Benefits realisation: case studies in public major project delivery with recommendations for practice

Terry Williams, Hang Vo, Mike Bourne, Pippa Bourne, Richard Kirkham, Gordon Masterton, Paolo Quattrone, Carolina Toczycka

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Abstract

Public projects are enablers of policy and are often framed within a political context characterized by the unpredictable, emergent, ambiguous and contextual; this creates tensions around conceptualizations of project performance and project success. Public projects are generally authorized based on a favourable benefit-to-cost ratio, so ex-post scrutiny of realized benefits is crucial to effective evaluation. Nevertheless, evidence suggests that sometimes, the focus on project delivery may come at the expense of benefits realization. This paper describes part of a wider programme of research into benefits realization in public projects. We present ‘deep dives’ into 3 UK projects and draw on a formal theoretical base to consider questions such as ‘what is a benefit?’, ‘how good are we at defining benefits/beneficiaries?’, ’how can we manage and capture evolving benefits in complex environments?’; ‘how do we recognize and accept complexity while the environment changes?’ and ‘what effects does this have on our understanding of benefits realization?’. This paper presents an analysis of the case studies and provides a synthesis of the main findings. We make eight recommendations for professional practice in the field of benefits management and set out some conclusions relevant to the wider discourse on the evaluation of investment in public projects.

Original languageEnglish
JournalProduction Planning & Control
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 11 Sept 2023

Keywords

  • Project benefits
  • benefits management
  • benefits realisation
  • project outcomes
  • public projects

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