Benefits Management In The Australian Public Sector – Bringing Practice To The Centre Stage

March 24, 12:55 pm - 01:35 pm AEDT

Benefits Management (BM) has been highlighted, in the Project Management (PM) literature, as the real purpose for the implementation of projects both in the public and private sectors. Since the 2000s, the focus of project success debates has shifted to the benefits management, after decades of discussions confined to the project success. Support for benefits management takes the project success debate from the project outputs to outcomes, inviting the senior management to shift its focus from project delivery - on time and cost, to outcomes and benefits to bring real value to the organization. But the current literature on benefits management, is arguably normative and aspirational, hence key debates in the PM literature revolve around what should be done, rather than examining the prevailing practices around benefits. To fill this gap, this doctorate study investigated benefits management practices in seven Commonwealth Government organizations in Australia.

The research findings reveal a gap between the aspirations and practices in benefits management in the Australian public sector. This research employed projects-as practice framework using qualitative methodology, it interviewed 45 PM professionals in seven Commonwealth agencies. This study identified 23 themes which were consolidated into 8 major themes after multiple rounds of revisions. This research, first of its kind on the Australian public sector organizations, highlights the current benefits management practices, the gap between theory and practice, and makes recommendations for effective benefits management. This research found several factors behind poor benefits management such as challenges in benefits identification and formulation, loose alignment of project/program benefits to organizational strategic objectives, poor realization of benefits after the project delivery. It also highlights enablers for effective benefits management such as effective change management, top management support, active PMO and benefits ownership.

This study also identifies benefits management inhibitors, such as poor benefits management maturity, focus on outputs only, use of business case for funding only and poor understanding of benefits among the senior executives and practitioners. Finally, this research investigates the role of governance and accountability for benefits and poor leadership by the senior executives impacting the integration of benefits management into the project/program life cycle.

Lecturer - Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT)
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