Benefits management is a process that ensures that projects are delivered as they are expected. A project is born when a something new is to be started or anything existing is required to be changed for the better. The entire process begins with ‘planning’ and ends with ‘completion’. The process involves planning, initiating, implementing, managing and monitoring. Adherence to these steps only could ensure that projects are completed and delivered as desired. Non-adherence could lead to a huge gap between result produced and result expected.
Normally there is a considerable time gap between creation of a project and its actual completion. It is very likely that the concerns at the time of completion of a project are different from those at the beginning. Such deviations could be minimized if the needs of an organization are similar to the concerning project’s deliverables. Herein comes the significance of ‘benefits management’ which attempts to unite project deliverables with an organization’s expectations.
Typical Areas of Benefit Management Application are when:
- Stakeholders subjected to change are required to become stakeholders involved in change;
- Project implementation is slated to become a changed management plan;
- Technology delivery needs to change to benefits delivery;
- A substantial portion of unfocused investment could become sufficient to complete a job;
- Manpower trained in technology could exploit technology;
- Task monitoring could be changed to benefits tracking;
- Technology delivery actually becomes benefits delivery;
- Responsibility of manager changes from an onlooker to a controller.
Benefits management induces a company to adopt more holistic methods of business where projects play important roles in business transformation. Emphasis is put on how actually a business would benefit from changes introduced, with these benefits being measured and assessed. ‘Benefits management’ aims at finding answers to questions like ‘what business objectives would a project meet’, ‘is the project valid’, and ‘are the benefits relevant’ and so on. The primary objective of benefits management is to reduce the risk of any new project. This it does through tackling issues that could obstruct implementation of the said project. Once the end result is visualized removal of obstacles becomes easier and planned objectives become achievable. Benefits management ensures that a project fulfils a specific need and offers candid benefits. If success of project management lies in timely delivery of project then the success of benefits management lies in meeting expected outcome.
Benefits Management Phases
Benefits management is executable in four phases, namely: i) defining and developing benefits; ii) developing benefits plan; iii) monitoring benefits during project execution; and iv) project completion and review.
Phase 1: Defining and Developing Benefits
This is the first stage of any project and involves thorough enquiries and projection. For identification of focus areas of improvement a meeting with stakeholders, either personally or in groups, is mandatory. Such meetings are not only essential but demand a handsome presence of members. In these meetings, areas of concern are discussed and benefits revealed. Each member’s opinion about benefits and corresponding expected outcomes are noted down for future course of action.
These benefits are then listed out and classified under two heads: ‘must haves’ and ‘good to haves’. The ‘must have’ benefits should be in conformity to the company’s business needs and strategies. Priority should always be on achieving the ‘must haves’ and subsequently the ‘good to haves’.
Maximizing benefits – It is the primary objective every management action must be steered towards that direction. For this purpose changes should be brought about in organizational and functional setups if required. Also other ancillary projects if required should be introduced. Changes in infrastructure, publicity or human resource if necessary should be made for maximizing benefits.
Cost-benefit analysis – For any project, a cost-benefit analysis is of vital importance. Cost involved in undertaking a project and the benefits derived there from are both quantifiable. For stakeholders, business analysts, and management this is a crucial figure and given considerable significance.
Phase 2: Developing Benefits Plan
Developing benefits plan is also a part of initiation. This involves in making an overall assessment of a project and taking appropriate measures to guarantee timely benefits. Traditional management tools might be used for this exercise. While making this plan a watch needs to be kept for filling up gaps and earning additional benefits. Supporting actions are required to be indentified and delegated. Each of these supporting actions is needed to be quantified and completed within a pre-determined time limit.
It is necessary to determine the person responsible for making a delivery and a time ascertained for it. The manner of delivery is also crucial for these supporting activities. Reports of deliveries are maintained which also work as milestones for a project. Milestone reports are essential parameters for measuring the progress of any project that extends over a sufficient period. At the end a summary is created for the entire second phase.
Phase 3: Monitoring Benefits during Project Execution
During delivery of a project it is important to monitor its progress regularly. If required, a benefits plan might be modified as project progresses and changes are citable. In case a planner is working under a manager regular communication between the two is mandatory for smooth execution of project concerned. For a manager it is important to keep his team motivated and informed about the progress of the project.
A manager must also ensure that expectations of members do not grow much. Too much expectation could result in disappointments and subsequent discouragement. Benefits achievable should not be imaginary as this could lose the focus of members.
Phase 4: Project Completion and Review
As a project comes near its end its benefits could be evaluated and gaps identified. Missed opportunities if any could be viewed as new milestones for forthcoming projects. These form the motivation for the next benefits management exercise.
A review of the entire project development and implementation would help in highlighting achievements as well as areas that need improvement. A proper record works as a reference for all future projects.
The significance of benefits management lies in the fact that it ensures maximum business return for any investment (including human capital) made. It assists a manager and its team to remain focused in achieving an objective. The process is continuous as one project becomes a learning experience for the following one.