Retrofitting benefits to existing projects


Understanding value when you didn’t do benefits

management the first time


Implementing BS202002: Benefits management on

portfolios, programmes and projects



By Dr. Hugo Minney

United Kingdom

How do you choose what projects will get you the best return for your money (and key staff)? The simplest answer is “benefits management”, but there are opponents to this.

100% or 0% of projects have benefits

The issue is that when choosing which project to fund (*see previous article), an investment committee wants to be able to compare like with like to make decisions. In other words, if you haven’t documented benefits for every possible project in the funnel, then you can’t make a decision on the prioritisation of the projects by comparing benefits because some don’t have documented benefits. And since this decision on priorities can’t be made, it is often argued that it’s not worth doing benefits management at all.

Figure 1 How do you compare projects with dissimilar benefits, or

benefits that haven’t been identified or calculated?

Bear in mind that benefits are unconsciously perceived as a threat by many project leadership teams – it’s something they could be measured on – so they subconsciously want to resist!

Existing projects

But that isn’t the whole problem.

The investment committee needs to review projects that are already started, where the project’s reason for existence might have changed, or the top priorities for the organization might have changed, to determine if a new (perhaps urgent) project has a stronger call on the resources (money, key staff, other scarce resources) than the existing one, to the point where it’s worth stopping work in progress. So we also need to retrofit benefits to projects that didn’t have them in the first place, and measure the likely realization of benefits on projects that perhaps didn’t use a very robust process for establishing their benefits first time around.

It’s unusual to stop or change a project, people tell me, although that wasn’t always the case.  For example, 900 years ago when we built cathedrals, a great many towns started with cathedral projects.  Building a cathedral is a difficult balance between materials and workers (the masons need a steady supply of stone and wood, but any extra stone in a stockpile anywhere is at risk of being stolen), much like modern projects, and most projects failed and the materials and masons quickly redeployed to another project. During the industrial revolution, transport links were built for very commercial reasons (to fill a demand). Initially canals and railways transported bulk goods from a source (a Duke’s mines or works) to an international port, but later the same route was used by multiple carriers for multiple uses and in both directions. Canals and railways under construction followed their customers or declared bankruptcy. However, modern project management believes its own hubris and generally doesn’t close down or change a project that is no longer useful.

If we are going to allocate resources efficiently, we need to know whether a new urgent project really does deserve some of the resources from the project that’s half way through. What’s the cost (in terms of lost benefits) of delaying the existing project? What’s the advantage (benefit) of the new project? What’s the right amount of resources of each kind to reallocate? Should we postpone the new project, or cannibalise the old project?

This means calculating benefits across all the projects in a portfolio, in double-quick time and probably with almost zero resources.


To read entire report, click here

Editor’s note: The author Dr. Hugo Minney is a Fellow of APM (Association for Project Management), a Member of PMI and PMI UK, Co-Chair of APM’s Benefits and Value SIG, and committee member of PMI UK’s Sustainability Community of Action. For more, see his author profile at the end of this article.

How to cite this work: Minney, H. (2024). Retrofitting benefits to existing projects: Understanding value when you didn’t do benefits management the first time, Implementing BS202002: Benefits management on portfolios, programmes and projects, series article, PM World Journal, Volume XIII, Issue II, February. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/pmwj138-Feb2024-Minney-Retrofitting-benefits-to-existing-projects-series-article-2-2.pdf

About the Author

Dr Hugo Minney

London, UK


 Dr. Hugo Minney is a Fellow of APM (Association for Project Management), a Member of PMI and PMI UK, Co-Chair of APM’s Benefits and Value SIG and committee member of PMI UK’s Sustainability Community of Action (none of which are paid).

Minney set out to become a farmer, but was defeated by bureaucracy. He sold high ticket computer systems and specialist software for workforce planning; joined the National Health Service for 18 years (and as a Chief Executive for the last 7 of these), and is now a project management consultant with a sideline chairing a charity restoring the sense of community for young people.

Minney works in project management, and in particular benefits management, motivating team members by reporting what they are achieving together and changing the community and culture to want to achieve – together. At present, he’s more involved on the governance side, accredited as a Social Value practitioner and Chartered Project Professional, and reviewing the balance of projects and contribution to objectives and benefits across portfolios.

Dr. Minney can be contacted at hugo.minney@thesocialreturnco.org