The idea of projects not being responsible for benefits is false and needs to be rejected.

Exploding the project myths 6

Projects are commissioned to deliver business benefits. That's why you do them.

However, benefits are realized in the business and are at least partly dependent on business endeavours not entirely within the control of the project team. So it's no surprise that project professionals are wary of being made accountable for the delivery of business benefits - things they see they cannot wholly control or deliver.

But this thinking assumes that a project can deliver a set of outputs which can be ‘thrown over the wall’ to the business with the hope that the expected business benefits will be automatically realized.

Of course if they’re not realized, then the business is to blame (of course).

Project ‘outputs’ are too distant from business outcomes to be useful.

The Real Truth: All projects are commissioned to deliver the outcomes and benefits

A project manager may not be accountable for the realization of all of the business benefits, but s/he is responsible for ensuring that the benefits are realizable and, wherever possible, realized.

Some twenty percent or more of benefits can often be realized during the project’s delivery timeframe, and more benefits can be realized immediately on the project’s implementation (i.e. on the project manager’s watch). The project manager cannot ignore this.

In addition, each project should be commissioned to deliver a set of clear, specific, measurable ‘project outcomes’. These ‘project outcomes’ are a subset of the desired business outcomes and have benefits associated with them.

A project’s true measure of success is, therefore, its total realization of its agreed project outcomes and their immediately available benefits plus the total enablement of the subsequent business outcomes and remaining benefits. It is not just the delivery of some outputs and completion of the project.

Projects need to be clearly focused on delivering, enabling, and supporting the realization of all of the available business benefits. An ‘on time/budget/to specification’ project that does not enable the realization of the business benefits is a failure!

Therefore, the delivery of outcomes and benefits are fundamental project success measures, and all projects must be focused on benefits realization from day-1.


Explore further

How benefits can be integral to a project

Topics: Project Success, Project Controls, Standards/Frameworks/Methods, Value Equation, Benefits Management, Program / Project delivery, Mental Models, Beliefs and Myths, Outcomes Thinking, Path Dependency

Further Reading



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Revision History

First published: Simms, J. (June 2011) as "Projects Don’t Deliver Outcomes Or Benefits Only 'Outputs' (Myth)"

Updated: Chapman, A. (March 2020), Revisions and Corrections