Do you have confidence that your project will achieve its objectives and deliver the anticipated value and benefits? Are you confident that your project is really on track to deliver? Is there a shared understanding of what is to be achieved/what has been achieved so far? Is the overall project structure, monitoring and resourcing appropriate?
With today’s fast pace of change, globalisation of markets, regulatory requirements and increasing customer demands, project assurance is integral to project success. Sponsors and project teams need to make well informed decisions based on the real performance and direction of an initiative.
What really is Project Assurance?
Think of project assurance as an impartial review or health check of your project. It is not just about ‘ticking off’ a checklist that certain documents have been produced. Effective assurance is objective and action-oriented for project success.
Do we need Assurance for all projects?
Ideally yes – there should be some form of independent review for any project. Assurance needs to be ‘fit for purpose’. A small-scale, low cost, low risk and non-complex project can benefit from a peer review whilst a complex, larger scale project may require more rigorous reviews. Think risk-based assurance – the greater the impact of project failure on the business, the more project assurance in some form is non-negotiable.
Project Assurance: The 3 Foundational Keys
- The Right Beginnings
Yes, it is often all too easy to be swept up in those halcyon early days with the excitement of a new project – new challenges, the talk of what we can achieve, the benefits, the chance of working on something ‘new’.
And this is exactly where impartial assurance should commence. Setup your project for success from day 1 by ensuring that the project will satisfy a real customer/business need, has buy-in and commitment of the right people. Do you have total confidence that:
- There is a common understanding of what project success means?
- A shared belief that the project is worth doing?
- Expectations in terms of scope, time, cost, risk, quality, resourcing and benefits are realistic?
- The project management framework is appropriate with a realistic governance structure (not too light on but not too bureaucratic)?
- The right people are in the right roles?
- During but not once off
A project and its environment is not static. Expectations change, new stakeholders are involved, and external events can impact and challenge project success.
Project Assurance should be proactive throughout the life of a project, including:
- Focusing on review and learnings throughout the project, not just a key gate. Consider also major events/milestones and other significant approval points
- Reminders that a template is not just completed for the sake of having a document by that name – is the information current and sufficient to enable informed decisions?
- Gaining feedback from key stakeholders, internal and external. What are they saying? What is the general feeling about the project? Are stakeholders engaged and supportive?
- Ensuring both deliverables and processes are fit for purpose
- Focusing on areas of greatest risk (such as commercial, compliance or legal) without ignoring other areas – there should be no ‘surprises’
- Ensuring that people are aware of and being involved in the change journey
- Timely Closure
We have all heard of those horrendous projects which never seem to end and where often ‘good’ money is thrown after ‘bad’ just because we have already invested so much.
At any time in a project, as a result of an assurance review or health check, there may be a recommendation to stop the project and prematurely close it out. This could be for a myriad of reasons from the project has actually achieved ‘enough’ and to continue would not be justifiable, to changes in the operational environment or strategic direction.
Assurance reviews during project closeout (premature or nature) typically focus on:
- Is the project ready to close? Is there clarity and agreement that the project has achieved ‘enough’ or has nothing else material to contribute?
- Other actions? Are there any risks or issues that need to be addressed prior to closure? Alternatively have the appropriate people been informed and there is clear ownership after the project?
- Lessons? Have lessons been updated, reviewed and distributed?
- Documentation and financials? Are these up to date?
- Benefits? What benefits have been realised to date? Is there a benefit realisation plan with agreed accountability? Are we on track to achieve the remaining benefits after project closure?
Independent and experienced project assurance, incorporating proactive consultative advice and constructive recommendations can be invaluable in providing insights as to whether a project is focusing on the ‘right things’ and is on track to achieve value.
We are keen to hear your thoughts on project assurance and what it can / does mean for your business? For more information visit our Project Assurance services page or call us on 1300 70 13 14.