Building expertise in benefits management is often an area that many businesses want to improve. And rightly so! Reassuringly most of us already have good experience of considering benefits. We identify benefits (and the equivalent downsides called dis-benefits) as a regular part of our daily routine and decision making.
Let me provide an example. I want to reduce household expenses. One of the biggest but most easy to tackle is petrol because I travel regularly. It turns out the petrol sold at my local supermarket is more expensive than the petrol sold in the supermarket that is 5 miles away. If I am looking to reduce my household expenses, on the face of it, it might seem sensible to drive a little further to fill up the car. But experience and a bit of sleuthing on google maps tells me that
- There will be the extra cost of petrol to cover a 10 mile round trip;
- Loss of 30 mins of my time due to greater distance and traffic; and
- I will contribute to pollution from an otherwise unnecessary journey.
This doesn’t make a compelling case for reducing costs. Nor does it support a desire to reduce my impact on the environment. In my case, and with my household priorities, I have worked out it is better to pay a little more at the petrol pump and stay local. Every day we work through similar problems, and through solving them realise benfits in our personal projects.
So how do we take a leaf out of our every day life and transfer these skills into becoming an expert in benefits management?
Here are 4 ways you can identify project benefits:
Understand business priorities
What is important to me may not be the same for someone else. So it’s really important to know what the business priorities are when considering benefits. In my example above I have decided that I want to be more environmentally aware. Another person might have different priorities and be more concerned with supporting small businesses and be prepared to travel even further to a private garage. Having a clear agreed view of what an organisation sees as a priority is key to understanding the benefit position.
Get a list of the benefits categories which are relevant to your organisation
A list of the kinds of benefits an organisation values is helpful in making sure all angles are considered. Grouping desired benefits by type at the organisation level is useful as it means they can help prompt thinking. In my case I am interested in (a) Cost Reduction (b) Process Efficiency and (c) Environmental Impact. These benefit categories help me to think about what might be relevant and what is important to me (I might have forgotten to think about the environment if I was simply focussed on cost savings) and they also help me to summarise the position for different audiences. My ‘green’ friend is interested in what I am doing to save the planet, but my accountant is more interested in cost reduction.
Portfolios like using benefits categories too – because if all project benefits map to common categories, then it is possible to look across projects and programmes and compare relative contributions in each area – they are part of a common language for benefits work that enables organisations to see the big picture.
Start with a high level view and work in planned stages down to the detail
Getting to a detailed view of the benefits position for a project is best done in planned steps. In the beginning it is good to start with the 60,000 ft view of the benefits position – this can be as simple as showing the categories of benefit that are most likely to be impacted. Once you have a good high level picture, moving down to the next agreed level of detail helps to maintain clarity. A mixture of levels of detail makes it hard to find gaps or overlaps in the analysis, and things can get a bit muddled.
Don’t lose sight of benefits during project delivery
Identification of benefits is often considered at the very beginning and end of a project but savvy organisations refine their view of benefits throughout a project’s delivery. This means if there is a proposal to move some work out of scope – you can look at the benefits position and impact the effect of that change on benefits before a decision is made.
Keep an eye out for our other blogs ‘How do I ensure benefits realisation for my project?’ and ‘7 ways to ensure project benefits are realised’ in this benefits realisation series.
As always, we’d love to help you think through how you think this could help you and your projects. Our team of consultants are happy to chat, no strings attached. Contact us.