Needs identification processes to establish program/project benefits targets


By Alan Stretton, PhD

Sydney, Australia


This paper is concerned with processes for establishing/confirming the needs of intended recipients of benefits deriving from programs/projects, in order to definitively establish the nature of the targeted benefits. This work does not currently receive as much attention in the program/project literature as its importance deserves.

Three different groups of recipients of benefits can be identified in the literature.

  • Program/project benefits linked to the organisation at large

In this case, organisational needs identification/confirmation is normally part of processes for establishing organisational strategic objectives. This is not generally regarded as an area for involvement by program/project management. However as I argued in last month’s PM World Today (Stretton 2011j) there are many circumstances where program/project managers should be involved.

  • Program/project benefits linked directly to stakeholders

Surprisingly few writers directly link benefits with specific stakeholders. Some contributions by Thiry to identifying needs of stakeholders in this context are summarised. Also, it is suggested that some of the approaches developed for customer needs determination (next bullet point) may also be useful for helping identify the needs of key stakeholders.

  • Program/project benefits directly linked with clients/customers

Customer needs determination was discussed in some detail in an earlier paper in this journal (Stretton 2009e).


The materials on program/project benefits realisation/management in the literature pay little attention to first ascertaining the needs of the recipients of benefits from programs/ projects before establishing relevant benefits targets. However, it seems self-evident that the nature of the targeted benefits cannot be confidently established until recipients’ needs have been properly determined. If this work is not done, how can the ultimate realisation of relevant program/project benefits be confirmed?

There is some recognition in the literature of the need to do this work, although little detail on how to go about it. For example, in the Project Management Institute’s Standard for Program Management (PMI 2006a), the first two stages (of five) in its Figure 2.3. Program Life Cycle and Benefits Management are Benefits Identification and Benefits Analysis. However, little indication is given on how to go about the needs identification work that is required before undertaking identification and analysis/ synthesis of the desired benefits.

These notes are concerned with processes for identifying/confirming the needs of intended recipients of program/project benefits. But first, we identify three different types of recipients of benefits as they appear in the literature.

  • Program/project benefits linked to the organisation at large
  • Program/project benefits linked directly to stakeholders
  • Program/project benefits directly linked with clients/customers 

We go on to look at needs identification processes for each recipient category 


To read entire paper (click here)

Editor’s note:  Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English. This paper was originally published in the PM World Today eJournal in August 2011; it is republished here with the author’s permission.

About the Author

flag-ukalan-strettonAlan Stretton, PhD     

Faculty Corps, University of Management

and Technology, Arlington, VA (USA)

Life Fellow, AIPM (Australia) 

Alan Stretton is one of the pioneers of modern project management.  He is currently a member of the Faculty Corps for the University of Management & Technology (UMT), USA.  In 2006 he retired from a position as Adjunct Professor of Project Management in the Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), Australia, which he joined in 1988 to develop and deliver a Master of Project Management program.   Prior to joining UTS, Mr. Stretton worked in the building and construction industries in Australia, New Zealand and the USA for some 38 years, which included the project management of construction, R&D, introduction of information and control systems, internal management education programs and organizational change projects.  He has degrees in Civil Engineering (BE, Tasmania) and Mathematics (MA, Oxford), and an honorary PhD in strategy, programme and project management (ESC, Lille, France).  Alan was Chairman of the Standards (PMBOK) Committee of the Project Management Institute (PMI®) from late 1989 to early 1992.  He held a similar position with the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM), and was elected a Life Fellow of AIPM in 1996.  He was a member of the Core Working Group in the development of the Australian National Competency Standards for Project Management.  He has published over 120 professional articles.  Alan can be contacted at [email protected].