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Value of assurance management practicesValue of assurance management practices

About the research and why is it important?

Our Value of Assurance research was led by experienced project professionals Sarah Coleman (Business Evolution) and Dr Andrew Schuster (PwC) with support from the APM Assurance Specific Interest Group (SIG). The study aims to develop the understanding of how project organisations and individuals can deliver an assurance management service. By exploring the practices of five organisations of different sizes across a variety of industry sectors in the UK and Canada, this research addresses two key questions:

  1. What distinctive practices are being used to develop and deliver an assurance management service in project-based organisations?
  2. How do organisations determine the level and type of investment they will make in assurance management practices (e.g. processes, tools, skills and knowledge)?
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How was the research undertaken?

Five organisations across public services and the private sector in Canada and the UK contributed to the research through case studies. The participating organisations were: Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), SThree Group, Jacobs, BAE Systems and Shell. The interviewees for each case study included project practitioners and professionals outside the project management community, which provided diverse perspectives on assurance management. The organisations were targeted and selected based on a range of criteria, including size of portfolios or significant projects; where project assurance has been deliberately introduced to support delivery and outcomes; availability and ease of access to interviewees. As they are all project-based organisations with different approaches, they have had to build interfaces and connect their temporary project-based organisations into their permanent parent organisation.

Intended audience

This study is relevant to public, private and third sector programmes and projects, regardless of the project focus. It is also useful for both professional bodies and for individuals with project, programme or portfolio management governance responsibilities.


What did we discover?

The researchers conclude that the assurance management service is designed, implemented and operated in these five main dimensions:

  1. Governance
  2. Methods
  3. Integration
  4. Cadence
  5. Specialism

Using these five dimensions, our research identifies a framework which offers the target state for an impactful assurance management service. For example, specialism, draws attention to assurance management as more than ‘just a side job’ or ‘something to lend a hand to’.  As a result, project professional bodies can review how they handle assurance management in their bodies of knowledge, competency frameworks and spectrum of accreditations and qualifications. Each of the five case studies derived from semi-structured interviews with participating organisations defines an empirical approach to optimising the level of investment, where the organisations implemented an approach and then made incremental changes based on feedback over time. The research provides insights into the design, implementation and operation of an optimised assurance management service.

In practice, the authors encourage that the five dimensions of an assurance management service be rigorously considered when:

  • Drafting programme and project management strategy and planning documents
  • Designing programme and project management controls
  • Designing and resourcing programme and project management offices
  • Developing a holistic assurance management plan for a programme or project.