One signiﬁcant issue concerns the timing of the review. Suppose, for example, that
a project has been authorised on the basis of a year-on-year sales increase, which
starts at 5 per cent in the ﬁrst year and rises to 50 per cent in year ﬁve. Are we
really going to wait for ﬁve years to see if the project has been a success? And if we
do, is it not likely that changes in the business environment will complicate the
assessment process? Even if we do wait ﬁve years and ﬁnd that the beneﬁt has not
been achieved, it is a bit late to do much about it now. So probably, in this case, we
would actually initiate the review after year one, check whether the sales were on
the right trajectory to achieve a 50 per cent improvement by year ﬁve, and identify
any further actions needed to secure that trajectory.
A second issue is the diﬃculty of disaggregating the eﬀects of multiple projects
from one another and from changes in the underlying business situation. For
example, if there are ﬁve concurrent projects, each aimed at a 10 per cent
increase in sales within two years, what do we conclude if the total sales
increase after two years is only 30 per cent? That two of the projects have failed?
(And, in that case, which two?) That all have fallen short in some way? Or that
the business climate has taken a downturn? This is a very real diﬃculty, and
probably one of the reasons why beneﬁts realisation reviews are not always
undertaken. The beneﬁts maps can be used to assist in this analysis on the basis
that, if the enabling and business changes were successfully introduced, it is a
fair bet that so were the beneﬁts. Gerald Bradley’s book (2006) has some
interesting ideas in this area.
The ﬁnal issue is to do with organisational culture and politics. It may be that,
among the senior management, there is a nasty suspicion that a project has not
been successful, but to initiate a beneﬁts realisation review would make this
very public and perhaps start a ‘witch hunt’ to ﬁnd out what went wrong. In this
situation, people being human, it is not surprising if senior managers just do not
want to ‘lift the stone’ and ﬁnd out the truth. Oddly enough, this may be more of a
problem in the private sector, where it is (relatively) easier to ‘bury one’s mistakes’;
in the public sector, bodies like the National Audit Oﬃce and parliamentary select
committees look into signiﬁcant projects and uncover shortfalls in them.
Bennis, W. (1998) Managing People is Like Herding Cats. Kogan Page, London.
Bradley, G. (2006) Beneﬁt Realisation Management: A Practical Guide to
Achieving Beneﬁts Through Change. Gower, Aldershot.
Deal, T.E. and Kennedy, A.A. (1988) Corporate Cultures: The Rites and Rituals of
Corporate Life. Penguin Books, Harmondsworth.
Handy, C. (1993) Understanding Organizations, 4th edition. Penguin Books,
Hofstede, G. (1991) Culture and Organizations: Intercultural Cooperation and its
Importance for Survival. McGraw-Hill International, London.