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Benefits management: Lost or found in translation

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This article looks at the spread of knowledge about benefits management and its adoption by organisations; the global development of benefits management; and translation processes at the organisation level.

The article’s authors undertook literature reviews and drew on their own extensive practical experience. They used translation theory to analyse the development of benefits management and to draw conclusions about its current use.

Keywords

  • Benefits management
  • Benefits realisation management
  • Translation
  • Agile
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What does the paper cover?

Developed as a management idea in the 1990's benefits management has developed from an initial means to address the failure of IT projects to deliver value.

From the late 1990s, benefits management attracted the interest of government departments and professional bodies for both project management and IT.

It became incorporated into guidance manuals and standards, initially in the English-speaking world, but increasingly on a global basis.

The mid-2000s onwards has seen the development of networks for best practice and maturity models for organisations to benchmark their progress against. 

Professional standards
The current decade has seen the development of specialist qualifications in benefits management, encouraging the use of common standards and behaviours by practitioners. Practitioners who have achieved one of these qualifications often gain the status in their organisations as specialists in benefits management and can therefore be in a good place to champion the practice in the translation process.

Translation
Evidence on the translation into practice of benefits management has been hampered by the limited availability and type of literature on the subject. There are many studies on the incidence of benefits management practices, which suggest that they have spread globally but that the level of uptake is low, even in the countries where benefits management was pioneered. However, there are fewer studies on the processes leading to organisations adopting and embedding benefits management, or the factors preventing this happening.

Methodology

The article’s authors undertook literature reviews and drew on their own extensive practical experience. They used translation theory to analyse the development of benefits management and to draw conclusions about its current use.

Research findings

  • Evidence shows that using benefits management practices can increase the likelihood of projects and programmes achieving their goals.
  • Uptake of these practices remains low across all countries covered by previous research, including the UK. The full potential benefits are often elusive even when practices are adopted.
  • Focusing on benefits management could help to address the persistently high failure rate of projects and programmes.

Conclusions

  • Translation of benefits management practices is linked to other developments, such as the increasing emphasis on programmes and portfolios.
  • Evidence on the translation of benefits management should be brought together with that from other developments in project management, such as agile. Insights from wider management theories, such as models of organisational learning, should also be drawn upon.
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