Whether you’ve never heard of it, or you understand a bit of it, project assurance is an increasingly important process – and not just in large organisations with central PMOs.
In this article, we explain more about what it is, how to go about it, and why many businesses are taking steps to automate it.
The APM defines assurance as ‘the process of providing confidence to stakeholders that projects, programmes and portfolios will achieve their scope, time, cost, quality objectives, and realise their benefits’. This process also picks up potential risks and issues early, and provides recommendations to improve delivery. Yet despite how critical this is, research from the Project Management Institute states that 47% of unsuccessful projects fail to meet goals due to poor requirements management.
It’s little wonder. This situation is getting increasingly difficult to manage as today’s projects grow in size and complexity. Requirements can run into thousands, and each needs to be tracked and managed across multiple stakeholders, organisations and teams. In addition, COVID has accelerated efforts for organisations to build resilience and give decision-makers confidence when it comes to the vulnerability, exposure and assurance of project success.
Project assurance can no longer be reserved for big companies with dedicated assurance teams. When success is critical for every business, it’s a process every change-focused leader should want to introduce.
Start with a simple framework
To overcome the issues above, mature project organisations will typically use a robust framework with objective, evidence-based criteria. But if you’re just getting started with the process, you can start by implementing simple project health checks.
There are 6 critical areas you can assess to help you increase the chances of success.
1. Scope and objectives
- Are you clear on the project objectives and desired outcomes?
- Do you know what the benefits and measures of success are?
- Are the deliverables and schedule clearly articulated and aligned to the business outcomes and objectives?
2. Planning and scheduling
- Are there appropriately detailed execution strategies, plans and schedules?
- Are the key activities and milestones (stage gates) each project should go through as part of the governance structure clearly outlined?
- Are the plans updated regularly?
3. Risks and issues
- Do you have up-to-date risk registers in place that clearly identify actions?
- Is the process part of day-to-day business and well communicated across the project team?
- Are all roles and responsibilities documented and communicated?
- Have there been any recent changes to staff that have impacted their availability?
- Does the team have the necessary skills and training to perform what is required?
- Is the cost, value and revenue regularly forecast and monitored?
- Is the final cost understood, and can any variance be attributed to known causes?
- Are the project structure, roles and responsibilities clearly defined?
- Are you positioned to make decisions quickly?
It doesn’t matter if you’re using a waterfall or agile approach, and it doesn’t matter how you record the results, but simple tricks like colour-coding each area’s score will help you visually communicate results and actions, e.g.
- Red – critical issues threaten success. There is limited confidence of project success.
- Amber – major problems regarding processes and performance but corrective actions are in place. Care should be exercised before major commitments are made.
- Green – procedures are in place and processes under constant improvement. Progress and achievement are on target or better and there is little risk of the project failing.