A review is a critical evaluation of a deliverable, business case or P3 management process.
Reviews are one of the principle mechanisms by which the quality of deliverables, performance of the management process and the on-going viability of the work are assured.
They may take many forms and occur at many different levels within the P3 environment, but essentially investigate one of three aspects of a project, programme or portfolio:
- deliverables: a review can be a procedure for quality control of products delivered by a project or programme;
- the business case: the continued desirability, viability and achievability of the work should be reviewed at set points in the life cycle. This type of review can result in premature closure of projects and programmes;
- management processes: in this instance a review is part of P3 assurance to check that the work is being well managed.
Reviews can be triggered by events (e.g. the delivery of a product or completion of a stage) or by the passage of time (e.g. quarterly or six-monthly reviews). Initial plans and budgets should provide for reviews to be undertaken as necessary.
The frequency, conduct and scheduling of reviews is set out in the quality management plan. The plan must ensure that reviews are appropriate in terms of depth and breadth, and ensure an integrated approach that satisfies the needs of stakeholders.
To be effective, a review should include a:
- controlled attendance with attendees who will add value;
- defined agenda, including the findings of previous reviews;
- report with clear actions and owners.
Within the UK public sector, a formal process known as ‘gateway reviews’ is used to ensure that critical projects and programmes are reviewed at appropriate points. This has also been adopted in parts of the private sector.
Product reviews typically provide a quality control mechanism for things that cannot be mechanically or statistically tested. This would, for example, apply to a new process or a software module. In such cases a reviewer would examine or operate them to judge whether they meet the acceptance criteria.
Reviews of the project’s business case are usually part of a gate review. They are triggered by the completion of a discrete package of work within the project. There is then a go/no go decision about progressing to the next phase or stage. A review may also be triggered by exceptional circumstances where the project has fallen short of its planned objectives to such a degree that a review is necessary.
A post-project review should be held after the handover of project deliverables, but prior to project closure. Its purpose is to learn lessons and improve the organisation’s ability to deliver future projects by:
- evaluating the effectiveness of project management;
- comparing what was actually delivered against the original requirements;
- identifying lessons learned;
- assessing performance, e.g. comparing the planned schedule against the actual schedule;
- capturing stakeholders’ opinion of how the project was delivered;
- disseminating findings.
Reviews of the management processes are defined and commissioned by the project sponsor as part of project assurance.
The programme management team needs to ensure that policies for reviews are implemented consistently across all projects.
As each post-project review is completed, the programme management team also ensures that lessons learned are recorded and made available to subsequent projects.
Quality control reviews are held at programme level as each project hands over its completed output. The programme management team may also be involved in quality reviews of products that form interfaces between projects.
Business case reviews are conducted at the end of each tranche and decisions made whether or not to proceed with the next tranche.
Following a period of business-as-usual operation, a benefits realisation review establishes whether the planned benefits have been fully or partially realised. It identifies any shortfalls and why they occurred. It may be necessary to hold several reviews, depending on when the benefits are expected to be delivered.
The portfolio life cycle is one of continuous review and relies on information provided by the project and programme reviews.
Project and programme business case reviews collectively indicate the current viability of the portfolio. These are important to identify any project or programme that is unlikely to contribute to portfolio objectives, so that it can be cancelled and its resources released to reshape the portfolio.
There will be formal planned reviews of portfolio performance and these may be aligned to the host organisation’s strategic review cycle.
Regular ‘assurance’ type reviews are scheduled as necessary to maintain the portfolio sponsor’s confidence that the component projects and programmes are being well managed.