Getting Started with PPM Benefits Realization: Tips for Forecasting, Measuring, and Improving PMO Business Value
A constant struggle and challenge that many PMOs face is a disconnect from the business. The business often doesn’t understand what the PMO is doing and what value they are providing , and to be honest many PMOs are not effectively communicating that information. But we are seeing a much needed shift of PMOs from being tactical to strategic — tactical meaning focused on project schedules and details and unable to demonstrate results, and strategic meaning aligned to the organization goals, integrated with the business and clearly communicating value.
Gartner estimates that less than 15% of enterprises systematically measure the business outcomes of their initiatives. Most IT and PMO organizations focus their measures on price and performance, not value. They do not measure business outcomes largely because they do not believe it is their responsibility. We need to shift the language and the focus from on time and on budget to speaking in terms of resulting benefits. We need to shift from the cash register mentality of thinking only in terms of costs, and we need to start keeping score of where that money is going and what you’re getting for it.
When speaking of benefits there are several different kinds. Benefits can be gained from projects, programs and initiatives but also from well executed strategic goals and a successful PMO and PPM solution. In July 2012 I presented a webinar on this very topic, where I addressed project, strategic and organizational benefits. In this post I will be focusing on project and program benefits only.
Project and program benefits can range from hard benefits, such as revenue and savings, a % increase in productivity or efficiency, or a % decrease in headcount, to soft/qualitative benefits such as customer satisfaction or risk avoidance.
Whatever the benefit identified may be, there are three key steps to help you get started with your realization process:
- Organization Buy-In
In order for any process to be successful, you need organization buy in, and this includes top-down support — perhaps the most critical component behind any successful process. Everyone must participate, and you need to secure business co-ownership so that they have a stake in the game as well. You need to gain a consensus on PMO metrics and ensure that senior leaders are collaborating in the process of selecting your benefit metrics and measurements. Many successful clients I’ve seen make a point of working with corporate finance for their input and support.
Once you have the buy-in, you need ownership every step of the way from the business case to realization. Who is putting their name behind those benefit estimates and project justifications? You need this accountability to drive home realistic estimates and to prevent over-projections that serve just to push the project through. Then you need ownership of tracking and realizing those benefits. This may be a business owner, but I’ve also seen organizations that form a benefits team to estimate the benefits and then put together a plan for data collection to assess actuals. This accountability helps drive compliance.
While accountability helps drive more accurate estimates, you still need to have a validation step that will ensure that the benefits projections are inline and reasonable. As well as you attempt to estimate, benefits rarely happen according to plan. Just like any other investment, you need to watch it, and as things change you may find that early estimates were quite off, so go back and revisit your estimates and make changes as needed. Adopt the same approach you use with your project schedule. There’s a reason why you have a baseline or perhaps multiple baselines: this is a dynamic world we live in and things are always changing, so we need to respond to this with nimbleness and make adjustments as necessary. I recommend having a benefits committee to track inflight projects. The last piece is to validate final results, capturing actuals and comparing how you performed against your initial business case. Remember, though, it is not enough to just document the value of your investments – it is just as important to communicate that value back to the business
Bearing the 3 key steps we’ve discussed above always in mind, here are some other recommendations for establishing a successful benefits realization mentality and process:
- Start with a pilot group, get volunteers and start tracking at a subset and see what you find
- Assess a proper scope, benefits tracking may not apply to all projects so pick a handful of projects to start with, and once you do expand the scope do not use the same level of measurement and process rigor on all initiatives as you’ll risk killing the effort with bureaucracy.
- Have a consistent data collection method (online forms, standard tables, etc)
- Select the right metrics – focus on a few select performance measures, don’t dilute or overwhelm with too many, ensure measures are speaking to stakeholder interests, get feedback from business as to what the metrics should be
- Recalibrate -Regularly review and adjust performance measurements being used (yearly) to prevent them from getting stale or obsolete.
- Communicate and educate – make sure people understand NPV, ROI, etc the methods by which you are calculating benefits
- Make it mandatory and track compliance, make sure everyone is updating their data, provide training and make it easy to use so they understand how to update etc
- Have regular meetings to review the most critical projects and bring risks to the forefront before they become issues
- Manage the change – make sure timing makes sense with decision/approval/budget cycle, start with the most receptive or mature area, pilot with a particular business unit and set of initiatives, train and then gain traction
- Benefits realization is a continuous process – envision results, implement, check intermediate results, dynamically adjust path. Benefits Realization must be managed like any other process, recalibrate benefit measures as needed and measure the Benefits Realization process itself
Wherever you are in your Project Portfolio Management maturity, it’s never too early or premature to start implementing a benefits realization process. Doing so creates tighter alignment between the PMO and the business, helps the organization better deploy its resources toward achieving strategic goals, and makes the business case for the PMO clear not only to leadership but the entire organization.