What is Net Present Value (NPV) in agency project management?

Net present value (NPV) definition

The net present value (NPV) represents the difference between the present value of cash inflows and the present value of cash outflows over a certain period. It's an essential metric to determine the potential profitability of a particular project. By evaluating the NPV, agencies can decide if a project will generate a positive return on investment, even when considering the time value of money. 

A positive NPV indicates that the projected earnings, in today's dollars, exceed the anticipated costs. Conversely, a negative NPV suggests the project might not be financially viable. For agencies focused on delivering client work, understanding NPV can mean the difference between investing in profitable projects and avoiding potential financial pitfalls.

How to calculate net present value

To calculate NPV, agencies employ the following formula:

NPV = (Sum of (Rt / (1 + i)^t)) - C0


  • NPV is the net present value.

  • Rt represents the net cash inflow during a specific period (t).

  • i is the discount rate or the cost of capital.

  • t denotes the number of time periods.

  • C0 is the initial investment.

  1. Calculate the present value for each time period: For each time period (t), divide the net cash inflow (Rt) by the factor (1 + i) raised to the power of that period (t). This gives the present value for that specific period. 

    Present Value for time period t = Rt / (1 + i)^t

  2. Sum all the present values: Add up the present values from all the periods. Total Present Value = Sum of all individual present values from step 1

  3. Subtract the initial investment (C0): NPV = Total Present Value - C0

In essence, this formula discounts the projected cash inflows to their value in today's terms and then subtracts the initial investment. The resulting value provides agencies with a clear indication of a project's potential profitability. Continual assessments of NPV enable agencies to improve their financial management and prioritize projects offering the best return on investment. For streamlined and effective project management, agencies can turn to the platform.

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