Project Management Offices provide a variety of functions including (in many cases) audits, project reviews and assurance. If you want an independent health check on your project and you don’t have a PMO, you can ask your colleagues to perform these for you. But what’s the difference?
An audit aims to show the extent to which your project conforms to the required standards. So, if your organisation uses PRINCE2, an audit will look at how closely you follow the processes. Do you have a project quality plan?
Do you have a Seavus ProjectPlanner schedule, or a schedule in whichever tool your organisation mandates, and how closely are you following that schedule? Have your project risks been reviewed recently, and are project team members carrying out their risk mitigation activities?
If you are asked to audit a colleague’s project, try to come up with a list of things that you can check. Having a project audit checklist helps you establish whether you have covered all the key topics. And you can use the checklist on your own project or during a future audit of a colleague’s project. Ask your PMO if they already have a checklist that you can use. It should cover things like milestones, risks, issues, budget targets and resourcing.
The assurance function looks at whether you are doing the right things. Project assurance considers whether the project is on track to meet its objectives and aims to answer the question, “Should we carry on doing this project?” As project managers we can constantly carry out this function ourselves by checking that the project remains on track to deliver the benefits set out in the business case. If we feel that these benefits will not be achieved, then we should be discussing this with the project sponsor. There may be a way to get the project back on track by changing the scope or accelerating the timescales, for example, that will help ensure that the project delivers worthwhile benefits. If, however, the organisational position has changed while the project is in-flight, it could be worth closing the project down.
Project assurance helps answer these questions and focus the organisations resources on the projects that will help the company move closer to its overall objectives.
Project review meetings take many forms. You can hold risk reviews, where you discuss current risks and the required mitigating actions. You can hold general project reviews, where you discuss status with your team. A review is simply a meeting where you take decisions. These decisions should help the project move forward, or help the project management practices used on the project to be more effective.
You don’t need anyone else to hold a project review on your behalf, although from time to time you may find it useful to ask someone else to facilitate a team meeting for you so that you can fully participate in the review instead of being the meeting chair at the same time.