The value of tracking project benefits has caught the attention of organisations across all sectors.

Tracking project benefits might seem like a relatively simple concept, as you ensure that before a project commences you have detailed what the advantages of the project will be, however many businesses are failing to include the benefits in their planning.

In fact, research by Edith Cowan University (ECU) supported by the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM), shows that while 80% of projects have a business case, only half include the benefits.

Why track the benefits?

One of the key reasons organisations should be tracking the benefits is to ensure that strategic investment and the allocation of funding for future projects align. Something that is particularly important is the tracking of benefits by businesses that are renewing, innovating or changing tack.

Organisations may change priorities, due to unforeseen events like the global pandemic we are in now. So how do you know which projects to stop if you’re not tracking the benefits?

Tracking benefits is an essential part of modern project and program management. It allows you to revisit projects with the client and ensure everything is on track to meet the broader strategic goals.

It becomes a tool for expanding communication, rather than just communicating about budget and timeframes. It’s linking the project back to the strategy of the organisation and that in turn helps the client address issues about quality, risk and resourcing.

Tangible vs social benefits

When considering the benefits of your project, keep in mind that benefits can be either tangible or social.

For instance, if a private organisation is building home units, their benefits are realised tangibly when the units are habitable. By comparison with Government projects, the benefits can often take years to accrue, because they tend to be more social in nature.

In order to track social benefits, an organisation must start with a program management plan that clearly articulates what the likely social benefits will be from associated projects. Those benefits, once they have been identified, should be cascaded into the project management plans and linked to the outcomes that should be delivered by the project.

Steps to tracking the benefits

  1. Maintain constant communication with the client or business owner: is the project still in line with the overall strategy?
  2. Keep it simple: ensure the benefits are realistic and transparent, and avoid using methods that are overly academic.
  3. Develop a program management plan that clearly articulates the desired outcomes, and how certain projects will help realise those outcomes.
  4. Merge benefits realisation into organisational KPIs: the risk/reward factor means project managers are more likely to buy-in to the longer term view of their projects.
  5. Take a helicopter view of programs and portfolios: how does each project fit into the overall strategy?
  6. Adopt and experiment with benefits tracking software.


Remember client communication and active engagement with business owners from the very beginning is key when it comes to tracking benefits.

A lot of the time, project managers write the benefits into the business case and then, at the end of the project, the business owner says, “I don’t really understand what that means” or “I didn’t ask for that”.

If you can get that early engagement and get an understanding of what the business owners are expecting from the project in terms of long-term benefits, it makes the relationship more about value than just building a product.