Project Assurance – what could it do for you?
The APM Assurance SIG conference for 2017 provided delegates with the opportunity to hear from leading practitioners and to understand how they deliver Project Assurance in a practical way.
The conference focused on addressing a series of questions, including What does effective Project Assurance look like? How to assess whether your Assurance programme meets your needs? Who is Assurance aimed at? What value does Assurance add?
The Assurance SIG also took the opportunity to get valuable input from delegates, capturing their views on where future developments in the field of Project Assurance should be focused, through a series of facilitated workshops.
List of speaker’s presentations
Session Title: How does Assurance add value?
Synopsis: During this Keynote session, Jo focused on the importance of understanding the perspectives of different stakeholders when developing and implementing assurance frameworks Assurance is multi-faceted. One size does not fit all, and there are multiple opportunities to add value. There is a human dimension; stakeholders have different roles in the assurance process, different visions of what constitutes assurance, different interpretations of the purpose of assurance, and they have different behaviours when influenced by assurance processes.
Jo’s presentation outlined her own research work exploring the perceptions of the key stakeholders and participants in the assurance process.
Cate Smith & Pamela Stacey
Session Title: The Three Lines of Defence – a help or a hindrance?
Synopsis: In the Plenary session, Cate and Pamela opened up the debate around the Three Lines of Defence, and encouraged audience participation by giving everyone a vote after each section. Needless to say, there was a mixed outcome. The areas covered were (i) does the Three Lines of Defence provide a useful framework around which Assurance can be structured and designed, or does it encourage mechanistic application of the model (ii) Does it foster clear accountability, or does it make accountability even harder to define and (iii) Does it help us to communicate our assurance services to key stakeholders, or does it introduce jargon that staff and decision makers find confusing?
Session Title: Delivering Assurance, Stream A - Audit
Synopsis: During this session, Mark explored why audits are an important assurance tool. He outlined the principles of auditing a project, and how these principles can be adapted to your organisation.
Session Title: Delivering Assurance, Stream B - Assurance measures
Synopsis: Dan explored the APM toolkit – “Measures for Assuring Projects”, and explained why measures are important. He answered a series of practical questions including, Why measure? Which measures are appropriate for my organisation? When to measure? And How can I adapt the toolkit to my organisation?
Phil Kemp & Andy Tims
Session Title: Delivering Assurance, Stream C – Integrated assurance
Synopsis: In this session, Phil outlined the principles of integrated assurance and why these principles are important to project leaders. He explained how they can be applied in large and complex programmes and portfolios. By drawing on his experience as a programme manager, High Risk assurance Review Team Leader and IPA assurance lead for some of the most complex programmes, he offered some very different perspectives of effective assurance.
Phil Kemp, Mark Palmer & Steve Holland
Session Title: Enhancing Assurance, Workshop A – How can we assure “Agile”?
Synopsis: Phil, Mark and Steve are three of the authors of the recently published “Guide to the Assurance of Agile Delivery. By breaking the attendees into small discussion groups, they encouraged sharing of best practice on best practice in assurance of Agile projects. Topics covered included the best approach for Agile assurance reviews, the differences between “traditional” and Agile assurance, how to assure governance and risk in an Agile environment, and what should be the outputs from an Agile project assurance review.
Session Title: Enhancing Assurance, Workshop B – What makes a good Assurance practitioner?
Phil’s workshop looked at two key areas – the skills and competencies of a good reviewer, and the value of career experience. Specific technical skills requirements included business case evaluation, procurement and benefits analysis. The soft skills included confidence, integrity, diplomacy, open mindedness, perceptiveness and ability to communicate effectively. On top of these requirements, a good Assurance practitioner needs to be a team player, with a collaborative approach. They must be able to maintain independence and objectivity, and above all, exhibit good common sense.
Session Title: Enhancing Assurance, Workshop C – Value and Benefits of Assurance
Synopsis: Chris led a discussion around the value and benefits of project assurance. The delegates discussed the key indicators that were present when stakeholders have a high perception of the value of Project Assurance. These indicators included; risk-based budgets with access to specialist resources, assurance schedules delivered on time, management requesting reviews in a particular area, and strong engagement on recommendations and action plans. And then there is the converse. Typical symptoms where stakeholders had a low perception of the benefits from Project Assurance included limited budgets, limited engagement and push back from management, rejection of recommendations, and late of close out of assurance actions.