Program Benefits Management

An International Best Practice the U.S. Government Could Use



By Wayne Abba, David Pells, Miles Shepherd

USA and UK



Benefits Realization Management (BRM) has been incorporated into several international standards for program management, including The Standard for Program Management from the Project Management Institute (PMI) in the United States and Managing Successful Programmes (MSP) from the UK government (first published in 1999). MSP in the UK has been updated and replaced by Guidelines on Programme Management (2010) and Guide for Effective Benefits Management in Major Projects (Oct 2017). Policies and Guides related to BRM have also been issued by national and regional governments in Australia and New Zealand, as leaders have recognized the value of measuring program and project outcomes and benefits in addition to traditional measures such as scope, schedule and cost.

Professional bodies in the UK and Australia have focused attention on BRM in articles, blogs, conferences, papers and standards.  While PMI devoted its entire suite of “Pulse of the Profession” and “Thought Leadership” papers to benefits realization in 2016, and has published some conference papers on the topic, there is little evidence of BRM being implemented in the United States.  Among US federal agencies, almost nothing!  Why is this?  What is the purpose of a program or project?  Why is a project launched, funded or performed?  What is the purpose of all of the projects and programs in a portfolio? What benefits will be gained and for whom?  What value will be created? BRM gets to the heart of these questions.

This paper briefly explains BRM concepts and implementation issues, drawing on experience, guidance and documents in the UK and other countries.  Its applicability for use in US government agencies is then explored.  Effective BRM does not replace traditional project management processes and tools, but rather provides a basis for linking strategies, projects, programs, performance and outcomes.  If anything, it can make earned value management and other proven project management methodologies more effective, while also promoting agility and stakeholder value.


According to PMI, program management includes the following five core domains: strategy alignment, benefits management, stakeholder management, governance and life cycle management.  Program benefits management is the program management domain that defines, creates, maximizes and delivers the benefits provided by the program. The Purpose of Program Benefits Management is to focus program stakeholders (program sponsors, program manager, project managers, program steering committee and others) on the outcomes and benefits to be provided by the various activities conducted during the program.  (PMI 2017)

The sixth edition of the APM Body of Knowledge  lists benefits management as one of the core areas addressed under the heading of scope management, thus reflecting the assertion that the planned objectives of projects can ‘be defined in terms of outputs, outcomes and benefits.’ The APM Body of Knowledge asserts that delivering benefits is the primary reason for organisations to undertake change. (Dalcher 2017)

There is no other purpose in doing a programme than to deliver value and benefits. This is the true measure of a programme’s success… research shows that for programmes to be more successful, they need to have a clear purpose, be strategically aligned with a recognized need and (have) a strong financial case.  Programme[1] benefits management is the practice that brings this together. (Hudson 2017)

Some Definitions

Benefit – Gains and assets realized by the organization and stakeholders as the result of outcomes delivered by the program. (PMI 2017). The measurable improvement resulting from an outcome perceived as an advantage by one or more stakeholders; ex. Improved services (OGC 2007)

Benefit Management – The identification, definition, tracking, realisation and optimisation of benefits within and beyond a programme. (OGC 2007)

Benefits Realisation – A process to make benefits happen and also to make people fully aware of them throughout the entire process. (Serra 2016)

Outcome – The result of change, normally affecting real-world behaviour and/or circumstances; the manifestation of part or all of the new state conceived in a programme’s blueprint. (OGC 2007)

Basic BRM Concepts

According to PMI, a benefit is an outcome of actions and behaviors that provide utility, value or positive change.  Some benefits are relatively certain and easily quantifiable (for example, creation of physical products or services, achievement of financial goals, etc.).  Other benefits may be less quantifiable, for example, improved employee morale, enhanced reputation, customer satisfaction, etc.) Benefits may not be realized until completion of a program, or may be realized in an iterative fashion as projects with the program produce incremental results. (PMI 2017)

Most books and papers dealing with BRM, for example Serra (2016), describe five phases or sets of activities involved in benefits management: benefits identification, benefits analysis and planning, benefits delivery, benefits transition and benefits sustainment.


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How to cite this paper: Abba, W., Pells, D., Shepherd, M. (2018); Program Benefits Management: an International Best Practice the U.S. Government Could Use; presented at the 5th Annual University of Maryland Project Management Symposium, College Park, Maryland, USA in May 2018; published in the PM World Journal, Vol. VII, Issue VI (June). Available online at https://pmworldjournal.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/pmwj71-Jun2018-Abba-Pells-Shepherd-program-benefits-management-umd-paper.pdf

About the Authors

Wayne F. Abba

Niceville, FL, USA



Wayne F. Abba is an executive advisor and principal of Abba Consulting, an independent management consulting firm based in Niceville, Florida. Mr. Abba is an internationally-recognized spokesperson for program management using Earned Value Management (EVM). With over 35 years’ experience in program analysis and a worldwide reputation as a leader in acquisition improvement, he was integrally involved in the complete reengineering of Dept. of Defense contract cost and schedule management policies and implementation and was awarded the Packard Award for Excellence in Acquisition in 1998. He retired in 1999 as Senior Program Analyst in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Technology. His clients have included the Social Security Administration, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Agency for International Development, the US Navy, the National Nuclear Security Administration, the National Science Foundation and several national laboratories. He was a part-time research analyst at the Center for Naval Analysis (2007-2016). He has been an advisor to the Office of Management and Budget, the Government Accountability Office, the National Science Foundation and other US and foreign government agencies. Since 2007, he has been a senior program management advisor to the National Nuclear Security Administration at the U.S. Department of Energy. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Graduate School Japan (2012 – present.) He is currently President of the College of Performance Management, a non-profit association dedicated to the advancement of EVM and other program performance management disciplines. Wayne can be contacted at [email protected]

To view other works by Wayne Abba, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/wayne-abba/


David L. Pells

Addison, TX, USA




David L. Pells is the President of PM World Services, Inc., a program/project management (P/PM) services firm based in Texas. He is also president of PM World, Inc., a project management information services and publishing firm. He has 40 years of P/PM-related experience in a variety of industries, programs and projects, including engineering, construction, energy, transit, defense, nuclear security and high technology, and project sizes ranging from thousands to 10 billion dollars. Mr. Pells is a Fellow and past member of the Board of Directors of the Project Management Institute (PMI®), the world’s largest PM professional organization. He was founder and Chair of the Global Project Management Forum (1995-2000) and the American Project Management Forum (1996-1998). Mr. Pells was awarded PMI’s Person-of- the-Year Award in 1998 and highest award, the PMI Fellow Award, in 1999. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Association for Project Management (UK), Project Management Associates (India) and Russian Project Management Association. He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration.  David has been a senior program management advisor to the National Nuclear Security Administration at the U.S. Department of Energy since 2007, and has conducted program management reviews and provided consulting services at several U.S. national laboratories over the last ten years. He is a globally recognized author and Managing Editor, PM World Journal and PM World Today (2005 – Present). David can be contacted at [email protected]

To view other works by David Pells, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/david-l-pells/


Miles Shepherd

Salisbury, England, UK




Miles Shepherd has more than 30 years’ experience in project and program management gained in Government and international environments in the fields of defence, information technology, nuclear engineering, transport, standards development and quality management.  He has taken leadership roles in projects for the UK Government, British Armed Services, Taiwanese Armed Services and the European Commission.  His expertise has been developed on a variety of programs including decommissioning of nuclear reactors in the UK and Eastern Europe.  He has undertaken assignments in rail safety and business development projects, a collaborative project for the European Commission to strengthen Governmental accreditation capabilities in Eastern European countries, and the development of post graduate project management education in USA, UK, Taiwan and Romania.  He is currently a senior program management advisor for the National Nuclear Security Administration at the U.S. Department of Energy (2007 – present).

He has held significant posts with the Association for Project Management (Vice President, and past Chairman) and the International Project Management Association (Chairman of Council and Past President).  Since 1990, Miles has been a speaker at international project management conferences and meetings in Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Colombia, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, India, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Russia, Sweden, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.

Miles acted as an Associate Lecturer and research supervisor for the Open University and Honorary Senior Research Fellow at University College, London.  He is a Visiting Scholar at University College, London and Visiting Fellow at Bournemouth University.  Mr. Shepherd is managing director for MS Projects, Ltd., providing executive PM consulting, quality management, auditing and academic development work; he is an ISO qualified Lead Auditor and acts as Director for Europe, Middle East and Africa for Business Development Institute International.  He is also Chair of the Board of Directors for General Estates Ltd, a property and asset management firm in UK.  Miles has a BS in Management Systems, Post Graduate Certificates in IT Strategy and Project Management as well as various government and industry certifications.  He is a Global Advisor and International Correspondent for UK for the PM World Journal.

Miles can be contacted at [email protected]

To view other works by Miles Shepherd, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/miles-shepherd/


[1] Both spellings, program and programme, are used in this paper to accurately reflect the references from other countries.