The objective of the benefits evaluation phase are to:
- evaluate the effectiveness of the programme or project in realising the proposed benefits as outlined in the business case
- compare planned costs and benefits with actual costs and benefits to allow an assessment of the overall value for money of the programme or project
- capture and document any lessons learned - identifying particular aspects of the project which have affected benefits either positively or negatively and making recommendations for future projects
- reveal opportunities for increasing the yield of benefits of the programme or project, making recommendations on actions required for these to be achieved
The Senior Responsible Owner is responsible for ensuring that the project is independently assessed following the completion of the benefits realisation plan. The specific group selected to conduct the assessment will vary depending on the programme or project but could, for example, be completed by an internal auditing body.
Purpose of the evaluation
The overriding purpose of carrying out post project reviews (PPR) is to maximise the value of return on the investment made - both for programmes and projects under review and future ones. They are essentially learning opportunities and should be undertaken in a positive manner. For projects engaged with the NI Gateway Review process, a PPR provides a key input for a Gateway 5 Review.
In essence the main focus of the PPR will be to:
- determine and confirm which planned benefits have been achieved
- identify which benefits have not been achieved and decide whether any follow-up action has to be taken in such cases
- identify any unexpected benefits that have been achieved and, indeed, any dis-benefits that have resulted
- understand and document why particular benefits were or were not achieved and provide lessons learned for future programmes or projects around this aspect of the benefits management process; this should increase future return on investment and is a commitment to co-operation, openness and quality rather than to apportioning blame
- demonstrate the value for money related to the investment, thereby informing future decisions regarding the prioritisation of programmes and projects
PPRs should be undertaken at a time which best demonstrate the performance of the investment. The timing will depend on the kind of benefits expected to accrue and their sequencing. The actual date of the PPR should be established by the business case and confirmed by the project board on closure of the project. In some cases, where benefits of a project will be realised over a long period, it may be appropriate to conduct several separate evaluations at key stages of the benefits realisation plan. Any decisions regarding additional unplanned evaluations post project should be made by the post project governance body.
Link to business case
The PPR relies heavily on the business case and its quality is, to a very large extent, dependent on the quality of the business case. In fact, the appraisal and evaluation of projects should be regarded as parts of the same process of safeguarding investment and therefore as complementary undertakings. The benefits expected from the project should be specified in the business case along with the appropriate measures, target dates and responsibility for achieving them.
The input to, and structure of, the review also relies on the recording of relevant information in the pre-implementation and post-implementation situations. Unless this information is available, a review of project benefits cannot be expected to be reliable and useful. This approach requires that pre-implementation baselines and robust measurement processes have been established and maintained throughout the benefits management process.
Assessment of benefits actually achieved
An assessment should be made as to how far the benefits have actually been achieved since the implementation of the project. Documentation recording measurement of the benefits against the baseline benefits plan should be available. If this is not the case, or if targeted benefits were not sufficiently quantified or assigned specific measurements, or if analogous measurements of the original pre-implementation situation were not taken, the PPR cannot produce reliable results.
Post project review report
The end result of the PPR is a report which:
- gives an assessment of the value for money provided by the investment
- provides an assessment of the cumulative net benefit yield
- makes recommendations for future investment derived from both positive and negative lessons