Benefits Realisation: The Basics Explained

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Categories: benefits


Benefits can either be certain and quantifiable (like generating more money) or less quantifiable (like improving employee satisfaction), according to Carlos Serra, who presented on the topic at the PMI Global Congress EMEA 2015 in London this week.

“Benefits are a result of action and behaviour, and they provide something of value to someone,” he explained.

Benefits come from change

Each change we do as part of a project delivers benefits. We need those benefits because projects are supposed to move the business forward in terms of its strategy. Each benefit helps fill the gap between where the business is now and where it wants to be. Project benefits are little (and sometimes big) jumps towards hitting the ‘desired state’ of the business.

He showed a graph a bit like this:

In other words, the delivery of incremental benefits over time shift the organisation from the current state to the desired future position. And projects deliver those benefits.

Realising benefits

Carlos then went on to explain the term ‘benefits realisation’ and said that it wasn’t easy to understand. He’s from Brazil but now based in the UK and in his native Portuguese there are three different ways to translate ‘realise’. Even in English there are different meanings of the word including:

  • To become fully aware of something
  • To cause something good or bad to happen
  • To make money by selling something.

He asked the audience if other languages held the same difficulties and there were nods from around the room. Arabic, Dutch and Spanish speakers all confirmed that ‘realisation’ didn’t really translate easily.

Carlos defined benefits realisation like this:

“Benefits realisation is a process to make benefits happen and also to make people fully aware of them throughout the entire process.”

Benefits realisation management defined

Benefits realisation management is the third term that Carlos explained. This is a set of processes required to deliver benefits.

He said that the realisation life cycle starts way before the project and happens mostly after the project so the processes are far-reaching in terms of alignment with the project life cycle.

Finally, he concluded by saying that because of this it is not possible for the delivery of benefits to only be the responsibility of the project manager or team.

Actually, that wasn’t his final conclusion. He went on to say a lot more about benefits realisation management and I’ll be covering that in another article. Watch this space!

Posted on: May 15, 2015 09:04 AM | Permalink

Comments (4)

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Great post. Additionally, incremental increases can be complemented by the "ahaa!" also known as the "eureka!" or "lightbulb" effect. This is a process that eludes planning. It cannot be foreseen and is perhaps aptly described by the word ""serendipity." Such benefits can be real game changers and project management should expect them to occur and be prepared to harvest them when they do emerge.

Very good post. Elizabeth summarized the first 15-20 min of my presentation in a clear and creative way. I appreciate that. I look forward to seeing the following post.

Thanks, Carlos! I was really glad I chose your presentation. I think you had lots of great things to say about benefits realisation.

Trevor, that's a really great point. Taking advantage off those positive moments is something that I don't think project managers are really geared up to do. We tend to focus on preparing for the negative, and not being ready to spring when something good happens!

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