I finished the project – so why don’t I have benefits?

You’ve invested time, money, and probably considerable emotional angst in completing the project. Everyone breathes a big sigh of relief. The project is over.

As the executive, you’re now ready to see those benefits roll in! Those benefits you promised the board, your stakeholders, your peers.

Time marches on.

The worry sets in.

You’ve costs on your ledger, so where are the benefits that blow these out of the water? Right now you’re about ready to accept anything that says you’ve at least recovered those costs!

What happened?

In simple terms, you’re not yet done. Your project was great, but you need to finish the program!

A program is not just a big project. A program is the collection of projects that are needed to deliver value. This includes how you make use of the new thing you’ve made.

Think about donuts.

I shouldn’t, but I do!

Stay with me, this should make sense.

You have invested in a project to make a donut machine. You can practically taste that doughy sugary goodness already! You have great donut machine engineers working around the clock and in a short amount of time you have a donut machine…all shiny and new!

The engineers did their job, you have a successful project, exactly to scope, schedule and cost! (Hey, it could happen!)

So where are the donuts?

They don’t yet exist.

The donut machine by itself cannot give you donuts. You now need to set up the process, buy the ingredients, teach staff how to use it, resource the donut making shifts around the clock, design your recipes, establish the production controls, select packaging….the list goes on!

By delivering a successful project you have the POTENTIAL for benefits. Not benefits themselves. For that you need a program that clearly describes the outcome that you are after and all of the things that need to be done in order to provide that outcome. The donut machine is only one of those capabilities. It gives you an organisational change. The change is that you previously had no machine that could make donuts. Now you do.

This alignment of all of the new capabilities is what makes it a program. It does not have to be big. It does not have to be complicated. A program delivers benefits. The project delivers a change that contributes to the chance to achieve benefits.

Most people celebrate the capability and don’t finish the job. Delivering benefits takes more work, but it is worth it. Think of benefits realisation as really another project; making use of the new capability. Don’t just write down what the benefit could be. Deliver the work that makes the benefit a reality.

Donut leave the benefits just sitting on the shelf!

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Nathan Jones

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