Project Assurance

Project Assurance is a discipline that seeks to provide stakeholders with objective oversight of the likely future performance of major projects.

Organisations are under enormous pressure to deliver products and services at a faster pace of change than ever before. Governments at all levels face immense pressure to deliver public services faster and cheaper and this is increasing.

Having a rigorous approach to identifying the right projects to invest in and delivering them successfully will ensure maximum return on investment.

IBRS can help you and your organisation maximise the outcomes from project investment and increase project success. From well-prepared business cases, support through all stages of the procurement phases, effective delivery of project activities through to realising the expected benefits from project investments.

Conclusion: Governance committees face a number of challenges that can undermine their effectiveness. These challenges include groupthink, a focus on individual responsibilities rather than organisation-wide benefits, trust issues and a lack of knowledge of emerging issues and opportunities. Appropriately qualified and experienced independent external advisors can play an important role in overcoming these challenges.

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Conclusion: The coming global recession will see ICT budgets cut, or at least constrained, in the 2021 financial year through to 2023. CIOs are now inundated with advice that boils down to this singular direction for efficiency and mostly, for survival. Although sound, this advice does not take into consideration that many CIOs have long been practising cost-efficiency. Many IT shops are already cut to the bone.

IT projects will be on the chopping block. Hence, it is crucial to prioritise now – before the cuts are mandated – which IT projects can be shelved for a few years without unacceptable risks to the organisation. It is important to note here that postponing or cancelling projects is being framed as a business risk decision. The CIO’s role is to put forward the risks of delaying or killing off a project, not to be the sole arbitrator. 

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IBRSiQ is a database of client inquiries and is designed to get you talking to our advisors about these topics in the context of your organisation in order to provide tailored advice for your needs.

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Conclusion: Projects in trouble or failing need to be assessed with two main possible outcomes: rescue or discontinue. Organisations should carefully consider whether shutting down a project is a better outcome. If the decision is to discontinue then it should be done in a careful and controlled manner which considers the impact on stakeholders, team members and any residual value that can be extracted.

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Conclusion: Once a project is in trouble and the first response of escalation of commitment in terms of allocating time, budget and resources in an attempt to recover the project has not been successful, the project can be considered as not just troubled but in real crisis. Recognition of a project in crisis is the first step to recovery and often the most difficult. Next steps involve putting the project into triage and preparing the project for the detailed assessment phase which provides critical information, options and the potential important decision to kill the project or recover.

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Conclusion: When projects start to show early signs that they may be in trouble, it is easy to have a knee-jerk reaction and address the most visible symptom. However, it is critical that CIOs and business executives (project board chairs and project sponsors) understand that early recognition and intervention is often less painful, less costly and less damaging for the organisation.

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Conclusion: Not knowing where an organisation’s business-critical data is located, and its quality, can lead to many frustrating efforts to respond to management queries. When the converse is true and IT management can respond quickly to queries, say, at a board meeting or in an FOI (freedom of information) request, it enhances confidence in the quality of management of IT generally.

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Conclusion: Most organisations across Australia have implemented project management methodologies to support successful project outcomes in a consistent manner. Project boards exist to provide support for project managers and advocate the business change that is being created by the project. An important role of the project board is to have oversight of progress and to ensure execution is advancing as expected. However, many project boards accept project status updates that include only lagging indicators and play a passive role in project oversight. Project indicators should include both lagging and leading indicators and project boards need to actively review and probe these areas to assess progress and identify early indicators that issues are emerging. Project difficulties often start in the blind spots and can be avoided.

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Conclusion: Deterministic1 project budgets do not convey any information about the range of possible outcomes for a project, or the associated risk factors driving the range. The ability to communicate the risk-weighted range of possible project outcomes can lead to much clearer expectations and understanding of project outcomes, especially for project sponsors. Modelling these ranges can be performed with relative ease, using basic Excel add-ins and high-level estimates of risk applied to the components that make up a project2.

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Conclusion: Organisations everywhere have been embracing agile as a project delivery approach, agile for creativity and product development and even agile and lean for new business models. Seeking to fast-track their way to value often means embracing the minimum viable product (MVP) method. MVP is often bandied about but rarely is this method being utilised as intended. The reasons are many and varied and understanding what MVP really is and how to leverage the method effectively can provide significant value for teams and organisations alike.

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Conclusion: Organisations understand that implementing projects is part of the natural workflow. Delivering projects that meet organisational expectations is expected and demanded. Project management offices (PMOs) have been established to support project management activities and provide some key elements such as project management methodologies, documentation, project manager recruitment and organisational reporting.

While many organisations have implemented a PMO, there are nearly as many organisations that continue to struggle with some key elements such as resourcing, benefits and prioritisation, and the PMO has an opportunity to provide real value to the organisation in addressing these areas.

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IBRSiQ is a database of Client inquiries and is designed to get you talking to our Advisors about these topics in the context of your organisation in order to provide tailored advice for your needs.

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Conclusion: Effective project managers prize the importance of capturing lessons learnt during the life of a project, but too often, it is just a necessary task to complete at project closure. By following simple tips and adhering to some techniques, project managers can get increased benefits for themselves and the organisations they work with.

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Conclusion: Agile teams will struggle to deliver a viable solution (or product) unless they can tap into the business knowledge of an astute product owner who can communicate the objectives of the product and work with the scrum to ensure it meets the stakeholder’s requirements. Without a proficient product owner, the Agile team may lack direction which would put successful outcomes at risk.

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Conclusion: Every dollar spent in supporting legacy systems or BAU (business as usual) represents a dollar that cannot be allocated to digital transformation initiatives. Conversely, organisations without legacy systems (digital natives) can be quicker to market with innovative solutions supporting the digital strategy, as there is no residual debt to repay.

Compounding the problem for organisations with legacy systems is that skilled IT professionals supporting them are likely to be fewer each year, as they leave for greener pastures or retire. To back fill, management must pay a premium to engage skilled contractors who will need time to understand the nuances of the legacy systems and become productive.

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"Make the process for allocating IT resources transparent" IBRS, 2018-06-01 04:17:01

Conclusion: Project management principles and frameworks are now implemented in the majority of organisations, including public, commercial and the not-for-profit sectors across Australia. While project delivery metrics indicate an improvement in successful project execution there is still a concerning level of project failure (approximately 35 %). Project failure is extremely costly and while focus is on the project execution elements, many failures can be traced back to poor governance and decision making. Project boards set the tone and show the way forward for projects by helping to resolve challenges or to provide alternative actions. Their behaviour will be reflected whether the tone is positive or negative and has enormous impact.

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"Bite the bullet – stop failing projects sooner not later" IBRS, 2016-09-02 05:06:18

"PMO – Models and structures" IBRS, 2018-05-04 18:33:08

"Tips for improving and monitoring ICT project governance" IBRS, 2018-07-05 03:12:50

Conclusion: With business demands driving CIOs to be more innovative and apply digital innovation, Agile project management methodology is being adopted to manage customer-centric projects to create minimal viable products quickly. Agile methodology is used across technology teams in government, healthcare, education and the private sector. The benefits of Agile versus traditional waterfall project methodology such as PRINCE2 include stronger engagement with the business and product owners, better business outcomes, reducing the time to deliver a minimum product and cost savings.

This research paper looks at Harvard Business Review’s comparison of when to adopt Agile project management or when it may be more suitable to apply a PRINCE21. With the prevalence of Agile projects, 50 % of IT staff interviewed across NSW are seeking to upskill and become accredited in Agile project management techniques. This paper includes reference sites on where to gain further insights on Agile project methodology and accreditation.

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Conclusion: Managers need to pay attention to ensure effective project governance, or risk joining the already long list of ICT project failures in Australia, aided by weak or ineffective project governance.

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Related Articles:

"Bite the bullet – stop failing projects sooner not later" IBRS, 2016-09-02 05:06:18

"Make the process for allocating IT resources transparent" IBRS, 2018-06-01 04:17:01

"PMO – Models and structures" IBRS, 2018-05-04 18:33:08

"Project review: Active assurance" IBRS, 2018-03-06 07:02:37

Conclusion: Benefits management relating to technology investments is widely recognised in importance and is quantified and articulated in business cases but not managed. However, often these benefits are stated as expected by governance groups to gain investment, knowing that they are either aspirational or it is collectively accepted that they will be difficult to harvest and are therefore not pursued. Implementing a more pragmatic approach by project teams up to governance groups will provide an opportunity to improve this key area of IT investment governance.

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"Achieving Benefits Management – It’s in the Tail" IBRS, 2015-06-30 22:59:05

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"Why it is important to actively harvest the benefits" IBRS, 2015-10-03 00:09:45

Conclusion: Project management in organisations is commonplace. Organisations then seek to establish a Project Management Office (PMO) as a more permanent centre for project coordination. PMOs may start in the technology division and expand or may be established outside the ICT area. Knowing what the various models and structures are is important. Knowing how to assess the maturity and environment within the organisation and selecting the appropriate approach with empathy and common sense is critical to success.

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Conclusion: Organisations everywhere are implementing Agile as a dynamic approach to speed up the creation of value and improve development of new and improved services and products. Adopting a best practice such as Agile is more than learning a new process and skill and then applying it in a project environment. Implementing Agile in an established organisation means that there are often a number of other frameworks, best practices and procedures that will need to co-exist with Agile. It is critical to consider these elements and adjust them to ensure that Agile is effective in delivering the value and benefits expected and is not another “best practice” fad.

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Conclusion: Project management in organisations is commonplace. Reviews are often undertaken at the end of the project to gain learnings for future projects. Project reviews completed during the life of a project need to ensure that they are inclusive of appropriate stakeholder groups and assessment is targeted at the appropriate focus areas. Active and inclusive review and assurance activities need to be well understood and supported within the organisation so that it is not viewed as an exam that needs to be prepared for and passed. Applying reviews and assurance as a process checkpoint only is ineffective and will not ensure quality project delivery.

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Conclusion: Most organisations today understand that business change requires the effective management of stakeholders. Whether they be internal or external, the inclusion of their opinions, needs and concerns is critical to the success of the initiative. However, too many projects and change programs still struggle to be completed successfully or to achieve desired outcomes. Change management and stakeholder engagement is too often handled as a linear process and many are under the assumption that working through the activities in sequence will be sufficient. Stakeholders are complex to identify and to assess as their relative power and influence often go beyond the obvious. Effective stakeholder engagement absolutely requires a full and frank appreciation of the power and influence of each stakeholder.

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Conclusion: Despite repeated audits pointing to failures by IT to deliver expected outcomes, organisations continue to publish IT plans that do not adequately address the fundamental dimensions of IT planning, being the IT Business Plan, IT Strategies and IT Program of Work.

These elements are often developed as a single composite document, but this approach fails to recognise that each dimension:

  • requires a different method of creation
  • is owned by different stakeholder groups
  • has a different purpose and audience
  • requires renewal on different cycles.

Failure to ensure that all dimensions are addressed presents risks to implementation both in terms of effective up-front investment selection as well as ongoing IT governance arising from gaps in critical decision-making information.

To avoid these risks, organisations should maintain the content of each IT planning element as a separate deliverable even if the desire, or requirement, is to regularly produce an “annually” updated composite document.

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Conclusion: The current wave of digital transformation will see the retirement of large numbers of legacy systems. Although the cost of operations, including storage of data, in newer Cloud-based solutions is often cheaper, the cost of migration of historical data to new platforms can be significant. IBRS has observed increasing numbers of digital transformation projects where the decision is being made to preserve legacy systems using back-up infrastructure techniques at the application and/or database level without any reference to regulatory records management requirements.

Many legacy systems were not designed with a long-term view of key business records and information they capture and generate, nor are back-up technologies designed for long-term archival and retrieval of individual records. The result of these strategies is the potential for access to official records and chains of evidence to be interrupted – a situation likely to be viewed by regulators and stakeholders as a failure of the organisation’s record-keeping obligations.

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Conclusion: Many municipalities and civic enterprises contemplating Smart City initiatives are simply not capable of implementing them because they lack the leadership, partnering skills, corporate experience, skills, sophistication and organisation required to address these global urban planning and ICT developments locally1.

The remedy is at Governance level.

Municipalities must assess their own native capability to contemplate, evaluate, manage and complete Smart City business and ICT solutions according to global best practices.

Conducting a fundamental high level appraisal of a city’s ability to undertake Smart City tasks and programs may be the most valuable contribution that most mayors and civic management teams can make for the modern municipality.

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Only municipalities working through a broad Digital Transformation strategy can truly expect to be in strategic control of Smart City initiatives as part of that framework. 'Smart’ initiatives are a critical element in fulfilling Digital Transformation for cities. 

For many civic organisations, the Mayor, Councillors, City Planners and Administrative Staff react to Smart City opportunities as if they sit outside their traditional local government role. However, the first principles of Digital Transformation require that a logical baseline of current capabilities should be established so that any initiatives are grounded in an understanding of the city’s ability to effectively evaluate them and deliver reliable solutions. 

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IBRS iQ is a database of Client inquiries and is designed to get you talking to our Advisors about these topics in the context of your organisation in order to provide tailored advice for your needs.

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Conclusion: The PMO role has many manifestations. It is also rarely static. When the organisation is in transformation mode the PMO must ensure project managers work as a team and deliver results. It is analogous to the role of an orchestra conductor who must get the musicians to rehearse so they know their roles and work together to make their opening concert a success.

Post transformation, one of the PMO’s roles is to get business operatives to assimilate the system’s functions so the benefits expected are realised. Similarly, the conductor’s role is to get the orchestra to perform so well there is a full house at every performance and the producer gets a satisfactory payback from the production.

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Conclusion: Organisations in both the public and private sectors have been actively improving capability and implementing processes and frameworks to improve project delivery effectiveness over the past decade. Project management approaches such as Prince2 and PMBOK have been adopted to improve project management practitioner capability and equip project boards and project sponsors to understand their roles and responsibilities in supporting project delivery.

The Gateway Review Process was designed and implemented as part of assurance activities and was intended to be a supportive and proactive activity that highlighted areas that may impact on successful project delivery thus enabling organisations to take corrective action well in advance of major milestones.

However, based on a number of high profile project disasters in organisations that have implemented the proactive assurance approach of Gateway Reviews, there are some learnings that will assist other organisations to avoid project failure.

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IBRS iQ is a database of Client inquiries and is designed to get you talking to our Advisors about these topics in the context of your organisation in order to provide tailored advice for your needs.

Read more ...

IBRS iQ is a database of Client inquiries and is designed to get you talking to our Advisors about these topics in the context of your organisation in order to provide tailored advice for your needs.

Read more ...

Many enterprises are simply not capable of implementing the ICT programs and projects that they attempt because they lack the experience, skills, sophistication and organisation required to address these developments adequately.

The "fix" is at Governance level. Businesses must assess their native capability to contemplate, manage and complete the IT solutions planned to support their business operations.

This MAP addresses the need to identify an organisation's level of IT Maturity and outlines the steps that should be followed to improve on that level. 

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Conclusion: The New Payments Platform will change transaction processes in a substantial way. For organisations it should deliver greater efficiency and better means of transacting information related to payments. At a higher level it could produce a productivity benefit to the extent that efficiencies are boosted for all transacting parties.

Organisations have a long time to consider how they will approach the introduction of the platform and how they might utilise it to improve processes with various stakeholders.

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Conclusions: Many enterprises are simply not capable of implementing the ICT programs and projects that they attempt because they lack the sophistication, skills and organisation to address these developments adequately.

The ‘fix’ is at governance level. Businesses must assess their native capability to contemplate, manage and complete the IT solutions planned to support their business operations.

Conducting a fundamental high level appraisal of a business’ ability to undertake IT tasks may be the most valuable contribution that most management teams and boards can make for the modern enterprise.

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"Download Finding IT Maturity Master Advisory Presentation" IBRS, 2016-12-14 23:47:27

Conclusion: Deciding to stop investing in a business system is a decision no manager likes to make as it could have an adverse impact on staff, suppliers, clients, stakeholders and the Board. Before making the decision, management must assess all options and conclude they have no alternative but to act now and stop wasting scarce resources.

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Conclusion: Organisations considering applications migration to a Cloud service provider may lack the experience to understand potential risks or how to select a service provider. This may result in budget overrun or inability to meet business needs.

While planning to engage a service provider, a “Plan B” (to invoke in case of failure) is needed to strengthen the project plan’s foundation and mitigate risks. The process of developing the alternative plan helps define potential risks to consider, and what success or failure will look like. Costing out the alternative plan will also help in assessing the financial benefits and costs.

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Conclusion: Vodafone Foundation’s DreamLab1 charity has shown in its work with The Garvan Institute for Medical Research how a huge and diverse collection of the public’s volunteered processing on their smartphones can be used in aggregate to solve complex cancer research problems2.

The use of Mobile and Cloud as the first choice for ICT infrastructure and applications has not been an intuitive choice for most enterprises but the supporting evidence for its value has built rapidly as seen in DreamLab. This case shows the power of using intensely popular smartphones to aggregate processing to solve supercomputer-scale problems.

It also shows that an enterprise Data Centre is not the only place to perform large-scale processing. A combination of vastly distributed third party computing managed by public Cloud is reversing the business risks currently accepted when an enterprise deploys its own ICT infrastructure and places significant risk with the Cloud provider.

Similar applications of this Use Case include other charitable donations of processing capacity; shared processing in channel-focused businesses; supporters aiding not-for-profit organisations; or those that collaborate intensely; or Internet of Things (IoT) scale micro-processing of Big Data scale information across vast numbers of devices.

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Conclusion: The high-risk and high-reward Agile approach for systems development enabled many organisations to respond quickly to changing management strategies and yielded significant productivity benefits, according to a 2015 survey1.

However the same survey found not everyone has been so successful, as lack of experience in using the Agile approach, and organisation resistance to change, have frustrated almost the same number of organisations.

Once IT and business management have decided that Agile is the right approach they must:

  • Champion and defend its use
  • Actively track progress and allocate extra resources to the project if justified
  • Provide a safe environment in which a retrospective review can be conducted
  • Widely disseminate the lessons learned from the review, including strategies that succeeded and failed, without attributing blame

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Conclusion: Return on investment is the touchstone of business investment success. Within marketing and in practice its use and definition is imprecise. The lack of precision is a challenge for marketing to the degree that it is difficult to assess its value in various dimensions.

Marketing and IT business case managers need to establish the baseline rules for return on investment and put them into practice for the long term.

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