Have you ever been midway through a project and found yourself wondering: Why exactly are we doing this again? Take comfort in the fact that you’re probably not the only one stuck in this train of thought. Fuzzy project goals can lead to a situation where the project team kind of think they understand what they’re aiming for, but aren’t quite 100% sure.
Benefit maps are a way to take project goals and represent them in a visual manner that’s easy to understand and track against as the project moves forward. There are many different benefit map styles you can choose from or you can simply draw up your own custom graphical representation, how you depict your benefit map isn’t as important as the process of gathering all the right information and involving the right people in getting to the final result.
At its core, a benefit map should explain two key components:
- The “Why?” – as in why are we doing this, what benefits will be realised?
- The “How?”- as in how are we going to achieve it, who needs to be involved, what needs to be done?
A critical factor, however, is to ensure that the benefits are measurable and the actions to achieve these are clear and precise. There should be no room for interpretation.
What are the main benefits to using a benefits map?
- It clearly describes the project goals (and how these will be achieved) in a single visual that is easily understood by the entire project team as well as all other project stakeholders.
- The benefit map becomes the project blueprint which can be used as the base for creating the detailed project plan.
- It defines the criteria for determining whether a project can be declared a success or not & can be used throughout the lifespan of the project to check that you’re still on track.
- If anybody challenges the value of the project in an attempt to derail it, you can direct them to the benefit map as proof of the value thinking and planning that has already been done.
So where do you start?
Typically, your programme or project manager would drive the benefit map discussion. Key stakeholders need to be identified and invited to share their thoughts. A mind map is typically the easiest way to get ideas onto paper. From there it can be evolved into a benefit map which moves from the why on the left-hand side to the how on the right-hand side.
If any assumptions have been made, these should be listed and, if possible, tested through some form of research, sanity check or even prototyping. All critical dependencies should also be highlighted if they have a direct impact on the viability of your action plan.
As a final step, get all your key stakeholders to sign off on the benefit map, thereby ensuring its status as the guide to trump all other ideas and opinions.
Have you been struggling to realise project goals and benefits within your organisation? Get in touch. We’d be happy to discuss your challenges to see how we may be able to help.