I’ve been thinking a lot about benefits recently. It was the feature of a week of discussion questions in my Facebook group, and I’m leaning more and more towards benefits being something that the project manager has to get involved with. This idea that we deliver the outputs and then the permanent organisation magics up the benefits is feeling more and more like old style thinking.
So I was delighted to get a copy of Benefits Realization Management: Strategic Value from Portfolios, Programs and Projects, from Carlos Eduardo Martins Serra even though I was a bit daunted by the length of it.
I shouldn’t have worried.
Despite looking pretty boring on the outside (I was holding it with the title obscured and a colleague said he thought it looked like a modern-day book about religion), inside is hugely practical.
Every few pages it feels like there is a table or diagram succinctly explaining a concept. Here's my interpretation of how to close the value gap by using benefits to jump you to where you need to be.
There are templates galore when you get later in the book. There’s a giant appendix on how to use the guidance, which means that what you read about you can actually do something with. The whole thing has been designed to be intensely useful. The templates are repeated in another appendix (with chapter references) so you don’t have to keep flicking back and forward or marking the pages to find the one you want.
The book starts with the ‘strategic alignment’ angle that is so crucial to project management right now, but quickly moves into a discussion of project success and how value is created in the business. That’s all tied back to benefits.
Part 2 is where you start to get into the author’s model for the management of benefits. The Enterprise Benefits Realisation Management process is explained simply. I liked the fact that there is adequate focus on the people responsible for benefits realisation: for all I said at the beginning about project managers taking a more active role in benefits, I’m aware that we can’t (and shouldn’t) do it all.
Essentially this part is a flexible framework for translating business strategy drivers into benefits and then planning how to get them and making it happen. This is a huge part of project governance – we don’t do projects for fun, we do them to get the benefits!
The book also includes a couple of case studies: a few more might have been nice but to be honest I was reading it more interested in what I could do in my projects rather than much caring about what other people did. Your own context is always more valuable, I think, when the guidance is so clear about how to implement benefits realisation management that I was always thinking about what it meant for me.
The exception to that is the worked example in Appendix C which is a (fake) case study but it takes you through all the relevant templates as they would be completed for that organisation. This is helpful because you can see what is supposed to go into each section and plan what you are going to say for your projects.
Each chapter ends with review questions. I didn’t think these added much. If you are a student and want to check your understanding, great – do them. The answers are at the back so you can check your work. But if you are a professional, reading it because you want to do benefits realisation more effectively in your organisations, then I doubt you’ll spend much more time on these than a cursory glance as you turn the page.
In summary, I enjoyed it more than I expected and I think it will become a desk reference for me on how to manage project benefits. Recommended.
Benefits Realization Management is published by CRC Press.