Benefits in bite-sized bits...
Agile delivers time-bound pieces of functionality. It has the flexibility to adapt to circumstances and lessons learned from previous time boxes.
Benefits Management can work well in an Agile setting but it may have to run to keep up
Traditionally, programme management sets more flexible targets than individual projects do. The scope and timescale of programmes are such that it’s clearly recognised that the world is moving on as they happen. Programme objectives can still be SMART, they are just a bit more fluid than project ones.
The use of iteration, feedback and performance management (‘so far, so good’ benefits tracking) in programme benefits management helps keep the programme on track to deliver value, even when that value is emergent and unforeseen.
The same approach can be scaled down for an Agile project. We can start with a SMART objective that’s defined by its boundaries, e.g. benefits of no less than X, delivered by time Y in location Z. The Benefits Realisation Plan will be co-ordinated with the Agile timetable and benefits will be staged with the project deliverables.
Where Benefits Management starts running to keep up is in the need for constant review that fits with the Agile timetable. The developers meet regularly to assess what they achieved last period and how it will affect the plan for the next. This has to be controlled by the business’s assessment of the relevant benefits realisation. Every change to the plan must be weighed against the question, “Will it maintain or enhance the objective?” The business will consider:
• Will the change realise our desired benefits?
• Will it take us off-track?
• Will it offer new opportunities that we must take?
A developer’s flash of inspiration takes seconds, “I can tweak the code and give you X”. The appraisal of X is a significant exercise in quality control. The business skill will be in allocating the appropriate time and effort that trades off the new value you may get from changing the project specification against the cost and delay of assessing that value and making the change.
It won’t be an easy task and it will require some mental stamina to keep up. However, it’s a task that has to be planned to ensure that your project delivers benefits and not just capabilities.