Welcome to the Winter 2019 edition of the APM Assurance SIG newsletter

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Welcome to the Winter 2019 edition of the APM Assurance SIG newsletter


  1. Chair’s introduction
  2. What has the SIG achieved so far?
  3. What are we currently working on?
  4. Our Assurance conference 2018
  5. Leave your feedback

1. Chair’s introduction

Welcome to the first issue of a new newsletter for the APM Assurance SIG! I hope you find it useful in learning more about the SIG and what we do, what we’ve published, and what we have planned for 2019.

Our intention is to publish these newsletters quarterly.

When we started the APM Assurance SIG in 2008, there was very little published material on assurance in projects, with most of what was available specific to individual areas such as quality and health and safety. There was, for example, almost nothing in the way of guidance on auditing projects, and development of approaches for reviewing projects was at an early stage.

Furthermore, assurance providers tended to exist in their own boxes, with little collaboration between them.

Project assurance was mentioned in places like the APM Body of Knowledge, PRINCE and MSP, but there was a lack of linkage and pointers to more information.

With all this in mind, we defined the SIG’s vision and mission as:

For the SIG to become a national source of best practice in the provision of efficient and effective project and programme assurance.

Provide a forum for exchanging ideas, sharing good practice, and developing new approaches to providing assurance.
Develop standards and guidance on best practice assurance.
Promote use of best practice approaches to assurance.

Whilst much has been achieved, the vision and mission remain as valid today ten years on. The only things we would now want to adjust at all are to replace “national” with “international”, and change “project and programme” to “project, programme and portfolio”, in the vision. These changes reflect the way in which project management, and the APM, have developed in the ten years.

Over the ten years, we have issued four guides and one toolkit (see below), held nine conferences, and spoken at 13 events arranged by others (including branches).

If after reading this newsletter you would like to get involved with us, either generally or more specifically on one or more particular activities, please let us know.

Finally for this introduction, we would very much like you, the wider SIG membership, to give us any views you may have on what the SIG might consider doing. At the end of the newsletter, there is a short survey which we’d be grateful if you would complete, please. There’s a link to the survey online for convenience. All feedback will be reviewed by the APM SIG committee.

2. What has the SIG achieved so far?

Here is a brief overview of the SIG’s outputs since 2008. There are links to where they are on the APM website.

Assurance Definitions – 2009
We published this to give an explanation of terms used in P3 assurance and hence provide for consistency in their application.

We had found that the same assurance term could be used by people working in different assurance fields, but with subtly but important differences in understanding of meaning.

Guide to Integrated Assurance – 2014
The guide aims to assist organisations in developing and implementing an efficient and effective integrated approach to managing the delivery of assurance, at the right time and to the right place. It centres on four dimensions, and six principles, of integrated assurance.

Measures for Assuring Project Toolkit – 2016
The assurance assessment toolkit is intended as a reference for assurance practitioners to help provide a measure of their confidence in the potential for a project (or programme or portfolio) to succeed. It provides a common generic basis for the assessment of portfolios, programmes and projects in all sectors, at any project life cycle phase, and at all levels in the supply chain. It can be used by independent assurance providers or project teams, both for self-assessment of their projects or as a checklist to support the development of their approach to managing and assuring the project.

Guide to Assurance of Agile Delivery – 2017
The rapid increase in the use of agile methods to deliver projects, had left a gap in approaches to providing assurance that brought value to those projects. The guide provides background information, tools and support to assurers, to understand the interplay of agile principles, processes, practices, responsibilities and behaviours; and to arrive at a considered opinion on the governance of a project, and the likelihood of it achieving stated outcomes.

Guide to Project Auditing – 2018
The guide seeks to explain the role of an audit, how it can be planned and undertaken, the degrees of assurance that can be given, and how project audits can be aligned to organisational governance. It is principally intended for use by project auditors in developing an audit approach to review and assurance of projects. However, it is also intended to be of value to anyone involved in the management and administration of projects.

3. What are we currently working on?

Project Auditing
Following publication of our ‘Guide to Project Auditing’ in 2018, we will be considering whether we should develop separate guidance for auditing programmes and projects, and whether this should be standalone, an extension of the existing guide, or lead to an updated version of the existing guide.

We have had some discussions with the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA), with a view to them adopting our guide as IIA guidance to their members.

We are hoping to establish a user group for users of the ‘Guide to Project Auditing’ to share their experiences.

Measures for Assuring Projects
We have started to establish a user network for the toolkit we published in 2016, and are hopeful that this will grow significantly as we draw in more of the >6000 people who have downloaded it.

From initial user feedback, and from our annual conference last November (see later in this newsletter), we have identified a few areas where we will be enhancing the toolkit.

Integrated Assurance
We plan to re-establish workstream that developed our 2014 ‘Guide to Integrated Assurance’, with new membership, with a view to refreshing it. Emphasis will be placed on:

  • Overcoming barriers to Integrated Assurance
  • Relationship to Progressive Assurance

Assurance of Agile Projects
This workstream is currently dormant. However, we have been asked to host some seminars based upon our ‘Guide to Assurance of Agile Delivery’, and we are planning to develop some standardised seminar content.

Furthermore, we will seek feedback on the Guide to Assurance of Agile Delivery, and plan for a refresh or additional guidance.

Business Case for Assurance
We are in the process of commissioning through APM some research into the correlation between assurance and project success. A workshop for this was held on 8 January, from which we are expecting firm plans for the workstream to emerge.

Assurance of Business Change
Following some working group activity, and a successful session at our annual conference in 2018, we are reviewing how our current suite of publications could be enhanced to better cover assurance of business change projects.

We are preparing a white paper based upon our collation of views on the relationships between behaviours and successful assurance. Future work on this workstream will depend upon the conclusions reached in the white paper.

During a recent workshop session we got together with a group of volunteers to think about the scope of our research and explore what both good and bad behaviours look like and their associated impacts. A contributor, Joanne Bradshaw subsequently produced our latest blog on the topic, how do behaviours impact project assurance?

4. Our Assurance conference 2018

The annual APM Assurance SIG conference was held this year at the end of November in Birmingham, with a topical conference theme of “Assurance in uncertain times”. A wide range of speakers, from both public and private sectors, gave their insight into how assurance can support in changing political, social and economic times but also how assurance needs to be delivered within a dynamic regulatory and legal framework. The two key messages that came from the day were “how do we prove the value of assurance”, and “how we deliver assurance is as important as the assurance output.”

Our headline conference speaker was Suzanne Newton, Transformation director with the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, within the Government’s Cabinet Office.

Suzanne is currently leading a programme of change for both the IPA and the wider project profession within government. Suzanne was able to provide us with the initial output of this activity, which has involved extensive worldwide engagement across governments and major corporates. Identifying the optimal approach to assurance activities – what do we assure, who should perform the assurance, how do we assure and what should the output look like? The answers to these questions can be found in the material to support the conference.

Alan Watt, Director of HS2’s internal audit function also provided us with further insight into why major projects invariably stray off track (pardon the pun), and what any assurance function should be looking for in relation to key signals when undertaking reviews.

Mike Ward, an independent management consultant and regular contributor to the activities of the APM SIGs, led an interactive session focusing on the assurance of business change, an area Mike has been considering with a small working party throughout 2018. This allowed the division of the conference audience into small groups to discuss some of the key differences between business and infrastructure delivery and how assurance approaches should be adapted to ensure maximum effectiveness and value is provided to stakeholders. Following a wealth of feedback to Mike through the interactive sessions, Mike will feedback the output to the SIG during the early part of 2019; so keep referencing our website to view this insight.

The afternoon session focused on three engaging presentations, on three areas of current focus within the assurance community:

  1. Assurance measures – presented by Matt Bruce-Kingsmill, Leidos
  2. Assurance of agile – presented by Rachel Saunders and Lisa Sholly Osmond, KPMG
  3. Using data science to support predictive assurance – presented by Adam Suchley, Mudano Ltd.

All of these sessions allowed delegates to gain the latest thinking and add new skills to their personal assurance toolkits. The material for all of these sessions can be found as follows:

Rachel Saunders and Lisa Sholly Osmond’s presentation
Mike Ward’s presentation
Alan Watt’s presentation
Adam Suchley’s presentation

The conference also provided the opportunity for the APM SIG Chair, Roy Millard, to provide insight into the wide range of activities currently underway within the SIG. These range from defining assurance terms and measures, to assurance of agile projects, training and the people aspects of assurance. If you would like further information, or would like to get involved in the activities of the SIG then please get in touch.

All being well, we’ll be holding the Assurance conference 2019 in November!

5. Leave your feedback

Please take a few moments to complete this survey.


Posted on 7th Jan 2019
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