Benefits Realization: Useful Tool or a Passing Fad?

We've seen "Total Quality Management" (aka "TQM"), "Re-engineering the Corporation", and many more passing management fads. Most of them were for a time a part of management lexicon, but have long since disappeared from our regular vocabulary. Could "Benefits Realization" also be a passing fad in the project management space?

Background

ProjectManagement.com ran a series in October 2015 on "Benefits Realization", and a number of articles with different perspectives on the topic were provided. You can view those articles here. Reading those articles and thinking about that focus led me to ask the question, "Is this Benefits Realization for real, or is it another management fad?"

Are There Benefits to Benefits Realization?

To start with, Benefits Realization seems so simple, it's just about "in your face"! Why would any organization, business or otherwise, do anything without expected benefits!?

In addition, assuming that organizations only undertake projects in anticipation of some sort of benefits, it would only stand to reason that they would also want to manage those projects with a close eye to ensuring they realize those benefits!

Benefits - the Missing Link?

Project management is all about bringing in successful projects, so why not look at project success and failure through the lens of Benefits Realization.

After all, isn't a successful project one where the expected benefits have been realized?

When I think about failed versus successful projects, benefits seems to be at the core. Consider the following:

  1. Inadequate project plans - I find that projects often fail from the start - where the plan itself was faulty in that it did not clearly articulate what the project was supposed to do, what the benefits would be, and how it would be executed. Successful projects have clear, attractive, and believable benefits.
  2. Projects without the right benefits - Worse is a situation where a project is initiated for the wrong reasons, such as someone's "pet" project without broad benefit, a knee jerk reaction to a perceived problem, or an action taken in the general direction of an opportunity! In these cases, more thought about desired benefits would either result in a better project, with a high chance of success, or elimination of some projects that would have otherwise been doomed to failure.
  3. Managing projects to the benefits - Stephen Covey was famous for saying, "Begin with the end in mind." On projects, that "end" is the sum of the benefits! This means that in the execution phase, everything - decisions, actions, discussions, hiring, purchases - should be done by closely adhering to that vision of the end state where the benefits are realized. The benefits are the reason for doing the project!

benefit of Benefits Realization

Begin with the end in mind - Benefits Realization

In short, Benefits Realization provides:

  • a focal point for PMOs in managing projects across the organization
  • a basis for prioritizing and monitoring project risks
  • a real basis for determining accountability for project success
  • the foundation for a set of metrics for measuring project success
  • a basis for rallying team members around a common direction and purpose
  • an "elixir" for connecting agile scrums into an overall project

Conclusion

I thinking that Benefits Management is core to project success. It is also an antidote for failed projects. As a result, I think it has staying power.

Will it be called the same thing for a long time? Not sure. But as with many things, when something is lacking in practice, it helps to have a common vocabulary that everyone adopts to attack the problem en masse.

On this basis, I think Benefits Management is for real and not a passing fad.

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