Jun 19, 2024

What Is Project Assurance?

Project assurance is a critical governance function aimed at providing stakeholders with confidence that a project will deliver within the defined scope, time, cost, and quality constraints. The project assurance function operates independently of the project management team to ensure project objectives align with business goals, risks are effectively managed, and resources are appropriately utilized.

Project assurance acts as both a safeguard and facilitator for project success. It involves evaluating project processes, governance, and performance, thereby reinforcing accountability and supporting informed decision-making. It’s a vital component in the project oversight arsenal and integral to the strategic execution of projects.

Benefits of Project Assurance

Independent project assurance on a multi-year change program supports program leaders in providing confidence to the executives and board throughout the delivery life cycle. Validation of the optimal approach in these areas is crucial for several reasons, particularly the following:

  • Risk mitigation: Multi-year projects inherently carry a higher risk factor due to their extended time periods, complexity, and stakeholder expectations. Integrating regular independent reviews in tandem with your project team helps to instill confidence in the project, acts as an early warning mechanism in identifying and assessing risks and issues, and highlights areas where the program team might require support.
  • Cost: The program team is often resource-constrained and time poor, making it easy to lose track of the bigger picture (including financial management). Are the finances clearly understood? Is there a clear picture on the budget and actuals? Effective financial management helps control costs and prevents overspending. Project assurance provides clarity on project finances, including budget and actuals.
  • Stakeholder management: Validate the level of engagement and understanding of impacted stakeholders of program outcomes versus delivery. Executives and governance bodies gain confidence when independent assurance validates that the project is on track and supports stakeholders to develop an aligned understanding of change impacts on their workflows and amended scope managing delivery outcomes and required program decisions.
  • Resource optimization: By assessing program progress, assurance helps ensure that resources are allocated efficiently and assists the program in identifying where additional resources would guarantee successful delivery.
  • Scope management: Recognition and tracking of technical debt due to tactical delivery approaches due to limitations within the program to achieve the strategic solution.

Project Assurance Challenges to Avoid

If not introduced properly, project assurance can be viewed as a negative by program teams and introduce unnecessary challenges for the project team in the following ways:

  • Feeling judged on its competence and capabilities
  • Acting as an unnecessary distraction to the program when the project team is trying to get on with the work.
  • Perceived interference from an external team that may already have an agenda to criticise the program delivery.

Ensuring Engagement and Good Communication

To overcome these issues, it’s critical that subject matter experts (SMEs) perform these reviews, ensuring engagement is scheduled in advance as part of the initial implementation planning effort and that SMEs have clear terms of reference covering their scope and objectives.

Program stakeholders and governance bodies should clearly communicate and fully support the benefits of independent assurance. This should allow the program team to see these exercises as beneficial to the program.

For information on how to organise and schedule independent project assurance exercises, including creating a framework for completing assurance activities, reach out to the Cutter Consulting team at [email protected].