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Chartered Project Professional – Elective Competence 12: Benefits Management

John Bolton John Bolton

Published: 16th April 2020

ChPP (Chartered Project Professional) candidates must be able to demonstrate experience that satisfies the specific Professional Practice assessment criteria. They will also at interview need to demonstrate their advanced Technical Knowledge and understanding against the stated Technical Knowledge assessment criteria. Here we look at ChPP Elective Competence 12: Benefits Management.

Aspiring Chartered Project Professionals who do not already hold a recognised assessment for professional practice must be able to show that their experience satisfies the specific Professional Practice Assessment Criteria with a written submission. As part of this they will also need to show competence in twelve competence areas. Ten of these are mandatory and two are selected from a selection of 14 Elective Competencies. The one we are looking at here is ChPP Elective Competence 12: Benefits Management

Definition of Benefits Management

The ability to identify, define, evaluate, plan, track and realise the business benefits of change initiatives. Benefits management refers to all of the activities devoted to ensuring that the benefits intended from change initiatives, and any additional benefits that could result, are achieved. It requires contributions from many different roles, typically including strategic managers, sponsors, stakeholders, the project team, transition managers and business change managers. This competence refers to the management and coordination of the different contributions.

By the way a common definition is “The quantifiable and measurable improvement resulting from completion of deliverables that is perceived as positive by a stakeholder. It will normally have a tangible value, expressed in monetary terms that will justify the investment”

What needs to be demonstrated for ChPP Elective Competence 12?

The APM have helpfully split this important subject into a set of key criteria that must be demonstrated. And these are as follows, not forgetting that you only need to demonstrate four of them: –

PP1.1 demonstrate how the intended benefits relate to strategic objectives

Any project (or programme, but I am just going to use the term ‘project’ here as it gets long winded and boring to keep saying “project, programme or portfolio”) must be commissioned to respond to an organisations strategic goals and ambitions. Otherwise why else do it? So the applicant demonstrating ChPP Elective Competence 12 must be able to show that they have started with strategic benefits and successfully aligned these to the nominated benefits to be derived from their project.

If for example the organisation wants to have “the best customer service possible”, the project to deliver the new customer relations management system might need to have a stated benefit of “response to customer complaints reduced from 5 working days to 2 working days”. If the project does not deliver this it will not be considered successful. How would the PM demonstrate this, well perhaps by creating benefits profiles, a benefit map and a benefits realisation plan. Talking about these sorts of things will be a good thing to do in their ChPP application.

PP1.2 establish measurable benefits which are meaningful to stakeholders

The fact that there is an ambition to reduce the turnaround times for customer complaints means at some point the PM must have had to find these out. They may have done that through workshops, interviews, research, perhaps they were first declared int eh business case and the PM needs to expand upon them and add more detail within their own benefits management strategy.

PP1.3 prioritise achievement of benefits based on their level of contribution to strategic objectives

These are called ‘early wins’. Just ploughing on with a project without considering when the investment will be repaid is counter intuitive. If there are opportunities to maximise benefits early, the return on investment will happen sooner and it will have a compound effect on cash flow. Commonly represented by a net benefit curve, this is the netting off of the cumulative benefit with the cumulative costs.

PP1.4 confirm dependencies between intended benefits and the outputs, outcomes and related business changes

An outcome is not a benefit. Simply producing a new project product will not have the intended benefit unless it is put to work through some form of changed business process and potentially combined with multiple other products. For example, a reduced waiting list for a surgical procedure (outcome) will be achieved through the production of many products (e.g. trained nurses, trained doctors, new operating theatres, etc.).

The benefits will only be realised once someone accesses the new facility as a patient as receives the treatment accordingly. Other beneficiaries are the new nurses (they get paid, as do the doctors) the local politicians get re-elected because they are seen to be supporting the local community, etc. These dependencies are normally demonstrated using a method called a benefits map. The successful ChPP candidate will need to be able to show how they did this (or managed others to do so).

PP2.1 create a benefits management strategy which considers priorities, timescales and responsibilities, and monitoring methods

As mentioned, the PM will need an overriding strategy to guide their actions on the project, they will need to be able to demonstrate this to their masters and subordinates accordingly. A benefits management strategy will encompass the production of the benefits profiles, the benefit realisation plan and the production of the benefits map. This document, by implication will guide the timing (early wins), who will observe them and be responsible for maximizing them and how will their trajectory to realisation be tracked. The BMS is a core document and is normally compiled at programme level and is a core discipline of programme management.

PP2.2 create a benefits realisation plan which considers funding options, key indicators, milestones and reporting schedules

Where the benefits are to be receipted over time there is a need to track their achievement. They will require funding (for the projects delivering the products that will deliver them), how will they be measured (through KPI’s or other tracking), and their key delivery milestones. The PM will need to be able to demonstrate things are going well by producing progress reports associated with the projects and outcome deliveries.

PP2.3 carry out effective monitoring against the benefits realisation plan

The benefits realisation plan will contain some key information about when the benefits will be realised. Key data such as the absolute value and the timing will (as mentioned) dictate the rate at which the project will pay back and ultimately provide some form of return. Bearing in mind the receipt of benefits may stretch a long way into the future (consider a new railway line for example), and so the benefits realisation plan will similarly have a protracted horizon, perhaps extending years.

The failure of the PM to delivery the projects to plan, or the Programme manager failing to oversee multiple project effectively may cause the benefits to be not achieved as planned. It is there fore a key document.

PP2.4 based on monitoring outcomes, take action to highlight recommended adjustments to maximise benefits realisation

Once all the products are delivered the PM will need to make sure that a) they are in fact providing the anticipated outcome (a new hospital with no nurses is not much use for example). Once the facility is observed and everyone trained, and the service made available the benefits will start to roll in.

What about a new block of apartments where there is a lot of vacancies? Maximizing benefit realisation is about finding ways to alleviate this situation (reduced rents, rent free periods, other incentives, better marketing, etc.). By doing this the benefits will be maximized and not left to languish un-recognized.

What does a good submission look like?

Project 1: I worked closely with the business analysts and the project sponsor to fully understand the nature of the benefits to be derived from the project and I ensured that my project support team documented a benefit profile for each of the key ones using my companies standard template. I ensured that these had clear identification of where they were dependencies or connected to the products of my project. The project business case had a clear set of high level benefits, and my work with my team decomposed these into more granular achievable detail so that I could demonstrate to all the stakeholders that the project was delivering the right products at the right time.

I made sure there was a primary relationship demonstrating the link between my product breakdown structure and the benefits map and chased any broken links (i.e. product with no benefit or vice versa). I used my project cash flow projection as a basis, and I superimposed the anticipated benefit realisation curve onto it and this revealed the timing and helped me prioritise the delivery of products.

During delivery I commissioned benefit review meetings where I invited key stakeholders to review progress with me to make sure they were able to turn the tangible products into realisable outcomes and benefits. The overall benefit realisation plan was approved by the sponsoring team and at my meetings with them we determined the best way to obtain the best beneficial outcome, checking each KPI (date to delivery, value, etc).

250 words – WARNING – I am not suggesting that this would be successful, I am not the assessor who will be assessing it, but I wouldn’t mind betting it has a strong chance of being suitable.

Please remember for ChPP Elective Competence 12 – What YOU did, lots of I, me, and my.

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