Some projects should just be terminated, and it doesn’t relate to how well or poorly they are going.
Project benefits are very often inadequately addressed in organisational project portfolios, with the result that individual projects can often run in a vacuum like astronauts.
Benefit statements are a clear and simple exposition of the long-term benefit to the organisation that is derived from any particular project. It should be additional to objectives and deliverables, which relate to that particular project. Benefits relate to the function of the project in the life of the organisation.
The purpose of a benefit statement is to be able to make decisions above project level on whether any project should continue to be supported, or which projects should receive resourcing during resource squeezes.
Astronaut projects operate in a vacuum. These projects may have well defined objectives, clear governance and good project management. However, they are not connected back to organisational goals. They could still potentially deliver excellence on-time and on-budget, but not necessarily deliver optimum organisational benefit, as the benefit was never clearly defined.
Zombie projects are pet projects that keep getting life breathed back into them because a particular individual or team wants to see them done. Without the discipline of approving and reviewing projects against clear benefit statements, they will continue to feed off the resources that should be going to support the living.
Vampire projects are projects that just won’t die. They are glamorous, good-looking and charming projects that everyone wants to love. They just don’t deliver adequate benefit to the organisation, and sap the energy of the living.
Poorly performing projects are more often killed off than well performing or well-loved projects. However, if a poorly performing project has a greater benefit to the organisation, resources should be applied to make it work at the expense of potentially better performing projects.
Value management processes are typically applied at a project level, so compromises are made to achieve value within existing resources internally to a project. The value management compromises have an impact on the benefits of particular projects. It is logical to ensure that value management takes into account the benefit of the project and the benefit of other projects in the organisation.
One of the decisions that should be part of all value management processes is whether the project retains its overall benefit, or whether the resources should be applied to another project and this one discontinued.
In organisations with a portfolio of projects, benefit management is critical. Its role is to ensure that the mix of projects is optimal for the whole organisation, not just that each project is effective within its own boundaries.