Project Governance for Ottawa Web Project Manager - Ottawa SaaS Product Manager
Project Governance :
How to set up a workable management structure for a project
A significant issue in Project Management is project governance and oversight at a high level (conceptually), beginning as early as the initiation phase. A Steering Committee, comprised of key stakeholders such as the funders and important influencers, meeting regularly, can ensure that the project is realistic to begin with, and proceeds according to the documented plan. When outside influences necessitate change, a Steering Committee can ensure that project goals are adhered to nevertheless.
Why a Project Governance Model?
It is critical to the success of every business project that stakeholders have available to them a framework explaining the responsibilities and reporting lines of all the key players. For example, we know that there is often a Steering Committee for large projects and that every project has a Project Manager, but what distinguishes their respective roles and how are the two linked? All questions of this type are answered within the Project Governance Model (PGM). You must set up a PGM specifically for each project. Here we discuss some of the foundation concepts and general principles.
One of the nicest introductions to this topic, delightfully entitled Rowing not Steering, was published by the Information Strategy Unit - until recently, a policy group within the Tasmanian State Government. That pamphlet contains a number of invaluable messages - the central theme being that project Steering Committees are not some kind of extension to the project team.
If your Steering Committee starts rowing ... then who is going to steer?
The foundations of the PGM
Lying at the heart of the Project Governance Model is the simple notion that every project involves the production of some defined outputs. A new business process or the relocation of an office are both examples of outputs. All outputs must have have a supplier and a customer. The supplier is the Project Manager and the customer is either a nominated individual or collective entity (such as a business unit). The customer is also the Owner of project outputs.
The two central elements of the PGM are the Project Manager and the Steering Committee (SC). The project Owner is always a member of the SC and, depending on the size of the exercise, will be joined by other key stakeholders such as the funders and important influencers. One of the most important issues that project stakeholders must resolve early in the life of a project concerns an appropriate size for the Steering Committee:
- If too big, it will be become a burden.
- If too small, it may not be able to add value.
Politics must be managed - not wished away
Project teams often complain about the "politics" surrounding their work. Project politics is not some sort of disease that needs to be cured before we can proceed. Politics is an important feature of the project environment that must be properly managed like all other key issues. Ensuring that key influencers are represented on the SC is one (proper) mechanism for dealing with project politics.
The role of the Steering Committee
The Steering Committee is there to ensure that the objectives - especially the target beneficial outcomes - will be achieved. The SC must develop as a supportive forum for the project - if it sees itself (and is seen by others) as a forum for charging, trying, convicting and sentencing the Project Manager for misdemeanours, it will fail. it will also fail if the members use SC meetings for bickering and point-scoring.
The SC is concerned with:
The SC (through the Owner) will eventually be held accountable by the organisation for generating target benefits - outcomes are not the responsibility of the Project Manager - however he/she is accountable for delivery of outputs that are fit-for-purpose.
- Project progress.
- Meeting budgets and timeframes - or extending these as circumstances demand.
- Clearing organisational roadblocks for the Project Team - for example resolving contention for resources.
Notionally, the SC is the banker for the project, while the project manager is responsible for procurement and expenditure. The SC pays the Project Manager (in advance) for project outputs.
SCs must meet monthly to monitor progress. The major monitoring mechanism takes the form of a "standardised" reporting package presented by the Project Manager based on:
- A status report based on the achievement of milestones.
- Summary of critical risks.
- Summary of key issues.
- Statement of position on the budget and timeframe.
A generic PGM - in schematic form
The above diagram shows the SC and Project Manager. The Project Manager has full control of all project team members and resources. For part-time team members this brings a matrix management issue into the discussion.
"Reference groups & advisers" are all those who provide ad hoc expertise and input, but who are not managed as a project resource. Both the SC and Project Manager may make use of such skills - depending on the peculiarities of the project.
Quality-related roles in the PGM
The Quality Adviser (QA) is a critical role. Often members of the SC are not technically qualified to specify or to make judgements about fitness-for-purpose of outputs. In that case a Quality Adviser may be appointed to confirm that outputs are fit-for-purpose and that their delivery can be signed-off. The Quality adviser may, in turn, engage others for specialist quality tasks.
The QA reports to the SC, not to the Project Manager, and is given considerable authority in exercising his/her role. The QA is not the same as the Quality Manager (QM). The QM is a member of the Project team and is accountable for the execution of the project's Quality Management Program. The QA, QM and owner jointly establish the project's quality framework.
A PGM is a mandatory element of every business project
A PGM should be established in the Preparation or Initiation Phase of each project. The size of the exercise will decide how detailed and extensive a model is required.
© John R. Smyrk