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A Good Question! How to Jumpstart with "Benefits Realization Lite"

Posted by Deborah Bigelow Crawford

Deborah Bigelow Crawford has more than 20 years of experience in business management and handles the operational and administrative functions of PM Solutions. Ms. Bigelow Crawford also serves as President of the PM College®, PM Solutions' training division, where she is responsible for the fiscal management and quality assurance of all training and professional development programs. Prior to joining PM Solutions, she served as the Executive Director of the Project Management Institute (PMI), and was instrumental in providing the foundation and infrastructure for the exponential growth that the Institute has maintained over the last 10 years. In addition, she served as the Executive Director of the PMI Educational Foundation. Over the last decade, she has authored numerous articles in PM Network, Chief Project Officer, and Optimize magazines. Ms. Bigelow Crawford is also co-author of the book Project Management Essentials. She has presented a variety of papers as a speaker at international symposia and conferences, and is a member of the National Association of Female Executives and the Project Management Institute.

During our May webinar (recorded here if you missed it) we had a number of questions submitted regarding benefits realization and training. In my next few posts, I will be answering a few of these questions.

Q: We have over 200 initiatives, of which 20 are large initiatives. We cannot afford to do business cases for all of these. How do we measure benefits realization if we don't have business cases for all initiatives?

A: Benefits realization management is the process whereby you identify, define, plan, track, and realize benefits.  Most organizations do their identification and definition of the benefits they hope to achieve in the business case.  However, it doesn’t have to be, as long as somewhere … somehow … you identify and define the benefits you hope to achieve, and then track them through the lifecycle until you achieve them. 

So for your 20 large initiatives, I have to assume that you are doing these initiatives for a perceived value you hope to achieve.  Typically, the goal of a project falls into one of three buckets:

  • Transform the business (Vision/Future)
  • On the Business (Improvement/Performance)
  • In the Business (Revenue)

Regardless of which bucket these initiatives fall into, you need to know beforehand what success looks like for each one of them.  “Success” should be measurable and you should plan how you will measure and track the results to determine if you have realized the benefits you were after.

As noted in our white paper, Optimize Strategy Execution by Planning-In Benefits Realization, we point out on pages 5 and 6 the Challenges of Benefits Realization:  getting the right people in the room to support this new cultural change; performance measurement; and approaching benefits realization as a cultural change.

If you have neither the time nor the resources to implement a structured measurement program, you can keep it simple, and produce relatively accurate results.  Use quantitative measures of where you currently are that you can defend (for instance, “30% of our projects are coming in late”). This determines your baseline.  Then you want to have an idea of where you want to be after the completion of the initiative. (Let’s say the initiative is to implement a consistent project management methodology.)  We want only 2% of projects coming in late.  Our goal is to measure a 28% improvement over time.  If you achieve that, you turn the results into dollars to tell the general impact of savings by being on time.   

All without a business case!  However, if you want to do this right, especially on critical initiatives, I can’t stress enough to think the project through using a business case to document your expectations, costs, resources, risks, and benefits.  Good luck!

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