When it comes to project management, one of the key questions to ask is, ‘What advantages will this project create for the investors and key stakeholders?’
If someone is being asked to commit funding and resources to a project, it is not unreasonable for them to ask questions like, ‘What’s in it for me or why should I commit to this project? If, as a sponsor, I have the opportunity to invest in several projects – what is special about this one?’ Project Managers need to be able to discuss the project with the key stakeholders and the funding organization in these terms to align support and ongoing commitment to project delivery.
Treat projects and programs as investments
It may seem like semantics, but language is important. Words help define behaviours within the team and beyond. Considering the benefits of an investment diverts the focus of projects from delivering within the triple constraints (time – cost – quality) towards addressing some more fundamental questions:
What is the purpose of this investment?
What are the specific advantages expected?
Are these benefits worth the investment?
How and when will the benefits be measured and realised?
A project which is defined by the need to develop (for example) a new light rail network will have a different culture and approach to one which is defined as reducing commuting and travel times within a city. The second type of project, which is identified by its benefits, will require different decisions to be made throughout the project lifecycle in order to stay relevant to the ultimate purpose of the project. It also opens up options rather than committing to a single technical product early in the planning process.
Link scope to benefits that are important to stakeholders
As projects become more complicated and complex, it is crucial that the links between project scope and the business changes lead to benefits which are important to stakeholders. This will bring clarity to communications and purpose to the efforts of the project. It will also ensure that decisions made are consistent with the objectives of the investment. When a project is behind schedule and/or over budget, there is pressure to reduce the scope of the work. Only by understanding the links between function, capability and benefits can we understand the impact of decisions. Losing benefits, or missing the opportunities for realizing benefits, is an excellent counterargument to de-scoping. De-scoping may bring the project back within the cost and schedule tolerances, but at what expense to the benefits? Changes may still be necessary, but with an awareness of each of the project components, decisions are better informed.
Develop Investment-savvy project teams
As the project management profession advances, there is a need to develop unique skills, models, and tools, to ensure that the practitioners remain fundamental to the success of the investment. Understanding, and helping to shape, the context of investments means an earlier involvement in projects, with greater emphasis on advisory and consultative roles. Planning, assuring, and supporting the transitions into operational use of the project outputs and changes to the operational environment should become part of project teams’ functions. One of the significant advantages is the engagement of the right senior stakeholders and gaining their commitment to the actions required. By talking the language of the investors, project managers and their teams will embed themselves within the rest of the organization, demonstrate their worth and actively support benefits realisation.
Investability – it’s all about the benefits
Benefits are fast becoming the key determinant of project success and investability. So, decisions about the choice of which projects to fund, their priority within the organization and what to do if a business case changes, will be made upon the basis of the value they create. Benefits Realization Management is not just a fad or a passing phase. It is a practical approach to direct scarce resources to projects that will have a positive impact on the performance of an organization and the community at large.
Amplify software equips you for project investability
Amplify software simplifies the prioritization of your investment portfolio with its ability to select, prioritize and sequence initiatives based on return on their value and overall contribution to the portfolio. Threats to performance such as; risks, assumptions, issues, and dependencies (RAID) are managed too. Amplify’s distinguishing capabilities enable you to prioritize and re-prioritize upcoming and in-flight investments to ensure that they continue to represent value for money whilst providing the insight necessary to communicate trade-offs and make investment decisions. Contact our customer success team to find out more about Amplify and/or request a demo.
About Kenn Dolan
Kenn is the author of “Implementing Project and Program Benefits Management” (2018), and a recognized expert in benefits realization management, stakeholder engagement, portfolio, program and project management and the application of best practices. He has extensive experience advising clients across five continents. As an in-demand management consultant and public speaker, Kenn has influenced the implementation of best practices in program and project management to improve performance and maturity within organisations in the financial, IT, defence, resources, construction, and public sectors. He has coached and mentored senior executives in over 20 countries.