People don't often start looking at benefits mapping on day one of considering a programme or portfolio (although this is the best idea). When is it not a good time to ask 'Why are we doing this?'.

However, we know that people often come to benefits mapping at different points in the development of their work and when considering many different types of project, whether highly structured or loose and emergent. Wovex mapping helps at any stage and we believe that wherever the project a benefits map is a really useful picture to develop.

Sometimes people come to benefits management when they have to review a programme that is already in progress and they have to post rationalise the benefits as they have been only loosely defined. Or someone might need to do an evaluation of benefits from a portfolio where little definition or tracking of benefits has been done throughout the life of the programmes.

All programmes and organisations are better if benefits are mapped and managed from the beginning but whatever phase you are in or type or scale of programme you are dealing with benefits mapping will act as a powerful way to step back and consider the whole picture. Whether your work is well defined, repeated and run by waterfall project management or novel, evolving and run with Agile principles there is a way to get everyone talking the same language and making decisions based on the same overview. 

In 1993 Turner and Cochrane published their “Goals and Methods Matrix” in the International Journal of Project Management. They judged projects against two parameters: how well defined are the goals, and how well defined are the methods of achieving them. This leads to four types of projects. Eddie Obeng evolved this work to give each of the quadrants a memorable descriptive name.

We find this perspective very useful for considering the application of benefits mapping in each situation. 

  • Movie-making (Clear How, but unclear What) - Loosely defined objectives at first but a clear well-known approach.
  • Painting by numbers (Clear What and How) - Specific objectives at the start, clear approach, been done before.
  • Fog (both What and How are unclear) - Loosely defined objectives at first, unclear approach, not been done before.
  • Quest (Clear What, but unclear How) - Specific objectives at the start, unclear approach, not been done before.

Painting by numbers

These are clearly defined and well-understood; for example, many repetitive, construction and engineering projects such as building or refurbishing houses, offices or roads. Techniques to manage these are well-developed and the Project Manager’s job is to speed them through a largely linear lifecycle of Initiation, Planning, Implementation and Close-out. Plans can be detailed and prescriptive: Waterfall fits well.

How benefits mapping helps

Benefits mapping is very powerful in taking a step back on projects like this, especially if there are many of these projects going on at pace. This is even more important in a time like this where so much is having to be reprioritised and reviewed to meet fast-changing needs.

If you want to review your strategy and the relevance of any of these projects looking at them from the perspective of the benefits they are supposed to and actually deliver can help you to consider any overlaps, streamline or rationalise the portfolio. 

And of course even well-understood projects like this often surprisingly don't have the benefits defined at the start and benefits mapping can help here to stop 'busy work' that actually isn't of any benefit to the organisation even though "We have always done that!"


When you have clear objectives, but there is uncertainty over how these can be achieved. Many organisational improvement projects fit into this type; for example cost reduction, cycle-time improvement and customer service improvement. Product and policy development projects are also often like this. Agile methods such as Scrum may be appropriate here, particularly for option development. 

How benefits mapping helps

Benefits Mapping will allow you to all hold the same purpose in mind during the earlier phases when you are exploring options and developing or trialling approaches. The map can be used to show various options and the relationship to costs and benefits in one simple visual. And then once you are tracking the benefits you can test which initiatives are really getting the impact you expected.


When you have clear processes, but unclear outcomes and it's often hard to judge success until the end. Process improvement,  IT and systems development are often like this. The method is usually well-known but what the project will deliver is heavily influenced by the creativity of the people involved. These projects need more time and effort in the initiation stage where the focus will be on defining the objectives.

How benefits mapping helps

Mapping is a very agile approach and helps with this kind of project in the early stages for clarifying proof of concept and assuring strategic alignment without restraining flexibility of how exactly the goals will be achieved. Although Benefits Mapping is often considered a programme management kind of tool due to it's use of measures and targets, staying focussed on the customer or public interest, ie the benefit, is only helpful in ensuring success with projects like this. Once the project is underway keeping site of the map and benefits will simply keep the goals in everyone's minds.


These are the most complex projects where neither the What nor the How are understood at the start. You may know “something needs to be done”, but without enough detail to create a plan of action. Totally novel areas of work are rarer in government but Organisation Redesign and Change programmes often fall into this category. They cannot be planned to any level of detail as they require both innovation and flexibility. The aim with these projects is to clarify them to the point that they can be run like a Quest. This requires a great deal of stakeholder involvement in working through possibilities so that a “best” answer emerges and is owned. There is unlikely to be one “right” answer where everyone agrees on the benefits as one person's benefit is another's disbenefit.

How benefits mapping helps

Clarifying all the perceived benefits and their beneficiaries will be very useful in these circumstances so that all the assumptions are explicit. This always helps everyone to build towards the best outcomes and see their perspective in relation to others. There may be a variety of options for implementation so it may help to pilot and test, multiple options and learn from what works until a final preferred solution emerges. Mapping can be very useful here as with the right. ligh0touch measures you can pilot and review indicative tracking information and change tack based on evidence quickly to ensure the quickest path to the most benefit.


So, in summary, not all projects are the same and it's always useful to consider what type of project you have before you decide how to approach it. But whatever it is Benefits Mapping will help you create agreement and understanding of the shared goals and help you manage how to get more benefits earlier.