There was a time when many in the higher echelons of the corporate world saw project management as a way of running individual schemes, best left to project managers to get on with while the board concentrated on running the organisation.
Times have changed. Today the perceived wisdom is that project management is integral to driving organisations forward and ensuring they operate more effectively and efficiently. It is accepted as so important that many boards now include a director with responsibility for this essential element.
So just as good corporate governance is necessary to conduct and run the business competently and with integrity, it makes total sense to do the same with projects as part and parcel of the overall strategy.
A leading authority on the subject is the Association for Project Management (APM), the largest professional body of its kind in Europe. In its highly regarded publication Directing Change – a guide to governance of project management, now in its second edition, APM identifies four main components:
- Portfolio direction
- Project sponsorship
- Project management capability
- Disclosure and reporting.
The guide states: “Effective governance of project management ensures that an organisation’s project portfolio is aligned to business objectives, is delivered efficiently and is sustainable.”
Simply put, governance of project management, is about doing the right projects, not necessarily doing all projects right. Consider the potential results of projects that fail or should never have been started and its value is clear. Its very nature also supports the way that the board and other major stakeholders exchange timely, relevant and reliable information.
The approach to delivering the London 2012 Olympic Games showed governance of project management in action. With project management rigour at the heart of the strategy, it demonstrated how focusing at the outset on the details designed to test the suitability of people, processes and structures led to success at every level.
There are no hard and fast rules to governance of project management, but there is definitely best practice. The guide from APM is aimed at those at board level and identifies 13 principles which, when applied, could help to avoid common causes of project failure and the subsequent consequences on an organisation’s bottom line, reputation and market confidence.