For any project to be justifiable, the benefits need to outweigh all the âbad stuffâ that come with doing a project â costs, time, resources and risks. You canât do a project without any those things. Thereâs no such thing as an instantaneous project that came for free, didnât consume or use resources and didnât introduce any risks.
Since you know they are part and parcel of doing a project, the only way to know if a project is justified is to weigh them all up against the benefits of doing the project. If the benefits are worth more, then do the project. If the balance goes the other way, donât. Simple.
A benefit in project management terms is âa measurable improvement resulting from an outcome perceived as an advantage by one or more stakeholdersâ.
Ok, letâs start at the beginning – understanding the journey from project output to project benefits.
â¢ Projects donât create benefits. Projects create outputs.
Projects are put together to create something new or different â a new service, process, system, output, deliverable, what-ever-you-want-to-call-it. Project teams comprise of experts in putting together these outputs and a Project Manager to manage them putting it all together. Hopefully they are driven from the top by a Project Sponsor giving direction and guidance throughout the project.
The sole reason the project team exists is to create usable outputs that the users can actually use at the end of the project. Therefore, there should be a lot of user interaction and collaboration throughout the project to confirm that all the outputs that are being created are being created with the users in mind.
When the team of experts are done creating usable outputs, they hand them over to the business (and/or users) to start to use. The experts either go back to their regular jobs or on to other projects where their expertise is needed to create other outputs.
â¢ Change management is the people side of change. Change management is needed for outcomes.
Once outputs are handover to users, they can then be used. When users change their behaviour and use the new outputs consistently, this is referred to as achieving the outcome. The desired new behaviour of users using the new outputs is the new norm. This is where project management and change management really need to work together.
Change management is the people side of change. Change managers and change teams need to help the users adopt the change and start using the outputs. Without the help and support from change management efforts, thereâs no incentive for users to change the way the work, the way they have always worked, the way they are comfortable working.
Achieving outcomes can be a tricky time, working with users to overcome fears, blocks, and a variety of other psychological reasons for avoiding changing their behaviours. Yet without the users changing their behaviours, outcomes will never be achieved and benefits (which result from outcomes) will never materialise, either.
â¢ If itâs not measurable, itâs not a benefit.
As seen in the definition, benefits result from an outcome. Now that the user behaviour has changed, and the outcome has been achieved, the business can take stock of all the measurable improvements, the benefits.
The most important element of a benefit is its measurement. If a benefit is not measurable itâs a âhey thatâs niceâ which cannot be proven or dis-proven. Itâs very hard for senior managers to part with real, countable cash, which is measurable, for a project that will give them a âhey thatâs niceâ that may be there or may not be there, we canât really tell, because itâs not really measurable.
You also need to know what you are measuring against. Sometime before the handover to the users, a benchmark or baseline measure should have been established, so that if the benefit is claiming a 15% increase, the 15% is legitimately being compared against a pre-outcome number, rate or stat.
â¢ Advantageous for the stakeholders who pay.
Finally, benefits are âperceived as an advantage to one or more stakeholdersâ. Well, this might be obvious, but the for-sure-stakeholders who need to see the benefits as advantageous are the stakeholders who are paying for the project, be it the Project Sponsor or the Client or Central government (whoever is funding the project). If they are not bought into the measurable benefits then they wonât succumb to the pressure to part with their time, money, resources and risks to pay for it.
Bottom line: understand the measurable improvements the âpaying stakeholdersâ need to see as a result of your project. These are the top priority benefits. Yes, it might be nice that staff morale increases as a result of your project, but if the Project Sponsor is more concerned about cutting costs, the only way to get this through the funding decision point is to ensure that the costs savings benefits are enough to justify the costs.
CHECKLIST FOR YOUR PROJECT:
1. Are all your benefits measurable?
2. Do you have (or will you have) an accurate pre-outcome baseline for each benefit to measure against?
3. For each benefit is there a path from output(s) to outcome(s) to benefit?
4. Do the âpaying stakeholdersâ see the benefits as advantageous?
5. Are there enough of these benefits to outweigh the âbad stuffâ?
6. If the answer is ânoâ to any of these questions, seek advice from the Project Sponsor. Projects need to be justifiable!
DownloadÂ our free pdf with examples of output to outcome to benefits.Â EXAMPLES OF OUTPUT TO OUTCOME TO BENEFITS
For more information and support to manage project outputs that deliver project benefits, Terrapin Agrada offers a self-paced, online training course: AMAZING Project Management