March 20, 2011 | Author: PM Hut | Filed under: Project Management Best Practices
By John R Wade
Projects. Done for the right reasons, implemented using a well-designed plan, and measured against good quantitative success criteria, projects transform a business.
Good project have the right people doing the right things for the right reasons. Project Sponsors can sit back knowing that they’ll be kept informed of progress, and with the right controls, can be sure they’ll be made aware of any changes that will affect the project - along with the consequences. Project Management methodologies using AMP or PRINCE2 tools, or for those of us with greater experience, enough of their tools as the project and budgets warrant, improve still further the chances of success.
Which is all good.
But there is a role which is crucial to project success: more of an unsung hero, but nonetheless vital to the organization. That’s Project Assurance.
The whole purpose of Project Assurance is to make sure that someone independent of the Project Manager keeps an eye on progress, identifies potential problems in its management, and is authorised to report to the Project Sponsors if there are any problems which they should be made aware of. In their view…
So, why have Project Assurance? Surely, when a project is properly set up, for as we have noted above, all the right reasons, and the proper reporting channels and systems are set up - we can rely on the Project Manager. Or if not them, then the Project Executive who the PM reports to?
Because Project Sponsors will by definition not work on the project, they will place great reliance on regular reports from the Project Manager. However, from time to time, especially if the Sponsors pick up ‘whispers’ in the air, there may be questions at the back of their minds, including:
- Are we still going to achieve what we set out to achieve, in the Business Case?
- Are things really on track?
- Is the project absolutely on time?
- Are we getting the full story?
- Can we be sure the Project Manager really has their finger on the pulse of the project?
- Are we on or over budget?
- Will quality or capability still be met?
Because Project Sponsors are inevitably outside the project, they ought to consider how they manage those potential risks. The advent of the Companies Act 2006 means that directors, for example, are more likely to be held accountable for issues than before. Governance and Risk Management are increasingly important to business of all types and sizes - so how best to manage the risk without taking on the responsibility.
Enter Project Assurance.
It is not enough to believe that the project will be well managed. It is probably a dereliction of duty of the project and its attendant risks are allowed to fester, without being aware of the problems.
So - how does the PA role work? It depends on the complexity of the project and its identified risks. Sometimes the role will simply be to monitor progress against a business case. Sometimes it will be to monitor the relationship between supplier and Project Manager. Sometimes, it will focus only on Change Control or Exception Reporting. Organizational risks and governance appetite and routine will determine the role.
The Project Assurance person will get involved to the extent necessary to help the Sponsors manage the risk. Accordingly, they will need to be separate from the Project Manager, and not conflicted out of proving objective views. They could (and arguably should) be trained in Project Management.
They’ll want to get regular updates from the Project Manager, and stay at the right level of detail - without diving into Project Management itself, because above all they need to retain the objectivity that determines whether the project is performing as it should.
Project Assurance. Get it. For the health of your organization. For the benefit of the Project.
John Wade ( Oakview Consulting Ltd) is an experienced business leader with particular expertise in Project Management, with a portfolio of successfully run projects from a range of industries. He has a strong background in professional and financial services, and the Not for Profit sector. He has a particular interest in Change Management, figuring that people will make or break a project depending on their reaction, involvement, engagement, and desire.
As a fully qualified Project Manager, John has led projects, approved and assessed projects, and acted as Project Assurance on many occasions. He has also trained Project Managers, coaching and mentoring them through difficulties. His background includes rescuing projects, too.
No comments yet.