The importance of Project Assurance and your PMO

In this insight, we shed some light on a critical aspect of project management that is often forgotten, or not done well – Project Assurance. We also reflect on the importance and indispensable role played by the Project Management Office (PMO) and how it ensures its success. 

 

 

Project Assurance is an impartial assessment of a project or programme and helps to ensure that the desired outcomes will be achieved. At its heart, Project Assurance is performed to ensure that a project is delivering in an effective, repeatable and consistent way, it involves assessing and monitoring various project elements, with the benefit of an independent view. 

 

 

Seven steps to Project Assurance 

 

Typical areas that a PMO will focus on for the Project Assurance include: 

 

  1. Benefits & Scope is the project scope properly defined and signed off? Have clear benefits been documented and agreed? How are they being monitored throughout the project and is a benefits realisation plan in place and being acted upon?
  2. Communications and Change Management – how are you ensuring that the project lands in the Business and the adoption of the changes are embraced?
  3. Governance and Project Management – is the right governance being used demonstrating project control? Is everyone clear on their role in governance? How is the scope being controlled? How is the status of the project being captured and communicated?
  4. Finance Management – are the finances clearly understood? Is there a clear picture on the budget and actuals?
  5. Plan and Resource Management – do you have a full plan for the project, that shows the resources needed, the critical path and one that includes all the project deliverables? Are you actively updating the plan? Are you using Earned Value Management to track cost and the schedule? How are resources being planned and prioritised?
  6. Quality Management – delivering high-quality results should be a non-negotiable aspect of any project. The PMO ensures that quality standards are established and maintained throughout the project, enabling the delivery of valuable and reliable outcomes.
  7. Risk Management – the review of how risks are identified, prioritised and reduced to minimise impact. This way, risks can be tackled before they become real issues.

 

 

Who delivers Project Assurance in your organisation? And how? 

 

Your PMO may carry out the assurance, or you may use experienced members of the project management community within your team. Alternatively, you may use external companies for an independent view and a ‘fresh pair of eyes’. 

 

Or maybe you need to get this function up and running? 

 

Your PMO is really well placed to carry out the assurance as it should already have a good understanding of each project, the project methodology that should be taking place and the stakeholders that are involved in the project. The PMO has to act as an independent team, following the same framework for each assurance review. 

 

One approach to your assurance framework is to have a standard set of questions for each broad category of review (see above for examples), including the deliverables for the project. The PMO should first review the deliverables with each receiving a maturity score between 1 and 5, where 1 means that the deliverable lacks essential components or is incomplete and 5 represents the deliverable fulfilling all the needs of the deliverables and/or exceeds expectations. A similar ranking of 1 to 5 is also used when the PMO runs through the questions for each of the topic areas. 

 

Once this is done, you will have an average maturity rating for each assurance area. Your tool should then allow you to capture a ‘target maturity’ level – you can then easily see where your project is against where you would like it to be. 

 

With this complete, you now need to capture the recommendations that the project should implement based on the findings of the review. Ensure that you have an owner and a target date and commitment from all to deliver the changes. 

 

 

Diagram 1 – current state and target state of project maturity

 

 

The benefits of Project Assurance 

 

If you get Project Assurance right, it will: 

 

  • Help, not hinder or punish. Assurance should be seen as a ‘critical friend’ 
  • Give confidence to stakeholders and  identify where intervention is required (in a positive way) 
  • Help to underpin the delivery of successful outcomes and ensure that the project team is focussing on the right things and doing them in the right way. 

 

 

A good assurance function will also spot other areas that will further improve delivery: 

 

  • The project teams will tell you what works well in your project framework, and what doesn’t. It’s a great opportunity to make changes to how you deliver successful projects.
  • Lessons learned – many companies talk about doing them, but never do. Assurance is the ideal forum to take learnings and build into future projects.
  • Help to ensure that your projects and programmes continue to be aligned to your organisational objectives and vision.  

 

 

The significance of Project Assurance cannot be overstated. It serves as a proactive safeguard against potential project failures, cost overruns, or scope creep.  

 

 

If you want an open and honest conversation about how to approach your project assurance, how to uplift your PMO to carry out this key function, or to discuss your wider transformation programme, then please give Project One a call for a chat. We are change experts in leading complex, business critical, change and transformation. Our recent industry recognition places Project One as #2 out of 1,200 consultancies for effective PPM. 

 

To discuss further, please contact Nick Houlton 

Mobile: 07716 075616 | email: nick.houlton@projectone.com 

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