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What is Benefits Realisation?

Projects shouldn't end with technical delivery and a closure report

Recommended Reads | By Duncan Haughey | Read time minutes

A businessman showing a lot of coins in his hands

You've delivered your project on time, within budget, the customer has signed it off, and you've completed your end project report. The end! You've finished the project, time to move on, right? No. You can't expect the benefits automatically to drop out of your project with no effort.

Successful Delivery But No Benefits

Companies spend millions of pounds on projects that never get finished. Often, the reason has nothing to do with the quality of the deliverable. More likely, there is no time, energy, or enthusiasm to ensure the product or service is adopted and embedded in the organisation. Often, it is because the next big and exciting project comes along to distract us.

Have you ever delivered a successful project, only to find out later the product or service was never used or implemented? It's not a good feeling. So what can you do about it? Benefits Realisation is the answer.

Active Benefits Realisation

As the project manager, you are uniquely positioned to help your customer gain the benefits detailed in the business case. Once you have closed the project, benefits realisation can be another phase or run as part of the project itself. It may not follow directly from the project end. Instead, it can start after a short period, before the post-implementation review, typically three to six months after the project finishes.

Opinion seems divided on whether active Benefits Realisation is the Project Manager's domain. The truth is that many projects declared a success never deliver the benefit or result initially envisaged.

The project manager's role in driving benefits from projects involves working closely with the customer to ensure the product or service is firmly adopted and embedded in the organisation. You and your team may play a part in:

  • Carrying out demonstrations and presentations.
  • Delivering workshops and training.
  • Preparing marketing materials.
  • Organising product and service launches.
  • Arranging and chairing meetings.
  • Finding creative solutions to problems.
  • Championing the cause.
  • Driving change.

To gain benefits, you must have change. In their book The Information Paradox, John Thorp and DMR's Centre for Strategic Leadership say that:

It is a central tenet of the Benefits Realisation Approach that benefits come only with change and, equally, change must be sustained by benefits. People must change how they think, manage and act in order to implement the Benefits Realisation Approach.

Changing the way people think, work and manage is not an easy task, but without it, your project is in danger of joining a long list of successful project deliveries that were never embedded in the business. Don't let your projects deliver and die. Ensure the benefits envisaged at the start are realised at the end.

Recommended read: The Benefits of Documentation, by Ann Drinkwater.


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