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How projects can deliver organisational value

Businesses are increasingly adopting a benefits realisation approach as part of a dedicated project management capability in growing recognition that successful project delivery is critical for transition of organisation strategy to an enterprise-wide project deployment approach that delivers target outcomes.

Organisations increasingly rely upon project management as a key enabler of corporate strategy delivery. This has arisen from the realisation that managing change within business-as-usual operations has become problematic due to skill differentials, operational resource constraints and the need for faster change delivery. As reliance on project management has increased, so too has the focus on achieving and measuring the consistency of project delivery and the organisational value projects provide. Essential to creating this performance orientation is a benefits management process and project delivery capability that aligns projects with corporate strategy development through an execution lifecycle.

Aligning strategy and projects

Most projects commence with a clear view of the deliverables or ‘what’ is to be created or improved. Historically, this has become the sole focus of project activity and the key measure of success. However, what is often lost is the ‘why’. Why was this project commissioned, for which purpose and to achieve which organisational benefits? The primary driver of project decisions under this latter focus is how decisions will maximise realisation of organisational benefits. This approach ensures project deliverables and benefits align with, and contribute to, organisational strategic goals.

Central to this process is the creation of direct, formal links between organisational strategy development and the project roadmap. By aligning corporate goals, strategic and financial planning and project portfolio selection, the organisation can ensure it commissions only those projects that will maximise organisational benefit and directly support achievement of corporate goals. This relationship is demonstrated in Figure 1.

To determine the effective selection and management of the project portfolio for optimal organisational benefit, there are three critical elements:
Project prioritisation: Selection of the ‘right’ portfolio of projects with regard to the organisational goals, which ensures resources are deployed for optimal strategic benefit.
Project delivery: Once the optimal portfolio is determined, the focus becomes ‘doing projects right’, that is, deploying processes, skills and tools to maximise delivery success.
Results measurement: Monitoring project performance requires measurement of project efficiency—cost, scope and time adherence—and project effectiveness, that is, how well project outputs translate into organisational benefits.

To manage benefits successfully, all elements must be integrated so organisational decisions about project priorities align with strategy, project selection defines the optimal benefits outcomes, and the capacity to deliver and measure the desired outputs is confirmed. The organisation should develop an integrated process for the progression of strategic studies through project feasibility and priority assessment into development of prioritised project roadmaps. Central to this is the belief that all projects must prove their contribution to organisation goals and strategy to obtain funding. This ensures that projects are fully assessed through the strategic assessment and prioritisation processes to ensure they are aligned with the organisation’s strategic needs and business value objectives.

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Robert Loader is the head of the Strategic Initiatives Office at insurance firm AIA Australia (www.aia.com.au).
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