Managing Programme Benefits


Advances in Project Management Series

By Andrew Hudson

Surrey, UK

“To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you’re going so that you better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction”   Stephen Covey


There is no other purpose in doing a programme than to deliver value and realize benefits. This is the true measure of a programme’s success. To illustrate this, consider which of the following programmes is better? A programme that was delivered on time, on budget and created some value, or a programme that was late, over-budget and created significant value? It is hard to argue that the latter programme is better because it delivered more value despite being late and over budget.

This article explains how being more effective at managing programme benefits can accelerate performance improvement and better enable organizations to achieve their strategic objectives. It explains common benefits management practices and explores reasons for programme benefit success and failure. This chapter also provides practical guidance on the most effective strategies to lead and deploy programme benefits management including guidance on how to tackle some of the barriers to successful adoption. It provides general guidance to key practices and references to leading practise books, articles and authors for further reading.

Benefits Management Context

Benefits management, as a practice, is at the heart of an organization’s strategy. It is a central discipline that connects strategy with change and operations enabling strategy to be executed and performance measures & targets to be achieved. The diagram below illustrates how benefits management sits at the heart of the strategic process.

The Need for Programme Benefits Management

The beneficiaries of a programme, who could be internal or external consumers or operators, need to know that the programme’s outputs will enable them to realize their objectives.

Programmes start with high expectations and levels of motivation. This motivation ebbs as the programme deals with delivery issues relating to quality, cost and time. Programmes may be de-scoped to ensure the programme delivers on time with insufficient awareness and consideration given to the value impact. This is an example of why programmes fail to deliver the expected benefits. A study conducted in 2013 by the International Centre for Programme Management (ICPM) found that of the 21 programmes (£10m-£100m+) researched over a two year period, six were successful at achieving the stated objectives, nine partially successful and six failed to achieve any objectives or were abandoned.

Findings from this study and other research show that for programmes to be more successful they need to have a clear purpose, be strategically aligned with a recognized need and a strong financial case. Programme benefits management is the practice that brings this together.   Whilst organizations lack people with the skills and experience to do this effectively, consultants and contractors are often appointed to facilitate programme benefit management on behalf of the organization. There is, therefore, a major opportunity for practice leaders to emerge within organizations to lead benefits management practices and its adoption.


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Editor’s note: The Advances in Project Management series includes articles by authors of program and project management books previously published by Gower in UK and now by Routledge worldwide. Information about Routledge project management books can be found here.



About the Author

Andrew Hudson

Surrey, UK


Andrew Hudson
has 30 years’ experience working with organizations to improve their management of strategy, operations and change.  He helps senior executives and teams to better plan and execute strategy by introducing and applying leading management and governance practices & tools:

  • Performance objectives – working with leaders to define and cascade performance objectives
  • Measurement – helping teams to apply better measures to drive performance improvement
  • Process – ensuring operations are slick, with effective controls and governance
  • Risk – minimising the likelihood and consequences of operational and project risk
  • Benefits – helping beneficiaries to maximize the value of change investment
  • Initiatives – keeping initiatives aligned with the strategy and maximizing ROI
  • Governance – ensuring that appropriate controls and reporting is in place to support better decision making

Andrew’s software company, ChangeDirector, has been recognised by Gartner as a Cool Vendor. As speaker, he inspires people to adopt better practices in effective strategy execution and value realization.  He is currently developing a community of practice around measurement with people who recognise the importance of measurement to inspire performance improvement. For more, visit http://www.changedirector.com/