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How to deliver benefits-led change that lasts

There are many things that could go wrong on a project – from poor sponsorship and funding to schedule and cost overruns.

In addition, poorly managed projects often result in reduced return on investment and a delay in the realization of the intended benefits. A supplement to project management is needed to ensure that the intended value is realized.   

Resourcing your project with Change Management professionals can help your organization realize the intended benefits sooner and can help ensure strategic alignment. 

According to research, 94% of projects with excellent Change Management meet or exceed their objectives. For projects with poor Change Management, that statistic drops to 15%.  

When benefits are managed well, organizations realize the greatest possible return on investment. 

At Pragilis, our promise is to dramatically improve your return on investment by 80%. We always start with “why” and help you develop a case for change that defines the expected benefits. We know that clearly defining the benefits of the project is essential for stakeholder buy-in and having the project team and impacted stakeholders understand the “why” of your project. Understanding and planning for the "why" can help teams prepare for successful execution and delivery.  

Have you ever worked on a project that was so focused on the speed of delivery that the “why” of the project got lost in the shuffle or got buried somewhere in the project charter? 

We’ve seen many examples of large organizations committing to multiple projects in isolation without delivering benefits that are aligned with the company's strategic vision or values. If stakeholders fail to adopt the change and the intended benefits are not achieved, then that “successful project” represents a massive waste of the organization’s time and resources.   

Below are some questions to consider that can help make the project's benefits remain top of mind.  

#1 - Have clear project benefits or outcomes been defined prior to the project initiation? 

Let's consider how most projects begin; there is usually a business case for why the new initiative is required, then approval for expenditure, followed by a project kick-off. It’s common to start the project and then define the benefits – what we call the “cart before the horse” mentality.   

Once the initial paperwork is filed and the project has begun, what follows is project reporting that’s focused on scope, schedule and budget. Very little attention is paid to the people-side of the equation and it can be easy for the project benefits to get overlooked in the day-to-day process of project delivery.   

Even before project planning and initiation begin, sponsors have a responsibility around communicating the case for change and demonstrating their commitment by identifying the intended benefits. Those responsible for authorizing projects are also responsible for ensuring the benefits are delivered. Make sure you take the time to determine when and how these benefits will be realized.  

#2 - Are the benefits linked to organizational objectives? 

Is the project tied to your organization's objectives? Or has the project team been made aware of how their project is aligned with the organization’s strategic goals?  

In large organizations, it can be easy to have multiple projects across numerous functions of the business operating all at once. Does your company's leadership have a view into all ongoing initiatives to confirm that they are not competing for resources, causing schedule collisions or other risks or constraints? Can they separate the “trees”, from the “forest”, from the “canopy”, per se? 

Sometimes the effort to produce deliverables can overshadow the intended purpose of the project. Both the sponsor and the project manager have a duty to ensure projects deliver the benefits critical to achieving strategic objectives.   

#3 - Is anyone responsible for managing the defined benefits throughout the project lifecycle? 

Have you considered including project benefits as a measure of project success?  What if your project is “green” on scope, schedule and budget, but fails to achieve the promised benefits or outcomes that were hastily defined in the approval for expenditure? Is it still a success?    

Project teams are responsible for project delivery and this should include monitoring scope changes that may affect the viability of the stated benefits of the project.

Leadership must own the business benefits and understand how their approved project spend is tracking to deliver the intended outcomes of the project. Sometimes scope changes can result in delivering a solution that does not match expected project benefits. If no one is held accountable for managing project benefits, they will remain on the back-burner. 

#4 - Did the project team confirm that benefits were achieved at project close?

Usually, at the end of a project, there is a quick wrap-up and the team’s resources are all reallocated to other projects that have similarly tight timelines. This can result in time not being spent to review whether the intended benefits were even realized. 

If you implemented a new digital tool, are people using the new system as intended? If you implemented a new business process, is the organization realizing the intended efficiencies? Without properly identifying benefits, how will you measure project success at the end?  

Ideally, the intended project benefits should be defined at the beginning of the project, aligned to the organization’s goals, actively managed throughout the project, and reviewed at the end to determine if they were truly realized.

By including benefits in project planning and tracking, organizations can confirm that they are getting a return on their project investments. We believe it’s time for organizations to recognize that benefits realization is a central component of project and program management. Are you prepared to increase the value of your investments?  

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