What’s a project assurance process?

Posted by Team Sharktower on November 8th, 2021

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. Even though COVID isn’t making headlines like before, its effects linger on in how businesses operate. COVID 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?
4. Resources
  • 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?
5. Finance
  • Is the cost, value and revenue regularly forecast and monitored?
  • Is the final cost understood, and can any variance be attributed to known causes?
6. Governance
  • Are the project structure, roles and responsibilities clearly defined?
  • Are you positioned to make decisions quickly?

 

Bonus tip:

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.
Programme assurance:

If you work within a large organisation supported by dedicated assurance teams, our consultants at Proteus excel in providing programme assurance services. These services serve as a crucial layer of objective assessment, perfectly complementing project-level assurance efforts. They pave the way for a comprehensive approach to risk mitigation, ensuring successful and seamless project delivery.

 

Automating the process

If you’re already doing some project assurance, or you want to future-proof the process, you might want to think about automation.

With the amount of information you’ll need to collect and collate to ensure your project assurance is accurate, software that can do part of it for you is worth looking into, especially if your teams are storing that information in various different files and formats.

With Sharktower, you don’t have to consolidate project data because it’s all right there in the Delivery Map, and you don’t need to create reports because they’re available in real-time to the whole business.

 

Sharktower’s Delivery Map and Real-time Reporting show the information you need to carry out project assurance

 

This data shows teams where to focus; what projects, activities or workstreams need attention; and where things could be improved. Not only does it save time (and money) on trawling through project artefacts, speaking with project managers and stakeholders to get the true picture, these real-time reports and AI-driven insights also reduce the chance of manual error and human bias.

We help the businesses we work with to design and build a dashboard based on their specific requirements and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). This gives them real-time insights into how people are using and managing their projects in Sharktower, and covers all of the 6 critical areas for project assurance. Our customer success team support this process with regular usage reviews.

These indicators can be the same as the points above and help you answer these questions

  • Are your project managers following our governance process?
  • Are the plans updated regularly?
  • Are they managing risk?

 

See it in action

These short demos show you how a platform like Sharktower can help you gather and interpret the information you need to carry out fast, accurate project assurance.

Real-time reporting (90-second demo)

 

Managing Objectives and Key Results (2-minute demo)

 

Let’s talk

If you’d like to know more about project assurance (and automated assurance), and how Sharktower can help you manage the process, get in touch today.