Benefits management is the process by which organizations ensure that they obtain real value rather than merely a set of deliverables from projects. Benefits management is about ensuring that value is defined, identified, agreed upon and realized by the project. It is a very simple idea, and is no more than ensuring that we all remember why we are doing the project. That idea sounds simple when stated like that, but in large, long or complex projects it is easy to lose sight of why we are doing something.
Benefits management comprises five phases:
These phases may be correlated to four of the five phases of the project lifecycle: initiate, plan, monitor and control, and close.
Benefits identification occurs during the initiating phase of a project. It is an integral part of the project selection process. It is the processes by which the benefits of a project are identified and qualified against business need. It is not uncommon to compare the benefits of a project against the corporate strategy. If a sponsor is choosing between two competing projects, it will be the one whose benefits are aligned to the strategy that should be picked. In fact if none of the identified benefits of the project can be linked to the corporate strategy, or no benefits can be identified for the project, then the project manager must consider the wisdom in pursuing it at all.
In benefits identification:
It may also be useful to state the risks, that is, what can happen to invalidate the 'why' above.
Benefits analysis is the second phase in benefits management. This phase straddles the initiation and planning phases of the project lifecycle. This phase aims to provide the project manager with a thorough understanding of the benefits to be achieved by the project and metrics with which to monitor and control the realization of the benefits. In benefits analysis you extend the 'what' and 'why' and 'risks' of the identification phase to a finer level of detail, and understand the ramifications and factors that are likely to affect the degree of benefit.
The third phase in benefits management is benefits planning. This is about the 'how' how your project will deliver the benefits. The benefits realization plan exceeds the life of the project plan. Where the project plan ends on completion of the final deliverable, the benefits realization plan outlines how the benefits from the project will be transitioned into business-as-usual. As benefits are often realized after the project has finished, so the benefits realization plan must be written to reflect this.
The key thing in benefits planning is to link every deliverable to benefits, and document clearly how the deliverable can create benefits, stating what must be done with the deliverable for that to happen.
The fourth phase in benefits management is benefits realization and sits within the monitor and control phase in the project management lifecycle. Benefits realization is, at its most basic, the implementation of the benefits realization plan. Realizing the benefits is the raison d' tre of benefits management. This phase enables the project manager to deliver the benefits in addition to the deliverables.
The fifth and final phase in benefits management is benefits transition. Benefits transition occurs when the project is completed, but benefits realization is not. Benefits transition is the transition of benefits management from the project into the ongoing operations of the organization. This phase occurs during the closing phase of the project lifecycle. However, due to the ongoing nature of benefits, it is likely to continue to occur after the project is completed. It is for this phase that it is critical that the benefits have been assigned 'owners' beyond the life of the project.
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