Tested principles of benefit management

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The success of programs is ultimately judged by the net benefits achieved – be those benefits financial or non-financial. It is therefore essential that the program has clearly defined:

  • Expected benefits from each project and the program as a whole, as measured against a baseline of the current state.
  • Processes and accountabilities for measuring the actual benefits achieved.

This blog contains instructions and guidance on:

  • Benefits categories.
  • Roles and accountabilities.
  • Processes and mandatory deliverables.
  • Structuring the program for benefits traceability.
  • How various tools, templates and techniques can be used to develop the program’s benefits review plan.

Key principles of benefits management

The fundamental purpose of a business case is to provide an objective assessment of the program costs and benefits, with a view to making an informed decision on whether or not the program should commence. To that end the following principles should inform the development of all business cases.

Start designing the proposed program with the strategy in mind:

  • Identify the Pillar Objective to which the projects and overall program will contribute.
  • Identify the strategy to which the projects and overall will contribute.
  • The program should be comprised of the minimum work required to deliver the stated benefits.

The last sub-bullet point above applies in two fashions:

  • The program should not attempt everything that can conceivably be done in the program’s domain. Rather, the program should have a lean design which addresses only that must be implemented to generate the stated benefits.
  • In some cases a program may intentionally do more than the minimum required to deliver the expected benefits. This may be due to trialing an innovative new method, upskilling junior staff members or another valid reason. In such cases the benefits associated with these decisions should be listed as additional program benefits.

There should be clear traceability of how the program outcomes will deliver all of the stated benefits. Benefits should be clearly defined as an actual benefit. For example: “Enhanced staff productivity” is not a benefit unless:

  • The bandwidth generated is assigned to other defined work, or
  • There is a reduction in FTE, or
  • A tangible improvement in client satisfaction can be measured, or
  • There is some other tangible use of the “spare” time generated by the program.

Financial benefits should be reflected as net benefits (ie. Financial benefits minus program and ongoing costs). Indicating that a benefit is “Non-Financial” does not necessarily mean there is no dollar amount attached, it may mean:

  • It will take more time to quantify the dollar outcomes than the program warrants, and/or
  • The benefits are to stakeholders outside.

The most reliable benefits projections are those which:

  • Have baselined metrics against which to measure improvements.
  • Have tolerance limits to manage stakeholder expectations and provide a fair and more transparent view to the program’s expected benefits.

Close collaboration with the enterprise program management office (EPMO) is essential to avoid double counting (multiple projects or programs seeking to deliver the same benefits), and for general guidance on benefits management.

Benefits management roles and accountabilities

In addition to general program related roles and accountabilities, the following roles hold additional accountabilities specifically in relation to benefits management.

Program SponsorAccountable for the Business Case for the duration of the programOversee the development of a viable business case, ensuring the program is aligned with the strategy and securing funding for the program.  
Senior UserAccountable for defining the benefits derived from the program outcomes  
Program ManagerAccountable for developing the business case in conjunction with the Senior User, Program Sponsor and EPMOContinually ensure that the program is on track to deliver the stated benefitsEnsure benefits impacts are considered in risk, issue and variation management  
EPMOSupport the Program Manager in ensuring no benefits are double countedProvide guidance and support to Program Managers in defining realistic, measurable and clear benefits which are traceable to the program outcomesMaintain and report against the Master Benefits Register  

Optimizing project benefits

The table below details the steps required in projects to effectively manage program benefits.

Project PhaseActionsOutputsAccountability
IdentificationCollaborate with the Senior User(s) in defining the issues the proposed program will solveInitial Program Management Plan
Initial Project Briefs  
Program Sponsor (or Director for Mandated Projects)    
IdentificationCollaborate with the Business Owner(s) in identifying the high level benefits the program will deliver  Initial Program Management Plan
Initial Project Briefs  
Senior User(s)
IdentificationIdentify alignment with the strategy, collaborating with the EPMO as required  Initial Program Management Plan
Initial Project Briefs  
Program Sponsor (or Director for Mandated Projects)  
IdentificationDevelop the initial Program Management Plan in collaboration with the Program Sponsor, Senior User(s) and the EPMO
Oversee development of the Project Briefs  
Initial Program Management Plan
Initial Project Briefs  
Program Manager
DefinitionIn collaboration with the Program Manager, detail baseline and target metrics for benefits measurement  Project BriefsSenior User
DefinitionDevelop the Benefits Review Plan in collaboration with the Senior User, Program Sponsor and EPMO  Benefits Review Plan  Program Manager
DefinitionIn parallel with all other Identification and Definition activities, design the program in a lean manner delivering only the program outcomes required to achieve the stated benefits  Approved Program Management Plan
Approved Project Briefs  
Program Manager
DefinitionEnter agreed project benefits into the Master Benefits Register  Updated Master Benefits RegisterEPMO
Control & ValidationWhere the program has approved variation requests which impact benefits realisation, update the Benefits Review Plan in collaboration with the EPMO  Updated Benefits Review Plan Updated Master Benefits RegisterProject Manager   EPMO


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