Effective assurance identifies potential issues and corrective action, opportunities for improvement and important lessons.
Done properly, assurance is one of the most positive actions you can take to ensure the success of your projects and the achievement of their benefits.
It’s more than ticking the boxes
However, assurance can sometimes be reduced to a box-ticking exercise, adding little value and the perception that it is a level of bureaucracy that project managers and their teams have to deal with. Quite understandably, this can lead to a lot of cynicism.
So how do you unlock the value of assurance? What practical, easy-to-implement steps can you take so that your investment in assurance brings you value?
Three simple approaches should be built into any assurance intervention, whether it is a set up for success review, a health check, a post-implementation review or similar:
1) Follow up – ensuring actions are implemented
2) Starting up – ensuring lessons are learned
3) Mixing it up – ensuring that there is transparency.
Let’s explore how each of these approaches can function in a project.
Follow up – Ensuring actions are implemented
The output of any assurance intervention is a set of recommendations involving actions that address opportunities for improvement, also known as an Assurance Report. These actions need to be assigned to individuals with a due date and completion of these actions needs to be followed up.
The tracking of the completed actions then becomes the accountability of the project manager, just like any other project activity. Failing to follow up is one of the most common ways in which assurance can miss the mark.
We recommend that an assurance engagement includes a half day follow up workshop with the project team a month or so after the delivery of the Assurance Report. This workshop ensures that all actions are either complete, in progress or soon to be completed.
Just scheduling a follow-up workshop will signal to the project team and stakeholders that you take these actions seriously and will significantly improve the likelihood of them being implemented.
However, if any actions have not received adequate attention then this can be escalated to the Project Manager and Sponsor.
Startup – Ensuring lessons are learned
Assurance interventions by their very nature generate a lot of learning opportunities. While the project team generally takes on board these lessons, they are rarely leveraged beyond the immediate team and are therefore effectively lost to other projects and the rest of your organisation.
One way to ensure that assurance lessons are learned is to build a review of the Assurance Reports of similar projects into the start-up activities for any new project. This activity can be written into your standard project delivery framework and incorporated into a setup for success review.
A review represents a much easier and cost-effective way of accessing the most valuable knowledge generated during a project when compared to reviewing the various project artifacts that have been created.
Mixing it up – Ensuring that there is transparency
Developing a good in-house assurance capability is a good investment of time and money. However in-house assurance can become stale and lose its independence over time if it is not supplemented by engaging a trusted third party.
A third party assurance provider can supplement your in-house function by bringing fresh perspectives and an opportunity for staff to interact with industry specialists without any of the potential bias from vested project interests.
Unlock the benefits of assurance
Assurance provides project stakeholders with a greater degree of confidence that a project or program can be delivered as fit-for-purpose. Ensuring that your team can see the benefits and impacts of an assurance framework on an ongoing basis is the best mechanism for helping them to see its value.
As project specialists, we develop fit-for-purpose strategy. Contact us here to find out more about how we work with your teams or call 02 9098 6300.
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