We talk about benefits and value as if we all know what it means but these concepts are trickier than they seem.
In the digital age, it’s common to know about someone for years before you meet them face-to-face. I recently met an industry guru whose name I recognised from a professional network and we had a chat. It turned out he was disappointed in said network and asked me about what value it was supposed to offer members.
The question was an interesting one. The value for me was getting to meet people like him and learn about an industry to which I was a newcomer. Having also done some volunteer work for the network, I also managed to expand my writing portfolio in a new direction, one for which I have a passion and plenty more to learn.
Talking to him, however, I realised something I already knew but never directly identified: value is different for different people. For a professional at the top of his game, there was no value in the education offerings the network provided. He was already well-connected in a fairly small industry, too, so sooner or later he would have met people like me through reputation alone.
After our conversation I pondered this some more and came up with three aspects of value I think project managers need to be able to convey to stakeholders as part of any discussion about benefits.
- Value exists only with recognition of benefits. When you realise benefits—even in failed projects there are lessons learnt to salvage—there is value.
- Value is not universally distributed among stakeholders. It is not always win-win; what look likes value to one party may be worthless to another. The trick is, when you need the go-ahead, to use other incentives to people on board when value may not be obvious to them.
- Value always has a context with regard to cost. This can be effort, money or time. If there is no exchange, people tend not to value something. Conversely, if someone has spent effort, money and/or time, they are very likely to want to see value—if they don’t they could become problematic.
How do you communicate value?