Getting the most out of your project benefits

Written by Bruce Aylward

Bruce is Chief Everything Officer at Psoda and an award winning ICT leader. After starting life as a rocket scientist he created Psoda and has been taking the product to the world for over 10 years.

While benefits management is not a new concept, in fact we wrote a 101 guide back in 2008. It’s still something that organisations don’t do particularly well.
We’ve spoken to a number of project management professionals over the years and some common areas of concern keep popping up.
Below are the top five, with some potential solutions:

Identifying too many benefits

When writing a project’s business case, it’s really easy to inflate the number of benefits that the project is likely to achieve in order to get your project across the line. This is a bad idea! If the project is approved you’re likely going to be expected to deliver the benefits that were outlined in the business case.

Struggling to make the benefits measureable

One of the trickiest parts of benefits management is putting measurements in place. This goes back to making sure your benefits statement is meaningful. For example, you might have a benefit statement that says “we will improve the quality of housing for our tenants”. Which is almost impossible to measure. You can change it to “we will reduce the number of maintenance call outs from our tenants by 15% in the first year”. Which can easily be measured.

Difficulty identifying a post-project implementation benefits owner

Project benefits are usually achieved long after the project that identified them has come and gone. Therefore it is important to identify an owner that can continue to measure and report on the achievement of those benefits. There is no point making the project manager responsible. They will have moved on long before the benefits could be realised. Consider making the benefits owner an end-user, that way you are more likely to get the continuous monitoring required. Also, make sure the benefits owner is empowered to take the necessary actions to ensure the benefits are realised.

Not linking the benefits back to organisational goals

By aligning benefits to the organisational goals you ensure any projects that are undertaken are actively contributing to achieving what the organisation has been established to do. It also lets you see which projects are not contributing and makes the decision to cull them much easier.

Not re-evaluating the benefits during the life of the project

One of the biggest mistakes in benefits management is to have a number of benefits outlined in the business case and then ignoring them until the project finishes. Some of your benefit assumptions may be proven wrong or the environment might’ve changed. This will reduce the actual benefit(s) you are likely to achieve. If the project scope is changed or reduced, this can also seriously impact the benefit(s) you can achieve. It could even get to the point where the cost of the project outweighs the adjusted benefits. I.e. your business case no longer stacks up. By re-evaluating your benefits during the life of your projects you can detect this early and make a decision to stop further work on that project to prevent any further costs for little gain.
One sure way to get to grips with benefits management is to implement a tool that helps you both capture the benefits your projects are meant to achieve and measure progress against those goals.
Psoda’s Programme & Project Management module offers a benefits realisation tool designed to help you realise the full potential of your projects. It allows you to:

  • Develop a benefits map that gives an overview of your project benefits
  • Define your key performance indicators (measurements) for each benefit.
  • Automatically aggregate sub-benefits to calculate the achieved value of a benefit
  • Track and plot achieved values against the target value over time
  • Add comments or assumptions on each benefit
  • View the overall status of the benefits map.

To find out if Psoda works for your organisation, sign up for a free trial or get in touch with our team.

How a health care provider moved to the cloud

Written by Rhona Aylward

Rhona is Deputy Everything Officer at Psoda, where she does everything except code. After starting life as a microbiologist she moved into PMO leadership roles around the world before settling in New Zealand with her family.

This week I wanted to do something a bit different on the blog, so decided to share a case study from one of our customers so that you can see what a difference Psoda has made.
The client
Hutt Valley District Health Board (DHB) was formed in 2001 and is one of 20 district health boards in New Zealand. It is a government-funded organisation responsible for planning, funding and providing health care and disability support services for over 140,000 people who live in the Hutt Valley.
Hutt Valley DHB provides medical and surgical hospital services, specialist services as well as primary and community-based healthcare. The main facility at Hutt Hospital in Lower Hutt has 270 beds.
The DHB’s annual budget is approximately $421 million, of which roughly half is spent on hospital and mental health services.  The other half funds a range of community health providers.
The situation before Psoda
In 2010 Hutt Valley DHB implemented a major transformation programme that included upgrading major IT systems and infrastructure.
Different versions of the truth
At this time it became clear that there was no one single view of the status of the various projects being undertaken.
Documents resided in different locations, including network drives, USB sticks and emails making it extremely difficult for project staff to keep track of their own projects but also meant senior management couldn’t get accurate updates on the programme as a whole.
Information was in multiple formats, such as Word, Excel, Visio diagrams and PDFs. This made generating reports time consuming and awkward. For example, running a programme status report involved the programme administrator having to go around the various project managers and collect all of their information and then manually collate this into a programme report. This resulted in incomplete and out of date information being reported.
Lack of strategic alignment
During the transformation programme it became clear that there was a distinct lack of strategic alignment of projects. Projects were not started, prioritised and closed in a controlled way –those who shouted the loudest got the attention. This led to projects that should have been funded, worked on or closed as a matter of priority being ignored.
Poor resource management
The transformation programme was required to share multiple resources across various projects, but there was no central resource management. This led to people being significantly over and under allocated, causing multiple headaches for the project teams.
The move to Psoda
Hutt Valley DHB decided to evaluate Psoda’s product set after seeing a demonstration at a Health IT conference.
They chose to have a staged implementation, focussing initially only on the project and programme management functionality. Over time this has expanded into other areas of the tool and the DHB  has also implemented a number of collaborative projects with other DHBs.
Psoda boosted project and programme visibility at Hutt Valley DHB. It now has visibility not just of the projects and programmes in its own pipeline but also those in the pan-DHB pipeline.
Enhanced resource utilisation
Using Psoda for resource management has allowed Hutt Valley DHB to more effectively utilise project staff. This has resulted in cost benefits by allowing staff to be directed where they are most needed, reducing project delays.
Why Psoda?
Hutt Valley DHB chose Psoda for a number of reasons:

  • It was cost effective
  • It could be implemented quickly
  • It was scalable and flexible

As Psoda is a cloud-based solution the total cost of ownership is significantly lower than that of traditional PPM tools with similar functionality.
The flexibility of the toolset meant that it was configured to meet the needs of Hutt Valley DHB, rather than the DHB having to change its processes and procedures to fit the needs of the tool.
Psoda’s built-in reporting capability was another a key attraction for the DHB. It can now generate reports directly from its central data sets instead of having to export data and manipulate it other applications to generate reports.
To find out if Psoda is right for your organisation, register for a free 30 day trial now

Portfolio, programme & project management predictions for 2014

Written by Rhona Aylward

Rhona is Deputy Everything Officer at Psoda, where she does everything except code. After starting life as a microbiologist she moved into PMO leadership roles around the world before settling in New Zealand with her family.

As 2013 comes to a close I thought it would be good to make some predictions for portfolio, programme and project management in 2014.
So here are the trends and developments I see influencing how we will all work next year:

Big Data

I think the next big game changer in portfolio management will be big data. By analysing all of their available portfolio, programme and project data, organisations will be able to spot emerging trends and potential weaknesses before they happen, allowing more programmes and projects to succeed.
For this to happen, organisations will need all of their programme and project data to be accessible to analysis tools. Either from a central repository or from a consistent set of repositories.

Benefits Management

Over the past few years there has been a stronger push towards clearly articulating the expected benefits of any project. I expect this to mature in the next year with organisations looking for continuous updates on benefits realisation throughout the lifetime of the project and beyond, actively using that information to determine which programmes and projects will continue to be funded and also as part of the process to prioritise new projects.


PMOs* will continue to evolve and will be expected to prove their value within the organisation. This will see them transition from being process shops to being more strategic and involved at a higher level within organisations. PMOs will also have to become much more hands-on in guiding the projects rather than continue to be re-active.
* PMOs have many names – take your pick from: Programme Management Office, Project Management Office, Programme & Project Management Office, Programme/Project Support Office. 

Project Management Standards

I expect to see more organisations embracing project management standards. Whether this is PRINCE2, PMBoK or ISO 21500 or a combination thereof.

Portfolio Management

We will see an increase in the adoption of portfolio management practices with organisations aligning their portfolios to their organisational strategies. According to PWC , organisations that implement portfolio management experience improved performance across the board. Including project and programme quality, scope, budget, time, and business benefits.
Overall there is a continued growth in project management practices. Especially in the Australasian government sector where current policy is putting pressure on agencies to do things smarter.
What are your thoughts on what trends will have the greatest influence on portfolio, programme and project management in 2014? Are we going to see an overall improvement in processes and practices, along with wider adoption of standards? And what will be the role of the PMO? Do you have any other predictions for 2014?


Can You Afford to Ignore Benefits Management?

Written by Rhona Aylward

Rhona is Deputy Everything Officer at Psoda, where she does everything except code. After starting life as a microbiologist she moved into PMO leadership roles around the world before settling in New Zealand with her family.

Do you have a solid approach to identifying and tracking benefits in the projects you manage? If not, it’s time to seriously consider doing so. Especially as understanding of the value of an effective benefits management regime – and the risk of its absence – is on the rise.
Benefits management – often also known as benefits realisation – is used to plan the benefits (or goals) you want to achieve for your organisation, programme, project or sub-project; and to track the progress on achieving those benefits.
While it is certainly not a new concept – Psoda published its own 101 guide on benefits management back in 2008 – it is starting to gain more prominence.
For instance, the growing need within the state sector for coherent information on how all the parts of benefits management work together, prompted the New Zealand Treasury to publish a guide on better business cases and benefits management last year.
According to Treasury, the demand for such guidance is a signal that benefits management will be an area of greater focus in the future, stating: “Benefits management will play an increasingly important role in enabling an organisation to manage within its fiscal constraints.”

So why is benefits management so vital?

Consider these words from leading benefits realisation management expert, Stephen Jenner:
“Benefits are not just one dimension of portfolio, programme and project management; rather, they are the rationale for the investment of taxpayers’ and shareholders’ funds in change initiatives.”
Jenner also states that without effective benefits management, the risk of project failure increases greatly.
In a paper prepared for European examination institute APMG-International, he points to research which found deficiencies in capturing benefits hamper nearly 50% of government projects, while 30 to 40% of systems to support business change deliver no benefits whatsoever.
Such figures are astounding, and clearly underscore the need for a proper benefits management approach, particularly in today’s economic climate.
As Treasury states in its benefits management guide: “In today’s environment Treasury expects financial management to provide assurance that finances of significant projects and programmes are under control, costs are managed, value for money is optimised, the ambitions of the projects and programmes are achieved, and the benefits realised.”
Here are our top-line thoughts on how to approach benefits management successfully.

Identify benefits early

You should identify the benefits at the business case phase of the project and take a baseline. Establishing benefits goals early on and objectively can help prevent what Jenner describes as ‘cognitive biases’ affecting benefits forecasting. He argues these biases can result in people overemphasising a project’s potential benefits and underestimating likely costs, going so far as to spin success scenarios while ignoring the possibility of mistakes.

Track benefit realisation

Benefits should be measured regularly throughout the lifecycle of the project to make sure the ROI is still valid and after project closure. Also, on-going benefits measurement should take place until they are realised.

Link project & organisation benefits

Don’t manage project benefits in isolation. Link them to the programme and organisational benefits. Benefits management should not be the responsibility of the project manager. The business owner, or someone else in the affected area of the business, need to own and manage the benefits.
As argued in an earlier blog, project and programme managers just cannot afford to risk not showing the ROI for their work. Therefore, we believe having a solid benefits management approach is essential for ensuring the success of projects and programmes.
For any advice on how Psoda’s benefits realisation tool can help set the strategic direction for your organisation, programme or project and track progress toward your goals, drop us a line.
And share your thoughts on the value of benefits management in the comment section below.

A lesson from space on keeping projects grounded

Written by Bruce Aylward

Bruce is Chief Everything Officer at Psoda and an award winning ICT leader. After starting life as a rocket scientist he created Psoda and has been taking the product to the world for over 10 years.

You may have heard a fair bit in the news about the International Space Station lately. This has largely been due to Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who during his recent tenure as commander of the station became a media and social networking star for sharing amazing photos, videos and science lessons from orbit.
He even recorded what’s believed to be the first-ever music video made in space.
While the buzz generated by Hadfield has been great publicity for the International Space Station, it has overshadowed one fundamental question, which has dogged the project from the start – is it really worth its $100 billion price-tag? What can this lesson from space teach us about managing projects here on Earth?
This was the topic of a article back in 2010, and remains a relevant question today.
Before any project gets off the ground, you would hope that the costs and benefits have already been carefully weighed up to make sure they balance out.
You would also expect the project plan to include measures to track when the project costs begin to spin out of control, and start to outweigh the benefits.
But even for projects such as the ISS, with billions of dollars at stake, this does not always seem to happen.
While NASA estimates the International Space Station has cost US taxpayers $50 billion since 1994, with a host of other nations also chipping in to make up $100 billion overall cost, it seems to have been unable to definitively show if the investment in the station will ever really pay off.
Critics argue that with a billion dollars – a fraction of the cost of the station – NASA could have funded the work of 1,000 scientists on Earth for five years.
This teaches us two very important lessons about managing projects efficiently – no matter how big or small:

  • Understand the cost/benefit ratio of a project
  • Know when to make the call to stop or suspend a project when the cost outweighs the benefits

Asking something that costs $100 billion to justify its existence is a tall order. While NASA may be able to get away with such stratospheric costs without showing definite ROI, back on Earth, in the project management world, we don’t have that luxury.
Generally we all have to justify the cost of our projects and show what ROI they will deliver.
So make sure you fully understand and can keep track of the cost to benefit ratio of a project.
This will help you know when to make the call to stop or suspend the project when the cost outweighs the benefits.
Trying to abandon the mission when the rocket is already sitting on the launch pad with its thrusters ready to ignite, is probably too late.
Any project manager worth their stripes should know when to pull the plug before a project has progressed too far.
That is unless they can call on a tweeting and singing astronaut to distract business owners from their budget blow-outs, of course. Perhaps that’s the true lesson from space?