Project assurance can never guarantee against failure, but this form of project insurance surely deserves wider study and application.
Every project runs into challenges at some point, adding to these challenges are today’s complex, changing and ambiguous work environments. When not addressed, and without a system of early warning, impending issues become serious and expensive and can be difficult to improve.
Simply put, project assurance is designed to reduce risk through an unbiased, independent review of a project’s health, according to the Project Management Institute. It goes beyond quality assurance, PMI continues, as it touches on the business environment around the project, the project framework itself and, of course, project execution.
Formal assurance teams are sometimes reserved for only the largest projects, but even the most modest project can benefit from the core principles of project assurance.
Here’s the latest thinking on project assurance and why it might be right for your next project:
Why Project Assurance
Project assurance is sometimes considered a specific discipline within the PRINCE2® project management methodology, but can be found throughout all industries and project management frameworks.
Here are four common threads that connect all project assurance functions:
- It’s independent. Project assurance teams (or individuals) cannot be the same as those who are implementing the project. Fresh eyes and the outsider view are critical here.
- It’s comprehensive. There should be multiple views (project managers, sponsors, stakeholders, board members, customers and team) to assess the set-up, structure, practices and status to obtain feedback creating a true perspective on the status of the project.
- It’s data-driven. Assurance functions must be entrenched in data and expertise.
- It’s action-oriented. Project assurance should of course prompt things like defining project success, but also stop bad projects from moving ahead. If there is no buy-in when it comes to recommendations or action items, your assurance function isn’t strong enough.
When Good Projects go Bad
What are the risks of project failure?
Potentially massive, says Flyvbjerg. The Danish economic geographer and professor of Major Programme Management at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School co-authored a separate study of 1,471 projects launched by U.S. and European government agencies, private companies and organisations. The size of the initiatives studied here ranged from $167 million to $33 billion.
These IT projects were prone not just to overruns but “massive” ones, including so-called “black swans” or projects that appear unlikely to fail, but should they, it results in outsized losses. Flyvbjerg and his colleagues found 1 in 6 of the projects fell into this “black swan” category with cost overruns of 200%. The average overrun cost was by 70%.
Big stakes, indeed.
Evaluating Project Assurance
Even if you are closely aligned with the best project assurance principles, it can be difficult to know if you are doing it well.
Here’s how you can tell if your assurance function is doing the job it was intended to do, according to experts:
- It feels objective, not punitive.
- Suggestions and comments are material to the success of the project, not nit-picking.
- The assurance team leverages subject-matter expertise where needed.
- Increases confidence vs. sowing doubt or promoting blame.
Too often, we let the very human emotions that drive things like territorialism and unwarranted optimism derail projects and leach value away from the end user.
In today’s competitive, globalised economy, the winners will be companies that consistently deliver on their promises – and project assurance is one significant way to make that a reality.
We are keen to hear your thoughts on project assurance and what it can / does mean for your business? For more information on our Project Assurance services click here or call us on +65 6818 5771.
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