Customer Review

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars From a PMO perspective, 8 Jun 2010
This review is from: Benefit Realisation Management (Hardcover)
Book Review taken from the APM PMOSIG - reviewed by PMO professional, Martin McCann.

I found Gerald Bradley's new edition of his 2006 book an interesting and comprehensive read. It's packed full of all you'd ever really need to know about the theory and principles of Benefit Realisation Management (BRM) and the methods and processes behind it, as developed by Bradley's Sigma consultancy over the last twenty five years. Much of the BRM element of the OGC MSP guidance was based on Bradley's work, although it might be worth stressing that he does not feel that the '07 version of MSP incorporates the BRM principles to maximum effect.

From a PPSOSIG perspective, however, I should point out that the book is light on PMO-specific guidance, and only makes reference to PMOs in a couple of short sections. That said, PPSOSIG members may be interested in the potential implications that implementing BRM in your organisation could have on your PMO. BRM's underlying principles will strike a chord with anyone interested in improving how their organisation manages its long term change programmes, and may be of particular relevance to those of you working in a Portfolio Office or Centre of Excellence-type function. Effective BRM relies on the organisation logging, measuring and monitoring its benefits, so it is entirely possible that these activities that may end up being handled by a PMO.

This book is likely to appeal to people more inclined towards Programme / Portfolio Management than those solely focused on project delivery. However, Project Managers should still find it useful. Effective BRM can help Project Managers experience a more stability and reassurance by helping them understand exactly how their work fits into the bigger picture and appreciate the longer term implications of their project.

One of the main barriers to adopting effective BRM can be your organisation's PPM maturity. If your organisation is already reasonably mature, your senior management are much more likely to be amenable to the aims of BRM and the work necessary to implement and embed it than managers in a less mature organisation.

And this, for me, is one of the book's main downsides: I don't feel the book is as accessible as it could be to those who need it the most. It's almost a case of "never mind the width, feel the Quality!", and coming in at over 350 pages, the book is hardly a quick read. Busy managers could find it hard to devote the time necessary to work their way through it. A reader familiar with the basics of PPM could probably dip in and out or skim certain sections, but newbies or novices would have a lot of contextual theory to wade through.

Securing that elusive senior management buy-in and commitment to follow through is the only way to get the most out of BRM, but this book alone is unlikely to get you the commitment you need. Given the time constraints and information overload that many of us experience nowadays, the author could consider developing a more concise BRM overview to tempt in senior managers (perhaps in a similar vein to the OGC's pocketbooks or Prince2's "Directing Successful Projects" guidance) and encourage more of them to explore the realm of BRM without having to resort to a Sigma consultancy workshop.

I personally found some of the book's concepts very useful. For example, if used properly, the Benefit Dependency Maps could be incredibly powerful for conveying the complexities involved in a typical programme and helping Enabler Project Managers understand how they link into the longer-term plan. The section on the various different ways for classifying benefits, to help ensure you understand where your gaps and opportunities lie across a variety of perspectives, can also be a very powerful tool.

This second edition is well worth a read, but if you already own the first edition of this book, I'd only suggest buying it again if you are seriously considering (or are in the process of) implementing BRM in your organisation. The meat of the processes and methods are pretty much the same, but it does include additional guidance on measures, tracking benefits, some updated case studies and references to the new editions of MSP and P3O. The inclusion of colour diagrams is also a welcome addition to the new edition, instantly making the Benefit Maps more accessible at a glance. However, the sheer number of different colour conventions adopted could potentially cause further confusion for casual observers, and be warned: anyone with a degree of colourblindness may struggle to differentiate between some of the subtleties of the colour schemes.

Unfortunately, the book's index (although significantly improved from the last edition) is a little inflexible, and could still do with some refinement. The reader's ability to "dip in and out" could be greatly hampered by the lack of certain key references in the index. For example, the index overlooks the references to Programme Management Offices in the chapter on case studies, and doesn't even register the section on Portfolio Management Offices in the chapter on Maintaining an Optimum Change Portfolio.

In summary, this has the potential to be a brilliant addition to your bookshelf. However, as with any guidance like this, the key to successful implementation rests not in the book, but in how you choose to apply it. The current period of belt-tightening and impending austerity may well be just the right time for BRM to come to the fore, and if so, this book could help keep you forewarned and forearmed.

It's not perfect, and it's not for the casual reader, but if you're interested in learning more about BRM or intent on translating BRM from buzzword to established practice in your organisation, this book is an invaluable resource.
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