Why good assurance is key to agile delivery success

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Whilst two of the key statements within the agile manifesto are “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools” and “Working software over comprehensive documentation”, anybody coming to the conclusion that this removes the need for strong project discipline or governance would be misguided. As a result, effective assurance is required for agile project delivery as much as it is for more traditional methods.

Research has shown a direct link between organisational and project success and good assurance, with objective and independent oversight of activities regarded as the key success factor in delivering successful project outcomes.

This applies to agile and non-agile projects alike but will require some adaptation from professional assurers to understand the ‘high level’ basics of agile as well as the differences in approach required when conducting assurance reviews.

The release this week of the latest APM SIG guide, A Guide to Assurance of Agile Delivery, does exactly that, offering experienced reviewers the necessary support and guidance to undertake assurance of their first agile project.

Agile popularity

Agile project management is now firmly embedded within the delivery toolset available to projects, programmes and portfolios, with many organisations now seeing it as the default option to deliver software solutions.

Furthermore, agile is now being used more widely, for example, in the delivery of transformation, HR, finance and engineering related projects. The rise in popularity of adopting agile methods alongside the more traditional approaches (e.g. waterfall) does not reduce the need for project assurance as the same broad risks still exist.

The standard approach to planning and undertaking traditional assurance reviews can be adapted and adopted to ensure assurance activity of agile projects is both effective and valuable.

And, just as the increasing use of agile development methods have introduced rapid, value-driven, iterative change cycles along with new way of workings, so the role of assurance also needs to adapt as it assumes heightened importance in this fast-moving environment. This is crucial in not only evaluating individual agile projects but also looking at whether the wider organisational landscape supports the agile approach.

Any project can be managed in an agile way, regardless of whether it contains any agile development. Assurers should keep this in mind when approaching a new assurance review.

Understanding the context is all important as there is no single prescribed definition of agile project management. Therefore it is essential that the assurer understands the methodology and principles specific to the organisation and the project being assured.

We believe with this additional knowledge assurers can offer valuable insight and guidance, better supporting the organisation’s drive towards agile project delivery.

A Guide to Assurance of Agile Delivery, written by members of the APM Assurance Specific Interest Group (SIG), is available today from the APM bookshop. APM members receive a 10% discount on all APM book purchases.

APM Knowledge would like to ask the project professional community to review A Guide to Assurance of Agile Delivery. If you are interested in this opportunity please contact publishing@apm.org.uk.

Read more about what is agile project management

Roy Millard

Posted by Roy Millard on 27th Oct 2017

About the Author

Until November 2017, I was responsible for the planning and delivery of all internal audits of project and programme management within Transport for London. I joined TfL Internal Audit in September 2002, and have over 34 years of experience of engineering projects in PPP, PFI, partnering, joint venture, consortia and conventional contracting environments, as project engineer, risk manager, project manager and internal audit manager. In particular, I had lead roles within Racal on major defence projects such Bowman and IRIS, and as a senior manager within Thales on the Connect project for London Underground.

I now work as an independent consultant (trading as P3 Risk & Assurance) and a Partner in Firewood Ltd providing advice and support on matters of governance, risk and assurance in project organisations.

I have an Honours degree and a post-graduate Diploma in Management Studies; am a Fellow of the APM and a full member of the Institution of Engineering and Technology; chair the APM Nominations Panel; have the APMP qualification and have been PRINCE2 and MSP qualified at Practitioner level; and am the founder and past-Chairman of the Project & Programme Assurance Specific Interest Group.

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