Tanner James Blog

Would you like some Benefits with that?

John Howarth


“Hello, welcome to the ICT area, may I take your order please?”

          “Hi there, I’d like a large digital transformation, with big data, plenty of agile, and I want it now”

“Would you like some Benefits with that?”

          “Errr, sure, why not – get someone to cook them up and put them in a separate wrapping”

Unfortunately this is a prevalent attitude in Australian government department’s and agencies today.  Does that statement sting?  Read on…

The Black Art of Benefits Management

Unfortunately some people like to make things complicated, and benefits haven’t escaped their clutches.  Sure, there is some considerable thinking behind benefits management.  There is also considerable thinking behind financial management – yet people have no problem with the concept of simple procurement or buying something on a credit card.  However when it comes to benefits, people love to complicate things.

Have you ever experienced any of the following:

  • A consultant who professes to be a benefits management specialist explaining why you don’t understand what benefits are?
  • A large firm or company spending months producing benefits documentation that would be sufficient to paper the walls of a good size home?
  • A corporate area that insists all benefits must be financial and anything can be translated into a hard dollar value?
  • A PMO who have created a template-driven benefits management framework that no-one else can understand?

It really doesn’t need to be this way.

Back to Benefits Basics

A benefit is a measurable improvement resulting from an outcome perceived as an advantage by one or more stakeholders.  In other words, benefits are why you do the project – expressed the way users want, using words they understand.  No clear benefits?  Then don’t embark upon, or continue, the project.

How do you ensure the project stays focussed on benefits?  Create a simple Benefits Management Approach:

  • Check users and business areas really understand and own benefits – that they haven’t just nodded politely in an endless series of externally facilitated workshops.
  • Identify what actions are required to ensure benefits are likely to be achieved.
  • Identify how the realization of each benefit will be measured (and capture the current baseline).
  • Agree the timing of benefits reviews – ideally during the project at stage boundaries.

These words are taken from the 2017 edition of the PRINCE2® Manual, which now includes creation of the Benefits Management Approach as part of refining the Business Case.  So if your current project Business Case is simply a vehicle used to secure funding commitment, it’s time to think again – be authentic about the ownership, definition and realisation of benefits.

Want to know more about a simple approach to benefits?

If you would like to know more, please call me personally on 0407 404 688 or email me at .  I would be very happy to come to meet you, answer questions and provide further information.

What do you think?

Please feel free to comment on the blog itself or via Linked In.

Webinar - Strategic Benefits Mapping in the Public Service

Daniel Oyston

As the Managing Benefits guidance points out “BENEFITS are not simply just one aspect of project and programme management, they are the rationale for the investment of tax payer’s and shareholder’s funds in change initiatives”. 

Understanding the contribution of change initiatives to organisational objectives is at the heart of effective benefits management. There needs to be a clear line of sight from strategic intent through to the benefits of change initiatives and vice versa. Where this is in place we have a basis for meaningful assessments of strategic contribution. 

In this webinar, Barry Anderson, Tanner James CEO, shared his insights into the strategic impact of benefits management in the public service. 

Barry looked at the drivers behind benefits management including that driver-based analysis and benefits management is two-way since benefits management should provide the data to validate and refine as necessary the business model and the assumptions upon which it is based. 

WEBINAR VIDEO - Please note the recording is in two parts


Click the icon below to access an audio only file of the webinar.


Real Managers don’t use soft benefits

Daniel Oyston

written by David Bryant

“If it’s not cold hard cash I’m not interested”. They say real programme and project managers don’t use soft benefits.  But should they?

What is a soft benefit?

A popular misconception is that a soft benefit is a benefit you can’t measure. However, in the PRINCE2 and MSP worlds, a benefit must be measurable.

So does this mean that soft benefits don’t have a place in the PRINCE2 and MSP worlds?

Not at all.

What is a soft benefit in the PRINCE2 and MSP world?

According to John Ward, in Building Better Business Cases for IT investments, benefit measures can be categorised on a continuum from Financial (Hard benefits), to Quantifiable and Measurable and finally through to Observable (Soft Benefits).

With Financial Benefits, the financial value can obviously be calculated by applying a cost/price or other valid financial formula to a quantifiable benefit e.g. reduction in staff needed.

A Quantifiable Benefit is where there is sufficient evidence to forecast how much improvement/benefit should result from the change(s) e.g. reducing the average wait time by 10 per cent.

A Measurable Benefit occurs when the aspect of performance is measured but sometimes it is not possible, or very difficult, to accurately estimate how much performance will improve e.g. increased staff morale.

An example of an Observable (soft) Benefit might be specific individuals or groups using their experience or judgement to decide the extent the benefit will be realised e.g. asking line managers whether there has been an increase in staff motivation.

Soft benefits often relate to changes in individuals behaviour, which in many projects are critical to the achievement of business cases. The challenge is how to find valid ways of measuring such benefits – proxy measures often work, for example surveying the perceptions of individuals affected by a change before and after the change has been implemented.


It is hard to imagine a business case that won’t include a good mix of hard and soft benefits.

Just make sure you always have some form of measurement and that it is your best effort to make it realistic and valid.

This blog was written by David Bryant.

David Bryant | Consultant & Trainer

David specialises in maximising the Return on Investment by working with organisations to better align activities with the organisational objectives. David holds an MBA as well as PRINCE2, MSP and P3O qualifications.


Benefits Management Webinar – It doesn’t have to be complicated

Daniel Oyston

Last week we hosted a webinar: Benefits Management – It doesn’t have to be complicated. Thanks to everyone who logged in and participated.

For those that missed it, or those that want to see it again,  I recorded the webinar and have posted the video below. I’ve also uploaded an audio only file and posted it along with a copy of the slides. 

If you haven’t already, you can register your interest in attending the training we are intending to deliver in the APMG’s new guidance for Managing Benefits. The first public courses are being considered for delivery on 15 October. 

After registering your interest, we will provide you with access to enrolling in the course a full week prior to it being available to the wider market plus a 5% discount. Click here to register your interest.



Click on the icon below to download the slides 


Click the icon below to access an audio only file of the webinar.


Avoiding the Traps in a P3M3® Self-Assessment

Daniel Oyston

For the last two years P3M3® (Portfolio, Programme and Project Management Maturity Model) has been mandated by the Federal and Queensland State Governments for assessing the organisational capability of agencies to effectively manage ICT-enabled investments. The results have been mixed, not just in terms of how mature agencies are, but also in terms of how the assessments have been conducted.  Federal Government agencies will undergo another round of P3M3 assessments before the end of September with results to be reported to the Secretaries’ ICT Governance Board. There are a number of traps that agencies should be aware of when considering a self-assessment.

Trap 1 - Misunderstanding what 'self-assessment' really means

There was considerable confusion when the term ‘self-assessment’ was first introduced, not least because there were two distinct meanings being used. In the Federal Government context, self-assessment originally meant that assessments were to be run by agencies themselves and that it would not involve a central agency arranging each P3M3 assessment or ‘judging’ individual agency capability. The P3M3 model itself, however, offered self-assessment questionnaires as one of a number of ways for an organisation to begin to explore the P3M3 model.

Most agencies have now recognised that a P3M3 assessment is something they must own As such, the question of self-assessment then becomes “To what degree can we do this ourselves and to what degree do we need external assistance?”

Trap 2 - Not ensuring the right level of experience is involved

The P3M3 model is relatively simple to understand in structure; however a deeper level of understanding is required to grasp which elements of the model are the cornerstones of maturity measurement. There is a significant level of detail in the model and not all of it carries equal weight when undertaking an assessment.

In order to assess portfolio, programme and project management maturity, it is also important that the assessors understand what the disciplines of portfolio management, programme management and project management look like when they are well defined and applied in practice. Agencies must consider whether internal assessors have the skills and experience to make such a judgement. Many agencies have the requisite experience in relation to project management, but it is less common for portfolio management and programme management.

Trap 3 - Misinterpretation

The assessments undertaken to date show that consistent interpretation is a critical ingredient in a valid assessment. It is why assessments undertaken using online surveys are of questionable value – those responding to the survey must place their own interpretation on the meaning of the model without the benefit of an experienced assessor to guide them.

A simple example of this issue is interpretation of the word ‘programme’ – if people interpret it to mean ‘Government program’ rather than ’change programme’ when undertaking a survey then the  P3M3 assessment results will be invalid.

Trap 4 - Using unskilled interviewers

The accepted method for undertaking a P3M3 assessment relies primarily on interviews with people in key management roles – programme managers, project sponsors, investment committee members etc.  It is important that the correct people are selected for interview, and that the assessors are skilled interviewers. The APMG Group provides third-party accreditation of Registered Consultants who are qualified to undertake P3M3 assessments.

P3M3 is here to stay – What are the next steps?

Agencies are implementing their capability improvement plans. They will complete their next P3M3 assessment, to compare their actual capability to their target capability, and report the results to Secretaries’ ICT Governance Board, by 30 September 2012.

From September 2012, agencies are required to complete regular P3M3 assessments of their portfolio, program and project management capability and report to Secretaries’ ICT Governance Board on progress against their capability improvement plans.

Agencies must obtain independent validation of their current capability before undertaking major ICT projects. The Government considers agencies’ capability as part of the ICT Two Pass Review process to strengthen the link between policy formulation and implementation.

P3M3 is here to stay. While I hate to use the blog as a ‘sales tool’, it is important to note that Tanner James can help agencies undertake a self-assessment in the optimum way – using APS resources to build internal skills and reduce cost while benefiting from external expertise arising from having conducted many assessments.  Conducting an assessment this way can produce a valid assessment for less than half the cost of having a full external assessment undertaken.

If you have undertaken a self-assessment before, or started to explore the self-assessment questionnaires, then I would welcome your questions, observations or lessons learned.

Have you read PM&C’s Guide to Implementation Planning?

John Howarth

In August last year, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Cabinet Implementation Unit, released Guide to Implementation Planning.

Quoting the guide, “The purpose of this guide is to help departments and agencies formulate robust implementation plans that clearly articulate how new policies, programs, and services will be delivered on time, on budget and to expectations.”

The guide notes that there is “ …a wide variance in capability, skills and expertise across the APS.” and continues with “Often these capabilities, critical to delivery success, are poorly understood or undervalued. The clear message here is that everyone involved in implementation planning has an opportunity to learn and seek out the people and knowledge that can help them with their approach.”

Obviously a department’s P3M3® assessment will highlight the variances in capability, skills and expertise while the resulting Capability Improvement Plan will help people “to learn and seek out the people and knowledge that can help them”.

There is a specific section dedicated to benefits in the guide which is useful considering Gershon finding that department’s are weak in realising benefits from ICT enabled projects. Talking with clients regularly, as I do, I have found over the past months that benefits are becoming part of the conversation more and more (not through me introducing it into the conversation but through clients introducing it).

Response to our series of one-day Benefits Realisation workshops has been overwhelming, to say the least, and as one recent delegate said to me “You have definitely found an itch”.

The guide notes that “many departments and agencies [are] using non-proprietary best practice methods as the foundations of their Portfolio, Program and Project Management capability.”

The guide cites that “The most widespread methods used in the APS are the UK Office of Government Commerce’s (OGC - Cabinet Office) suite of best practice management frameworks which include P3M3, Managing Successful Programmes (MSP), PRojects IN Controlled Environments (PRINCE2) and Portfolio, Programme and Project Offices (P3O).”

“The best practice suite sets out what “good” looks like for those involved in program and project management, and draws upon the knowledge of experience and others which ensures quality and consistency throughout.”

The guide also provides useful guidance on elements of implementation including roles and responsibilities, benefits, deliverables, business case, risk management and stakeholder engagement.

You can download a copy of the guide here.

Four ways to break the cycle of overstated business cases

Daniel Oyston

David Bryant | Consultant & Trainer

David specialises in maximising the Return on Investment by working with organisations to better align activities with the organisational objectives. David holds an MBA as well as PRINCE2, MSP and P3O qualifications.


When Julia Gillard recently commented that the “pre-GFC world was never coming back”, it made me wonder if the recent resurgence in interest in Federal Government business cases and benefits realisation is a result of the GFC? 

A 2008 study of 100 European Organisations attitude to business cases and project results found: 

  • 96% of organisations required business cases as part of their project startup;
  • 69% said they did not quantify their benefits; and
  • 38% said they overstated benefits to obtain funding. 

In the pre-GFC period, many organisations were starting projects with ‘delusional optimism’ i.e. overstated benefits which meant the unfortunate Project Manager was doomed from day one. 

Stephen Jenner, in his book Transforming Government and the Public Service, claimed that many of these overstated business cases amounted to fraud. 

So how do we break this cycle of overstated business cases that usually sit on the shelf after funding is approved? Here are four ways to make a start: 

  1. do a complete analysis of benefits - not just financial but the non-financial as well;
  2. revisit the business case regularly and adjust costs and benefits i.e. periodically check the viability of the project or programme;
  3. make sure you actively realise the benefits - don’t rely on ‘silver bullet’ thinking; and
  4. communicate benefit realisation to the organisation so the culture changes to recognise business cases as fact, not fiction. 

As Julia and Wayne attempt to bring our budget back to surplus, I expect there will be greater scrutiny of business cases and the claimed benefits in Federal Government in the coming months. 

I would be keen to hear your thoughts about business cases in Federal Government?