Assurance is not an option, but it doesn't have to be arduous
It doesn’t seem that long ago that project assurance was the preserve of large government departments and corporates that had the money to spend on it. Not now, assurance is no longer an option for the project or the organisation. Assurance, in all its forms, is an integral part of good governance be that project or corporate.
In the current climate project leaders must be able to demonstrate to the ever increasing level of scrutiny (internal and external) to show their capability to deliver a successful outcome. In large or complex projects and programmes this can be exacerbated by the number of parties who require direct or indirect assurance, often calling on considerable time and effort on the part of a resource stretched project team. Providing a variety of assurance requirements effectively is critical to enable those that sponsor, manage or are impacted by the project to make better informed decisions, and reduce the chance of failure.
A key first step in making assurance work is to define and agree the assurance model and strategy for the project and ensure it and everyone’s part in it is communicated and understood.
Next is the development of the integrated assurance plan, the plan shall:
- Identify and map the assurance communities of interest for the project and their requirements through the lifecycle.
- Establish a lead assurance provider for the project, who will manage and facilitate the various assurance providers engaged on the project, to deliver the assurance plan.
- Provide a comprehensive, shared and consistent view of risk for everyone involved in the project.
- Set out the roles and responsibilities of each assurance provider, standards to be applied, information sharing approach and systems and knowledge management.
- Map the planned assurance interventions, the risks and controls being considered and the recipients of the outputs.
The development of an integrated assurance plan will reduce the number of assurance interventions on a project and provide the necessary transparency for all the stakeholders in the most effective and efficient way. It will ensure everyone’s role in assurance is understood and will support the development of trust between the project team, the assurance and the stakeholder community.
As the project progresses the plan will continue to be monitored to ensure it remains fit-for-purpose and is providing stakeholders with the required level of confidence. Where things change the plan must reflect those changes and be updated accordingly.
Uncertainties will always exist and stakeholders will increasingly want to scrutinise the decision to invest in projects and programmes. Providing them with the necessary assurance that projects are under control to deliver the expected outcomes and benefits is a must, this is only going to increase as we go forward and is everyone’s job to make it a success.
Responding to the growing need to manage assurance effectively, the APM Assurance SIG has produced A Guide to Integrated Assurance. The guide offers practical guidance for project leaders and assurers on approaches to establishing integrated assurance on your project and making it work for you. The guide is available to buy from Turpin for £10 (£9 to APM members).
Mark Reilly is speaking on project assurance at the Open Forum PPM: Delivering Quality Outcomes event in Manchester on the 25th June.