Project Assurance, the specialized discipline and practice involving independent and objective oversight, specialized experience, and audit skill to assess risk, finance, accounting, compliance, safety, and performance for any major capital expenditure (Source: Wikipedia), is designed to improve performance, increase efficiency, avoid unnecessary cost, and, most importantly, minimize the risk of project overruns and failure.
Project Assurance goes beyond Independent Verification and Validation (IV&V) (Source: Wikipedia), which, while independent, is simply a set of procedures used for checking that a product, service, or system meets the requirements or specifications set forth for it. Project success depends on more than just getting the technical specifications right. Projects also depend on getting the talent right — as it is the people who will have to use the new system. And projects also depend on getting the transition right — if the changeover is not smooth, significant disruptions to daily operations can occur. And they depend on a 4th “T” — tracery. Organizational success depends on selecting a superior strategy and seeing it through until the desired results are achieved (or the organization changes the strategy). Tracery, from the late Middle English, can be defined as a “delicate, interlacing, work of lines as in an embroidery” or, more modernly, as a “network”. Implementing a strategy requires effectively implementing all of the intersecting “threads” that are required to execute the strategy to success. If any one aspect is overlooked, the project can fail.
And, as pointed out by Rob Prinzo in No Wishing Required, unlike IV&V, which mainly comes into play during the design and development stages, project assurance is part of the project from initial planning through initial roll-out. And at each stage it goes beyond traditional IV&V because, unlike IV&V, project assurance is not only comprehensive, but proactive and preventative. Whereas IV&V focusses simply on tactical issues relating to the system, project assurance considers the strategic intent as well as the tactical delivery. Whereas IV&V takes a reactive approach to issues discovered during the review, project assurance takes a proactive approach and tries to identify issues, and implement mitigations, before they arise. And while IV&V focuses on problems (and their solutions), project assurance focusses on prevention. The idea is to create collaborative resolution teams instead of crisis response teams when potential issues are identified. This way the issues are mitigated before crisis response is required.
So how does Project Assurance work? When using Project Assurance, organizations periodically stop and objectively assess project failure points as they arise, typically with the help of an outside third party who can be completely objective in his or her analysis on what the project team is and isn’t doing well and what could cause failure later if not adequately addressed now. In particular, the organization conducts a project health assessment at six critical points in every project — once in each of the six initial project phases defined by the classic waterfall project methodology.
Precisely when do these health assessments take place and how are they conducted? Come back for Part II.