Guest blogger Claire Dellar, a Product Manager and Associate of the Association for Project Management (APM), talks about the social value of projects. Read more and gain inspiration from project professionals in the industry.
Editors note: read this guest blog for an introduction to a career in project management.
By the age of 9 I was already a societal benefits manager. Moved by the plight of those caught up in war and famine on the African continent, I organised my school, my girl guides troop and anyone else I could inveigle to raise money for various appeals. I saved up and filled shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child and presented Pudsey with a giant cardboard cheque.
At 19, I joined my fellow idealists on a development studies and economics degree, going on to do research into the benefits of funding education in Vietnam and how game theory helps us understand charitable giving.
By 29, my role in Norfolk police put me at the heart of pandemic planning when swine flu threatened not only citizens of far-off countries but our families and friends. At 39 (plus a bit!) it was another pandemic, this time one that would go on to affect every continent on earth, upend our entire way of life and kill nearly 5 million people so far. 5 million is also the number of messages sent across the NHS e-Referrals System each week, where I now work as a Product Owner.
So why was 9-year-old me a benefits manager?
The role of a benefits manager – and a product owner in Agile – is to keep the team focused on your shared vision of the future. Benefits are the measurable improvements that contribute to realising that vision.
9-year-old me was focused on how many people could be fed for how many days with my donation. Or how many children would have the joy of opening a Christmas present.
19-year-old me wanted to know what had the greatest impact on household wealth: spending on primary, secondary or higher education?
29-year-old me was focused on how we could ensure the police continued to provide life-saving response times if 1/3 of the workforce were off sick with swine flu. At the start of Covid19, I volunteered to lead one of NHS Digital’s Volunteer Armies, where over a hundred of us worked our socks off to make sure patients could still get their prescriptions or an emergency appointment online, stopping 999 and 111 from becoming (even more) overwhelmed.
All it takes is a benefits mindset. Use fantastic resources like APM’s Social Return on Investment resources, and HM Treasury’s Green Book to help you along the way, but the simplest thing is to keep asking yourself “is what we’re doing making a measurable difference for people?”.
“If that’s what drives you … focus on those measurable improvements to society and then you’ll be making a difference.”
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From starting my career as a 9-year-old, what has driven me is making a difference.
There are many different Project Professional routes to becoming a benefits manager, through project and programme management, business change management or business analysis. There are also many non-Project Professional routes to the same job. Just focus on making a difference. If that’s what drives you, whatever route you take, job title you have and whatever work you do, focus on those measurable improvements to society and then you’ll be making a difference.
If you’re interested in discovering more about project management by joining as an APM Student Member; membership is free of charge and provides access to the APM HUB and other digital resources.