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Signs Your Project Assurance Is in Trouble and How To Fix It
By Annie Mirza

June 3, 2024 | 7 min read

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Written by

Annie Mirza

Content Strategist and Content Writer

 

Annie is a professional writer and content expert with years of experience in digital publishing, social media and content creation. 

Project assurance is the backbone of successful projects, programmes and portfolios. When we think of project assurance, we sometimes consider it to be a checklist, or that certain documents have been produced, but it’s so much more than that. Project assurance is more like a health check, or impartial review of your project; it ensures stakeholders that objectives will be met and allows you to spot issues early.

 

Assurance needs to be fit for purpose, and this can look different on different projects depending on the scale of the project, industry and deliverables. Rigorous reviews by assurance experts are vital on particularly complex projects, but still beneficial to smaller-scale projects. But regardless of how important project assurance is, a lot of organisations struggle to implement effective assurance which can lead to unexpected risks, reduced benefits, significant delays, and dreaded project failure.

Poor project assurance is more common than you may think… But how can you spot whether the assurance processes are working or not? Recognising the signs of inadequate and unsuitable project assurance, and knowing how to address them, is crucial for success. Let’s explore a few of the signs, and what you can do to solve these assurance issues.

 

1. Project stakeholders don't participate

For project assurance to be effective, stakeholders, like the project team, sponsors and assurance providers, need to be actively engaged. Are project team members seeing assurance tasks as irrelevant to what they’re doing? Do the stakeholders take assurance activities seriously, considering them valuable – or do they think it’s a tick box exercise? When project stakeholders aren’t active or takig ownership of assurance tasks, it can be detrimental to the project’s success.

Solutions:

  • Ensure that there is clarity about the objectives of assurance measures, and clearly communicate the benefits project assurance has. 

  • Try to build a culture of ownership with the project team by involving them in the creation of the assurance framework and processes.

 

2. Assurance processes frustrate teams and hinder progress

 

A common issue in project assurance is the disparity in applying assurance processes. Organisations starting on their assurance journey often have low maturity in their assurance capabilities. Sometimes this looks like the same assurance approach being adopted again and again for every project, no matter how different the projects are. If teams are expressing frustration about administrative tasks or excessive amounts of documentation, then consider whether the level of assurance activities are practical, or if there is a tool you can use to support you.

 

Solutions:

  • Focus on using a risk-based approach to establish the level of assurance needed for different projects. 

  • Focus on delivering enough assurance to mitigate risks, without stifling project progress.

 

3. Critical risks are being downplayed

 

Risk management and project assurance are closely interlinked – assurance will help you identify and mitigate risks that can impact project success. When risks are overlooked, it can often mean they’re not being adequately identified, assessed or monitored through the project lifecycle. This can also lead to unexpected project issues arising, causing delays. Another sign is if your assurance activities focus on compliance metrics that overlook potential risks, rather than risk management.

Solutions: 

  • Focus on using a risk-based approach to establish the level of assurance needed for different projects.

  • Use a structured approach to manage risks, and make sure that assurance activities focus on mitigating the most significant risks.

4. Assurance providers too closely aligned to project teams and sponsors

 

An essential part of project assurance is being objective – when assurance providers aren’t independent from the project, their evaluations and reports may lose integrity. If assurance reports aren’t completely transparent, or stakeholders perceive that assurance providers too close to the project, the credibility of the assurance measures come into question. Do the assurance providers have any biases that may influence their reporting? Or have any stakeholders raised questions about conflicts of interest in assurance? 

Solutions:

  • Establish clear standards and guidelines that assurance providers need to maintain to demonstrate they’re impartial. This will also help maintain integrity in assurance reports and processes. 

  • Ensure that the assurance providers are independent to the project teams, and in how they appear to stakeholders. 

Top tips for better project assurance

  1. Emphasise the importance of assurance as a tool that enhances project delivery.

  2. Integrate risk management into project assurance from the beginning.

  3. Avoid overburdening teams with administrative tasks.

  4. Take advantage of right assurance tools for assurance measures, like FAST.

  5. Ensure there is transparency and neutrality from assurance providers.

  6. Tailor assurance measures to the needs of each project or programmes – one size, cannot fit all.

Project success and risk mitigation hinges on effective project assurance. Organisations can improve project outcomes by taking project assurance seriously, rather than seeing it as a nice-to-have. When you recognise signs that project assurance is ineffective or inadequate, you can quickly implement practical solutions. By fostering stakeholder engagement, adapting assurance measures throughout the lifecycle of a project or programme, and emphasising the benefits of assurance, you can build confidence in project delivery in your organisations.

  

Feeling unsure about your assurance measures? Check out how Firewood can give you confidence on how your initiatives are performing with a combination of extensive industry experience, deep best practice knowledge, and cutting-edge digital technology, as part of the Review and Recover service.

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