Project Management

5 Barriers to Effective Benefits Realisation Management

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I’ve written before about Carlos Serra’s great presentation at PMI EMEA this year. In this final article about my thoughts around what he discussed, I’d like to highlight the barriers he flagged that prevent organisations from effectively carrying out benefits realisation management.

1. Low levels of competence

First up, one of the major barriers to effectively measuring and achieving benefits is lack of skill. Project managers that don’t know how to do this won’t do it. Simple.

Qualifications and credentials can help, but I think you would also benefit from coaching or a PMO manager who could guide you through the processes, especially the first time you do it. It starts with a robust business case that explains what the benefits are and then carries on to go through processes to identify how they are going to be measured and then actually measuring them. It’s quite an involved process so without prior experience or a lot of support it’s no wonder that people struggle.

I’m not sure of any qualifications that particularly address the detailed processes of benefits realisation management, but I’m sure there are some.

2. Out-of-date culture

A culture that ranks projects on their project management performance (i.e. did we hit the budget and deadline?) instead of their overall contribution to business strategy is one that doesn’t value benefits management. Ideally, the business culture should evaluate projects on their outcomes, not their output, but that requires a change of mindset and a longer term vision – or an awareness, at least, of the longer term.

I feel it is hard to change culture, especially at the top, but at least if you are aware that success is being measured in ways that don’t tangibly relate to benefits then you can work accordingly.

3. Lack of integration

Integration across all areas of the business helps: no one gets much done in an organisation that is riddled with silos. For example, in the area of benefits management you’d want to be able to link the processes of:

  • Portfolio management
  • Governance
  • Operations, and
  • Change management

with benefits so that you can track them through the whole project life cycle and the whole business from conception to delivery and beyond.

Integration at this level requires a degree of maturity that I don’t see very often. If you don’t feel that you have the business integration across the whole piece that would successfully lead to good benefits realisation, then I would recommend you start with what you can influence and see what difference that makes.

4. Poor processes

Poor processes are a barrier to getting most things done and benefits management is no exception. When there is a gap in the process for managing benefits then you’ll find things fall down through the holes.

Carlos pointed out in his presentation that one of the common areas for poor processes is in businesses that provide products and services to external customers. I can see why it is harder perhaps to track benefits in companies like that, but if you want to make sure that your project management division is achieving company-wide benefits, it should be an end-to-end process, even if the end is external.

Setting up robust processes must take time: I imagine a fair amount of time as it requires a deep level of organisation maturity, at least in that area if not in all areas of managing projects and project selection.

5. Lack of leadership

This one comes up time and time again, doesn’t it? If benefits management is not taken seriously at the highest levels in the organisation, then the lowly project manager (or even quite a senior project manager) doesn’t have a chance at being able to adopt good practices on his or her projects.

Benefits realisation needs to be led from the top, with a focus on a suitable culture, mature processes and a corporate overview that stresses that projects are done because of the outcomes that the business receives.

I really enjoyed learning more about benefits from Carlos. I hope you did too!

And find Carlos’s blog online here:

Posted on: July 22, 2015 09:35 AM | Permalink

Comments (8)

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I would put change management in the list as well. Lack of leadership is the key in benefit realization measurement. Further, I have seen in organization inadequate data capture is another reason why measurement fails.

Thanks, Suresh. That is a great addition.

Great post, Elizabeth. Thanks for sharing. Benefits management (and benefits realisation) is one of the most difficult aspects of project management, in my opinion. Engaging stakeholders is not easy.

i agree with Mario SH management is one of the most difficult PM responsibilities

Agreed! Managing people is always going to be harder than managing tasks.

Well said. Leadership and Change Management are really crucial to leverage the benefit realization.

Interesting perspectives and hitting the nail on the head. Issues in Benefit realisation are strongly correlated to organizational culture and maturity of project management practices in the organization

Interesting perspectives and hitting the nail on the head. Issues in Benefit realisation are strongly correlated to organizational culture and maturity of project management practices in the organization

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