A project is a vehicle to deliver benefits to its stakeholders. These benefits include improved quality, reduced cost of production, better customer service, increased customer retention and so on.
Identifying, describing and measuring these benefits is called benefits management. Having a benefits management plan lets project managers maximize these outcomes for the organization and stakeholders, and it’s part of any successful project management plan.
What Is Benefits Management?
Benefits management is the method of investing time and resources in order to drive positive change in a project. This is done by identifying, planning, measuring and tracking benefits from the beginning of the project to the end, when all benefits have been achieved.
Benefits management involves specific, measurable, agreed upon, realistic and time-bound benefits. These benefits can apply to organizational change, process, project benefits or strategy planning. All of these definitions respond to a need for the alignment of project outcomes and business strategies.
While benefits management can speak to outcomes larger than an individual project, it always aims to increase the success of any project. According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), many organizations don’t measure (and therefore don’t manage) benefits, which means only a small number of organizations are achieving their targeted benefits. Meeting expectations on a project should be the bare minimum and more attention needs to be focused on benefits management.
What Is the Purpose of Benefits Management?
Think of benefits management as the link that connects the delivery of a successful project with change management. That is, the purpose of benefits management is to ensure that change management is driven by benefits. This is how to get the most value from your investment in the project.
Keep the Benefits in Mind
Benefits management is used to manage an organization’s investments, ensuring everyone focuses on benefits as business processes are executed. Benefits management identifies whether projects can produce the business results they were designed to deliver. It then goes about minimizing the risks involved in achieving those benefits and maximizes the opportunity to achieve more benefits. In other words, benefits management makes sure the project continues to create value.
Focusing on benefits leads to better decision-making when managing projects and the allocation of resources related to those projects. Benefits management moves beyond only measuring projects by how efficient they are to include their return on investment over time.
When Should a Program Focus on Benefits?
Benefits should be accounted for at the beginning of a project and followed through to its end. Like any plan, the benefits management plan sets the course early and continues to adjust that course as changes occur throughout the project.
Benefits, though, are usually realized during the delivery phase of the project. Before then, benefits management can add costs to the project. As the project moves towards closure, those costs will decrease and benefits will increase, which continue after the project is completed. However, at that point, they are usually managed by another organization.
What Is a Benefits Management Plan?
A benefits management plan explains what the benefits of the project area and how and when they’ll be delivered. The plan does this by including the following.
- Describing what the benefit is
- Creating a schedule for when the benefit will be delivered
- Identifying who owns the benefits
- Defining the metric used to measure the benefit and what the baseline will be
- Listing the assumptions and risks associated with achieving the benefit
Different Types of Benefits
The benefits management plan will deal with two types of benefits: tangible and intangible. Tangible benefits can be measured, such as cost reductions, while intangible ones cannot be with any accuracy, such as brand awareness.
The business case will inform your benefits management plan, which details the project benefits. The plan will include a baseline so that benefits can be measured as the project is executed.
Once a benefits management plan is made, it will be reviewed throughout the life cycle of the project. This helps to make sure they’re on track with the plan. Some benefits will not be delivered until after the completion of the project. In this case, the benefits owner is responsible for keeping track of them.
How to Create a Benefits Management Plan
The benefits management plan will identify, monitor and track benefits over the project’s life cycle and often after the project is finished. This is used to make sure the organization and benefit owners (those who are the main beneficiaries) stay focused on the benefits throughout this process.
The following steps are common to creating most benefits management plans:
- Identify the benefits. What are the beneficial outcomes to the project stakeholders and the larger organization? This needs to be done before starting the project.
- Create a plan that will realize the benefits; include any assumptions, risks and the tasks needed to reach those potential benefits.
- Each benefit will need to have a metric to measure the outcome in order to track it and make sure as the project is being executed it aligns with the plan.
- Define the roles and responsibilities of those who will manage the benefits.
- Add a plan for taking care of benefits that will continue after the close of the project.
- Develop a reporting plan to communicate the status of the project to stakeholders, either through regular reports, meetings or face-to-face conferences.
- Implement the plan.
- Evaluate the performance of the project after it closes to sustain benefits after the implementation of the project.
Create a Benefits Dependency Map
It is helpful to create a benefits dependency map, which will link the benefits to the organization’s strategic business objectives. This is broken up into five parts:
- A measurable objective that aligns with the organization’s vision
- The end benefit that motivates the stakeholders to invest in the project
- The intermediate benefits add to the end benefit
- The changes needed to achieve the business objectives
- Any process or system supporting the above changes
There’s also a benefits dependency network that defines the investment objectives, benefits, business changes, enabling changes and what technology will be needed.
How ProjectManager Helps Your Benefits Plan
Benefits management plans require the same scheduling, assigning and reporting as any project plan does, which is why you need ProjectManager to manage plans more efficiently. Our cloud-based software gives you real-time data to make better decisions on your projects.
Once you have a task list, input it to our tool and open the Gantt chart project view. To populate these tasks on a timeline, add a start and end date to each task. Now you have an overview of the entire project. You can break up this larger view by setting milestones, which are important dates, such as the start of one project phase and the end of another.
There are more ways to monitor the project and keep everyone updated on its progress. For a high-level view, there are real-time dashboards tracking time, costs and more by automatically taking live data and calculating it into easy-to-read graphs and charts.
When you meet with stakeholders, you need one-click reports at your fingertips which can be easily shared as a PDF or printed out. The up-to-the-minute information is the most accurate picture of the project’s performance and progress, from time left on tasks to portfolio status reports if you’re managing more than one project.
ProjectManager is award-winning software that manages projects, teams and tasks. Plan, schedule, monitor and report on your project to keep it on track. Used by organizations as diverse as the US Postal Service, NASA and Ralph Lauren to manage their benefits. Join the tens of thousands of teams who are working more efficiently by taking this free 30-day trial today.