3: The Value Gap

In the physical world, it is easy to see and be wary of a 'gap'.

However, in the project world the 'gap' that exists between what projects deliver and what is required to realise the benefits and value is most often neither seen nor acknowledged.

Hence, the continuing frustration with the lack of value generated from projects.

This VDM article discussed the issue and the need to recognise and plan to cover the 'gap' and realise the value expected. The result is often a significant increase in value delivered.

The Value Gap

It may seem to be a stupid statement, but it is true, that projects are not set up to deliver the benefits expected.

"But there's a business case promising specific value in return for the investment in the project", you might object. True, but the business case glosses over the 'value gap'.

The Value Gap is the workload left between where the project ends and the benefits are realised.

The Value Gap








In the interests of simplicity (and benign acceptance), executives tend to accept that the project outcomes will deliver the benefits. They may accept that some benefits are realised after the project, but the 'value gap' is neither acknowledged nor recognised.

A project can only go so far. The project team does not run the business. They cannot directly alter how people change on the job to ensure the benefits and values that are realised. Only the business can achieve and then sustain business value.

The problem is that they often don't realise delivering the business outcomes, benefits and value is their role... they usually don't know how to do it.

So, the first step is the recognise the existence of the 'value gap' - that the implementation of the project won't automatically deliver the value.

Impact on Scope

Recognition of the 'value gap' gives a new perspective on scope definition (and scope reduction). Any move to constrain/reduce the scope leaves a bigger gap between the project's outcomes and the value. A gap that either has to be filled by business-as-usual or the value will be reduced or foregone.

Impact on change

The 'value gap' consists of change activities that need to be recognised. So, if it is agreed that the necessary change activities are not going to be actioned by the project team, they need to be actioned by the business.

Additionally, these activities need to be identified, organised, and planned for execution. However, the activities should not be left to the business staff's ingenuity, rather they must be planned jointly by the project and business teams, so that the change plans are understood and owned by the business.

Impact on project completion

No project should be considered finished if the plans to deliver each of the business outcomes and benefits do not exist. However, the plans need to be under the realm of execution by the business.

This ongoing execution of change activities continues AFTER the end of the project as the strategic intent of the project - delivery of the value - has not yet been administered.

Impact on governance

Therefore the Sponsor needs to continue to chair Steering Committee meetings monthly, receive reports from the business areas on their measured progress in delivering the business outcomes and value for some time after the project has been closed down.

When the bulk of the activities shift from delivering outcomes to progressively realising value (e.g. releasing staff as the workload drops), the governance team can agree with the business that any remaining change activities are now fully the accountability of 'business-as-usual'.

Impact on Sponsorship

The reason why projects are invested in is to realise the value. This is the 'contract' the Sponsor enters into with the business.

The Sponsors should, therefore, report back to their investment committee on their value-delivery performance. How did they do? What value did they realise and for what cost?

A simple step that focuses each Sponsor on their project's value.

In Conclusion

In order to implement and execute a project wherein the value initially fore-planned is delivered, the 'gap' that exists between their benefits and value need to be acknowledged. Moreover, it is important to note that the gap in project value does not only impact the overall reliability and accuracy of the project but also the several stakeholders surrounding the business. Subsequently, to combat this issue, it is imperative for the executors to be accountable and vigilantly monitor the foreseeable value and influence of the project throughout the life of its course until the delivery stage. 

As we say, "Focus wins, it's that simple."

Topics: Business Case, Value Equation, Project Governance

Further Reading



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Revision History

First published: Simms, J. (Feb 2008) as "3: The Value Gap"

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