might deliver a new building, an I.T. system, or a new product, but that does not mean that any benefits will be realised.
In fact, at the point of project completion and handover, NO benefits have yet been realised!
Remember also, that it is very possible to deliver a project that doesn’t EVER realise the intended benefits…….
I have previously written on the different types of benefits that a project may deliver. Here is a link to previous blog on the subject.
This blog will look what benefits management is, and what skills are required to do it well.
How is Benefits Management Defined?
First port-of-call on any project management topic is the Association for Project Management (APM) Body of Knowledge.
The APM definition for Benefits Management (BoK 6th Edition Glossary): The identification, definition, planning, tracking, and realisation of business benefits.
Further investigation shows that Benefits Management overlaps with both Benefits Realisation and Scope Management.
Benefits Management is at the core of Project, Programme, and Portfolio Management:
- The very definition of Projects is that they are change initiatives (and why would you do a non-beneficial change?) Projects also should meet objectives, and the objectives should benefit the organisation.
- Programme Management is about achieving beneficial change
- Portfolio Management process reviews the balance of investment v benefit across many projects
But benefits are also controlled by ‘Scope Management’, which helps identify which parts of the project will be tackled to provide the benefits.
‘Realisation Management’ happens towards the end of the project, and continues after the project is completed. It may well be that the client or end-user has to ensure that benefits are accrued after hand-over, long after the project manager has moved on.
Therefore, keeping an eye on benefits is vital from the project outset and objective setting, to the handover and the benefits realisation phase. It should also be noted that as the project progresses new benefits might surface that need to be considered.
But how do we do Benefits Management?
What are the APM Competencies for Benefits Management?
Competence 27 (of 27!) is Benefits Management in the APM Competence Framework. This competence defines the ‘application’ and the ‘knowledge’ required for Benefits Management. So here we can find out what we need to know to do Benefits Management:
- Goal Analysis
- Strategic Mapping
- Risk Management
- Issue Management
- Identifying tangible and intangible benefits
- Understanding financial and non-financial benefits
- Benefits Profiling
- Stakeholder Impact Assessment
- Benefit Maps
- Benefit Categorisation and Evaluation
- Benefit Measures
I think that there are a few tools/methods in this list that many people would need to examine further to use correctly. Application or use of the tools is the second part of the Competence Framework, so this is what should be done to Manage Benefits:
- Ensures intended benefits are meaningful to stakeholders
- Develops a Benefit Management strategy
- Creates a benefits profile over time
- Ability to link project outputs to benefits
- Matches benefits to strategic objectives
- Creates a benefits realisation plan
- Monitors and tracks progress against the Benefits Management plan
- Monitors risks on the project and their effect on benefits
- Maximises benefits by steering the change initiative where appropriate
Taken together with the knowledge, this now starts to look like a full-time job!
What Skills do you Really Need for Benefits Management?
All of this is well and good, but what skills do you need to get onto your CV to do Benefits Management well?
Benefits Management may be part of the duties of the Project Manager, or the Project Manager may have to liaise closely with another person in the business. Either way, here are some skills required:
- An understanding of the items listed under ‘Knowledge’ above.
- Experience in applying this knowledge as written under ‘Application’ above
But more importantly the softer people skills are required:
- Communication skills
- Written, Verbal, Face-to-Face,
- Understanding Communication Channels
- People skills
- Networking Skills
- Ability to talk to Senior Managers
- Assertiveness Skills
- Negotiation Skills
- Leadership Skills
- Planning Skills
- Ability to create plans
- Distribute plans
- Monitor and Track Progress
- Personal Skills
- Methodical & Organised – to ensure everything is covered
- Dynamic and Charismatic – to get on with the people in the business
A project manager really needs to ensure that they understand who is ensuring that the business benefits are attained, because delivery of the project without delivery of benefits should be viewed as a failure.
‘Benefits Management’ can seem just a throw-away phrase, but doing Benefits Management well requires some detailed knowledge and the ability to apply that knowledge, mainly through people skills.