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Extending ISO 21500 Guidance Standard to Manage Benefits

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Extending ISO 21500 Guidance Standard to Manage Benefits. ISO 21500:2012, Guidance on Project Management, is an international standard developed by the International Organization for Standardization, or ISO starting in 2007 and released in 2012. It was intended to provide generic guidance, explain core principles and what constitutes good practice in project management.

The purpose of this article is to know how to manage benefits as depicted in the figure below from the ISO 21500 Guidance Standard.

iso 21500 framework

In order to be sure that the project is going to be a success, there needs to be a clear link between the things the project will deliver and the benefits this will enable. The project business case defines the expectations the business has: ‘why’ the business needs the project to be delivered. We should detail the following:

  • ‘What’ exact benefits will be delivered.
  • ‘When’ and ‘how’ benefits will be delivered.
  • ‘What’ needs to change within the business in order to support the benefits and how sustainability is measured.

The benefits management lifecycle has the following stages:

  • Benefits concept:
    • Linking the project to the business
    • Knowing ‘why’ the project is needed by the business
  • Benefits management:
    • Linking the benefits required to the scope Defined
    • Knowing ‘what’ has to be delivered and ‘how’ it will be Delivered
  • Benefits Realization
    • Tracking benefits delivery following project delivery
    • Knowing ‘what’ has been delivered and that it matches the ‘why’

Business case

In terms of benefits management, the business case represents the first stage in the benefits management lifecycle as it defines the broad benefits concept which the project needs to align to. The benefits concept shows how the project definition links with both the project cost/benefits analysis as well as the organizational strategy. This analysis ensures that there is a robust rationale for the project: ‘why’ it is needed by the business.

Benefits specification

During the early definition stages of a project there will be work completed which links specific areas of project scope to specific benefits, based on achieving the agreed benefits concept. This work can then be used to define specific benefit metrics.

  • Project scope = improve internal processes for external expenditure.
  • Benefit concept = controlled expenditure.

Benefits realization planning

Once the benefits have been fully specified there needs to be a plan for their delivery. This plan should answer all the following questions:

  • Are there baseline and target measures for all identified benefits metrics?
  • Who is responsible for each individual metric?
  • How will they track realization of the benefit to the agreed target level?
  • What part of the project will enable the benefit to be delivered?

There is usually a need for a collation of all benefits definition work completed to date, as well as some additional planning work to ensure that the benefits can be realistically realized.

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