Project or programme assurance: what does it mean and how can it help you deliver better results?

Assurance, what does it mean to you? Outside the world of project management assurance means certainty, or a positive declaration intended to give confidence, like a promise. When it comes to change management, assurance refers to a process that seeks to give confidence in project delivery, but the term sometimes gets a negative response. When people hear it they instantly think, “more work for little or no value.” However, assurance shouldn’t make your heart sink.

If assurance is conducted at the right time and with just the right amount of effort, it can help you deliver better results. Assurance is a route to give you confidence and great insight into a projects’ or programme’s ability to deliver the results you’re seeking.

What is assurance?

Assurance can be defined as “a process or assessment to provide stakeholders with confidence that a project, programme or portfolio will achieve their intended scope, time, cost and quality objective, and realise their benefits.” For example, getting an independent review (internal or external) on your schedule, risk, assumptions and dependencies, to stress test the validity and how robustly they link together.

Another view on assurance is to see it as a process in which a project/programme/portfolio seeks to ensure the quality of its output. For example, in a software project, it could be an inspection of any specification or reporting and analysis of defects found. This could also be referred to as Quality Assurance. We’ll be focusing on the former definition in this blog.

So, why is assurance important and how do you support it with the right level of effort? Here are three ways that having a robust assurance process can help your project or programme delivery.

Three ways robust assurance engineers better results:

  1. Drives the team towards a mature and detailed definition of what success means or looks like:

Independent reviews of project documentation and the flow from requirements to deliverables/benefits will ensure that the team have a clear view of what success looks like. This shared understanding of where the team is heading, with a clarification of the milestones on the way helps to keep everyone on track and moving forward towards a clear goal.

  1. Enables an objective approach to evaluating success:

With assurance being ideally monitored at project/programme board level, having an assurance process allows the board to evaluate success outside of the working project/programme team with an unbiased approach and make informed recommendations or decisions.  It’s easy to get caught up the day-to-day details of programme and project delivery, so having the ability to step back and see the bigger picture is vital. Assurance gives the board an informed and pragmatic view of a project’s progress so that they can make smarter decisions.

  1. Supports the development of a culture of shared accountability:

Assurance helps turn a culture of “blame” into a culture of “accountability.” It helps teams have open discussions around a projects/programmes progress, successes and challenges. It challenges any form of scapegoating and instead builds relationships between both the stakeholders and project team towards a shared goal.  The objective overview of the assurance process takes the heat out of an analysis of how a project or programme is progressing. And in doing so it’s a route to productive conversations and a collaborative way of working

 Where to start with assurance?

Assurance doesn’t have to take huge amounts of time, with dozens of deliverables or reports, Just conducting a simple health check on your project will identify any deviations from the original plan. This will give you an indication of which areas you should review in more detail, to increase the level of assurance and then adapt the project/programme accordingly to increase the chances of success.

For more information, please contact Esther McMorris



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