Benefits realisation or program evaluation - FAQ
Benefits realisation measures whether a program or project realises the identified benefits as outlined in the business case. Benefits must be measurable.
Evaluation looks at all aspects of a project or program, including unintended outcomes. It can take the form of process, outcome and/or economic evaluation. The type of evaluation will depend on what decision-makers want to learn about the project, e.g. if the implementation of a project is quite straightforward, a process evaluation is not warranted, however there may be a clear case for an outcome evaluation where achievement of outcomes is not clear and requires robust evidence.
Benefits Realisation is more likely to be used for programs or projects that have a documented business case. Benefits Realisation Management in NSW Government has a stronger financial focus which makes it more suitable for projects that have efficiency and cost reduction objectives. It is also more commonly associated with projects that sit under the umbrella of a program of work.
Program evaluation is more suited for projects with outcomes that may be less easy to define and to measure. Program evaluation has progressively developed itself as an academic discipline since the 1970s, and can now rely on a number of well-established tools like program evaluation. Evaluation also has at its disposal a wide range of scientific methods, both quantitative and qualitative, that can bring evidence to any program outcome, whether it is quantifiably measurable or not.
A good Benefits Realisation report demonstrates sound preliminary work in the early framing stage around Benefits dependency mapping. Once benefits are identified and recorded in the Benefits register, they should be regularly monitored and reported against. Good Benefits Realisation Management is embedded into project management continuous improvement approach turned into Business As Usual.
No, not necessarily. Benefits Realisation may be all that is required to report on a project’s performance and achievements.
Evaluation would be required only if there is a case to provide robust evidence against hard to measure outcomes.
Benefits Realisation doesn’t have to be costly. The main investment is in the initial phase where key stakeholders assist in the identification of benefits that will be monitored along the way and potentially realised.
Evaluation can be more resource intensive, but it depends on the type of evaluation chosen. For instance, process evaluations can be quite straightforward in the types of methods used, e.g. document review, stakeholders’ interviews.
An outcome (e.g. more efficient service delivery) is the result of the change derived from using the project’s outputs (customer service training).
A benefit is the measurable improvement resulting from an outcome that is perceived as an advantage by one or more stakeholders (e.g. costs are reduced by 10%).
No. Benefits can be financial or non-financial. Non-financial benefits might include things like improved capability or increased customer satisfaction.
This is indeed a challenge for Benefits Realisation, and even more for Program Evaluation which often considers outcomes that may take several years in the making. Monitoring of benefits and outcomes often stops after the completion of the project, in particular where projects relied on an ad hoc team and contingent workforce. As long as the appropriate governance arrangements are put in place, i.e. a senior executive is responsible for realising the benefit, the likelihood of that benefit being realised increases significantly.
However, organisations should set themselves up to measure benefits and outcomes when required for projects with longer term impact. In these cases, it is recommended to embed benefits or outcomes tracking in to monitoring or performance reporting systems, so that it doesn’t stop with the project team.