In April and May this year we ran two PMO Mini-Masterclass sessions on the subject of Benefits Management and the PMO. One in London and one in Edinburgh. You can see the full session here if you weren’t able to make it.
The session was run by Eileen Roden who many of you will know as the refresh author for Portfolio, Programme and Project Offices (P3O). In this session she talked about the role of the PMO in benefits management and here are my top five learnings from those evening sessions.
1. Benefits are a Nightmare
Let’s be clear upfront that benefits management is not the easiest thing in the world to do. It’s little wonder that many PMOs put benefits management on the “too hard” pile (hence the reason why we thought the session was worth doing in the first place!)
Eileen highlighted this by kicking us off with the definition of benefits management. Here it is in full:
It’s not easy because benefits needs to be:
- Quantifiable – how much?
- Measurable – it’s difficult to measure
- An improvement resulting from an outcome which is perceived as positive – it doesn’t have to be positive, just perceived as!
- By a stakeholder – so that’s just about anyone
- Tangible value – so monetary / resource tangible
On the plus side, benefits management is relatively easier if the benefits are clear.
2. Organisations measure what’s important to them
So benefits and benefits management needs to be aligned to what’s important to the overall organisation – not just the project / programme. Does the PMO understand what’s important to the organisation – is it revenue? profit? customer experience? something else? It’s this understanding that helps form better benefits and in turn enables the PMO to support the benefits management process:
3. Are PMOs interested in benefits management for all the right reasons?
Are we interested in benefits management because best practice says we should be? If the PMO’s initial position is we’re doing this because the text books and best practice tells us we should be doing this then Eileen sends a warning that you’re starting from a very difficult place because the executives may not know that “benefits management” is the answer they’re looking for to solve a particular problem.
So what are some of the problems – or business drivers as to why the PMO should be interested in benefits management?:
4. The PMO should look at governance
If there is one thing the PMO should be good for its governance. It makes sense then that the role of the PMO in benefits management should have a large focus on the governance angle.
One thing I didn’t realise was that benefits management has developed over the last ten years alongside the role of the sponsor. It’s the sponsor that plays a big part in benefits and benefits realisation but many organisations still have problems making their sponsors more accountable. Is there a role for PMO here that supports the sponsor?
In portfolio and programme PMOs, benefits management is more likely to figure therefore does the PMO have things in place? Benefits identification and business case development was another governance area mentioned that seems like a natural place for PMO to get involved in terms of support. Is this a new role? It begs the question, what new skills would the PMO need to do this?
Areas like escalation, reviews, gateways, reporting and evaluation are known territory, but what new things does the PMO have to incorporate to provide the benefits focus?
5. PMO Functions and Services
For many PMOs, getting involved in benefits management will need some answers to questions like:
- Do we have the right skills and capabilities in the PMO to start supporting benefits management?
- If not, what are the right kind of skills and capabilities?
- Do we need interims or new people – in terms of skill level and availability?
- Do we have the bandwidth to provide support in this area?
- What functions and/or services would the PMO be able to stop to make time for this?
- Who in the organisation will support us on these new services?
- Are we able to create a tailor-made benefits management process based on individuals or requirements?
- Do we understand what the biggest business driver is?
- What can we actually do that makes a difference / delivers what the organisation needs?
- How much will the organisation actually allow – how far can we go?
I’ve actually got about another fifteen or so other insights that I didn’t know before listening to Eileen’s session including all the practical things that PMOs can focus on for both their executive audience and delivery teams. If benefits management is an area that (a) you’re pretty new to PMO (b) you’re not had chance to get clued up about yet (c) thinking about what benefits management could offer your organisation (d) looking to refresh what you’re already doing in regards benefits management – then this session is for you.