a Benefit is the enduring outcome of an investment such as a project, as distinct from the immediate result of the project.
A project is typically defined as the steps necessary to reach a particular goal (in a constrained time period, for a constrained expenditure of resources). The project comes to life just to achieve the stated goal (or output), and the project ceases to exist once either
- the output is delivered (the project goal is achieved), or
- the project sponsor decides that the project is not going to achieve the goal (within the usual constraints of time and money).
We usually justify spending money to achieve a project goal not by the goal itself, but instead by a set of benefits that we expect will be achievable using the project's outputs over time.
A project goal is a direct, immediate verifiable output or outcome of the project, whereas the benefits are indirect and accrue after the project closes: the organisation then uses the project's outputs to deliver the benefits, but the benefits don't flow automatically from the project achieving its goal.
Benefits depend on the organisation using the project's outputs effectively, and also to some extent on the 'landscape' in which the organisation operates remaining similar enough that the project outputs are still useful in delivering the benefits. So the benefits of a project:
- are usually delivered after the project is closed down, is assessed as a success or a failure, and ceases to exist
- depend on the host organisation using the project outputs effectively over time
- depend on the world in which the organisation works still allowing the direct link between the organisation using the project results to deliver the expected benefits.