7-Step Checklist for Project Governance
Project governance makes the difference between knowing what’s going on and making decisions in the absence of information.
When executives are fully involved in project governance, they have access to data that helps them make the best choices for the organization. They can shape how a project evolves, and how that project interacts with other operational business functions.
Governance, however, is a bit of an abstract concept. While people may understand it theoretically, sometimes it can be hard to see how it can be applied in a project environment.
Here’s a quick checklist for project governance. Use it as a starting point for what you need to have in place.
1. Projects have sponsors
Each project should have a sponsor. This is someone who champions the change and provides the vision and direction for the work. Often, it’s the person who has the authority to provide the resources and budget to complete the project, but many times projects will require input from a wide range of subject matter experts from a variety of different business teams.
2. Projects are planned
It might seem simple to say it, but we still see projects that are initiated without a clear direction about how the work is going to be managed and what exactly will be done.
It’s fine to have a loose grasp on the details – rolling wave planning and progressive elaboration will let teams plan in detail as they go. However, you should have an end goal in sight.
Plans should be documented so everyone has clarity about next steps and how the work will be managed. It’s likely these documents will be updated as the project moves through the life cycle, and that can be done using the change management process.
3. Reporting expectations are clear
Project managers should know what reports are expected of them and when they are due. The PMO should be able to provide guidance about the quality of reports, and support project managers in extracting data from their project management tools.
There are a lot of different types of reports, serving different purposes. For example, small projects will have a different reporting requirement to large, transformative projects where more oversight is required.
4. Project management processes are embedded
By ‘embedded’ we mean project management processes exist and are routinely used. It can take a while to change a project delivery culture and standardize everyone onto common processes, but the goal should be to do that.
Having structure and processes still allows for flexibility and for project managers to use their professional judgement. If your business runs a wide variety of projects, perhaps using Agile, predictive and hybrid methods, then your processes can accommodate that by including options for variation as required.
5. Roles and responsibilities are clear
Alongside the sponsor, you also need clear roles and responsibilities for people holding governance roles. Your exact management structure for governance is likely to be specific to your organization, but there are some common roles that need defining. For example:
- Project manager
- Program manager
- Portfolio manager
- Quality manager
- Project Board or Steering Group members.
Someone will also have responsibility for project audits, peer reviews, testing, contract management and so on. The governance roles should be documented so each project can ensure they have people in place to fill each role.
6. There are policies in place
The project environment should have policies in place that set out expectations and requirements for delivering the work. Whether that’s getting quotes from three suppliers before moving into contracting, or a statement on ethical practices, it’s important that your teams have clarity around the boundaries and expectations for their professional work.
Policies are often used to ensure compliance with external regulation and legislation as well as internal codes of conduct.
It’s no good having policies if you can’t access them, so policies should be clearly communicated, regularly updated and available to all relevant personnel.
7. There is independent scrutiny
Independent scrutiny for projects is important, because it means project managers operate in an environment where they know their work could be reviewed at any point, by someone unconnected with the project.
It sounds scarier than it is: basically, you should have a quality and audit function with the authority to review projects.
Audits can be formal or informal. A project review will look for areas of best practice that can be widely shared amongst the internal project management teams as well as areas where guidance was not followed. They investigate the causes of this so the team involved can improve their skills, work to improve the performance of the project, or the original guidance can be amended to make it clearer.
Projects should be subject to scrutiny. They tie up the business’ people and money, and they take time away from other initiatives. As a management team, you need to understand that your projects are being carried out in the best possible way.
Can you tick everything on this checklist for project governance? If not, it’s time to start thinking about how you could improve project governance in your organization.
Hopefully, the items above have given you insight into what governance looks like in a project environment. It’s not an exhaustive list and you may have other elements that feel critical for you to implement.
The next step is understanding how you can implement each area of governance in the most efficient way. Need some help with that? We’ve got resources that will help.