The benefit measurement methods involve a variety of cash flow analysis techniques including net present value.

Projects might begin with a company investing some amount of money into the project to complete and accomplish its goals. In return, the company expects to receive revenues, or cash inflows, from the resulting project. Net present value (NPV) allows you to calculate an accurate value for the project in today’s dollars.

Net present value works like discounted cash flows in that you bring the value of future monies received into today’s dollars. With NPV, you evaluate the cash inflows using the discounted cash flow technique applied to each period the inflows are expected instead of in one sum. The total present value of the cash flows is then deducted from your initial investment to determine NPV. NPV assumes that cash inflows are reinvested at the cost of capital.

Here’s the rule: If the NPV calculation is greater than zero, accept the project. If the NPV calculation is less than zero, reject the project.

Look at the two project examples. Project A and Project B have total cash inflows that are the same at the end of the project, but the amount of inflows at each period differs for each project. We’ll stick with a 12 percent cost of capital. Note that the PV calculations were rounded to two decimal places. Project A has an NPV greater than zero and should be accepted. Project B has a NPV less than zero and should be rejected. When you get a positive value for NPV, it means that the project will earn a return at least equal to or greater than the cost of capital.

Another note on NPV calculations: projects with high returns early in the project are better projects than projects with lower returns early in the project. In the preceding examples, Project A fits this criterion also.

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