Projects consist of many different activities that involve making decisions. While some decisions can be made by the members of the project team, there are more important issues that only certain members of the organisation are authorised to make the decisions for. These persons have the accountability for such decisions and the impact of such judgements on the overall success of the project. This is the main essence of the governance of project management. Project governance serves as a framework of accountability and authority. It helps define and control the different outputs of the project, its deliverables, and the derivable benefits.

Directing Change

The Association for Project Management published a guide in 2004 to help organisations ensure the effective governance of their respective project portfolios. Called “Directing Change”, the initiative laid out very detailed guidelines as to how the upper management can steer their respective organisations in the effective management of business portfolio and projects.

One of the reasons why some projects fail is because of technical issues. These issues would have been otherwise non-existent if the project only had a more organised approach in their project management.

Good project governance lays the foundation for the timely and successful completion of projects. It provides a framework that organises the different people and resources of the project in a more systematic way.

The Governance of Project Management

The governance of project management is concerned about getting the best possible results from the judicious application of grounded principles, the efficient monitoring of an organisation’s internal control system, and the proportionate and reliable delegation of authority.

There are four core components of effective governance of project management. These are:

  1. Efficiency and effectiveness of the overall direction of the portfolio
  2. Efficiency and effectiveness of the project sponsorship
  3. Efficiency and effectiveness of project management systems
  4. Timely and appropriate disclosure and reporting

Organisations need to address the different questions that each core component brings. For example, one good question that organisations need to ask related to its portfolio direction is whether the project portfolio aligns with the overall business objectives of the organisation. This includes the business’ profitability, reputation, growth, sustainability, and customer service.

A good question to pose in the project sponsorship component is whether the major projects of the organisation have reliable, competent, and trustworthy sponsors every time. It is also crucial to ask if these sponsors can devote their time and attention to the project.

As for the core component of project management, it is often wise for organisations to ask about the presence of critical success criteria and whether these criteria are written in a very clear manner. A more important question related to this is whether the organisation uses the success criteria in making well-informed decisions.

One of the key questions to ask about disclosure and reporting is related to the Board’s receipt of reliable and relevant project information in a timely manner. The information should include project forecasts and project updates as per the identified authorisation points of the project plan.

Principles of Project Management Governance

The APM’s Directing Change guideline in 2004 requires organisations to adhere to 11 key principles. These principles serve as guidelines for high-level executives to shape the different governance processes they need to ensure the success of their projects.

  • Command Responsibility

The Board of the organisation takes overall responsibility for the effective and efficient governance of all projects that the organisation decides to undertake.

  • Clear and Accurate Definitions

All projects should have a very clear definition of the different roles of project management decision-makers as well as their inherent responsibilities required for effective governance. This includes the performance criteria needed to determine the effectiveness and efficiency of project governance.

  • Orderly Governance

Methodical and orderly governance measures should be applied throughout the life cycle of the project. Appropriate controls and governance methods should support the different measures.

  • Supportive and Coherent Relationship

The organisation’s project portfolio and its overall business strategy should have a supportive and coherent relationship. The project should support the overall strategy of the organisation. At the same time, the business strategy should provide a structure upon which the project can be successful.

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  • Approved Comprehensive Plan with Authorisation Points

The successful governance of a project starts with a very detailed and comprehensive plan that decision-makers need to approve. The plan should also contain authorisation points to help define decision points and establish clear lines of communication.

  • Competent Delegation

Entities with delegated authority should have the necessary competence, resources, and authority to effect critical decisions at their respective levels. Each member should also have sufficient representation, allowing each one to make effective decisions.

  • Accuracy and Relevance of Supporting Information

Making informed decisions can only occur if the decision-makers or the governing body of the project has access to realistic, accurate, valid, and relevant information. Only then can managers make authorisation decisions.

  • Openness to Thorough Examination

All aspects of the project, including the project management system used in project implementation, should be open to scrutiny or thorough examination by the Board. The Board can also delegate such an authority to its trusted agents. This examination is necessary to evaluate the effectiveness of all project activities.

  • Effective Reporting and Escalation

Communication is important in any endeavour. Project governance requires an efficient system for reporting the status of the project. A clearly-defined criteria should be in place to make reporting more effective. The same is true with the escalation of issues and risks. Project team members need to know when to escalate which issues or concerns and to whom.

  • Culture of Improvement

Successful project governance can only occur if the organisation has a deeply-embedded culture of improvement. Everyone in the organisation has an intense desire to continuously improve on the ways of doing things. It is also important for the organisation to foster an atmosphere of honesty when it comes to the disclosure of crucial project information to internal customers.

  • Stakeholder Engagement

Project managers need to engage the different stakeholders of the organisation at varying levels commensurate to the stakeholder’s importance. Project managers should also engage stakeholders in a manner that builds and develops trust.

The governance of project management ensures the overall success of the project that the organisation undertakes. It is a framework that specifies accountability and authority for the different aspects and activities of any given project.

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