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: Company reports used for planning and discussion are not always as clear as they might be. There are a few basic rules which can clarify what is required to be an effective report writer.

Firstly, ensure the argument and the structure is clear; that there is a beginning, middle and end to the flow of ideas to make the report cohesive. Secondly, use short sentences to make the argument unambiguous. Do not rely too much on bullet points in spite of the fact that they are widely used. A sentence argues a case and guides the reader through a thought. On the other hand, a bullet point asserts a point but may not convey an argument satisfactorily.

Most reports will have executive summaries or recommendations. To make the recommendations convincing it is essential that the arguments throughout the body of the report connect with each other. Structure will aid clarity, and these elements are the two hallmarks of good writing.

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Conclusion: Managers that fail to identify the benefits accruing from implementing an ERP will find it difficult to get senior managers to approve investment to upgrade to the next major release of the software.

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Conclusion: The quality and precision of variables used in a plan will decide the fate of any plan. Variables come in many forms: sales, market trends, technological enhancements and so on.

Practical issues, such as the size of any given budget in a plan, may also influence and qualify the variables. Limitations on available resources may influence decisions to account for all relevant variables.

For example, the existing status of technology, or if a competitor has succeeded to your cost, could yield more realistic and sharper variables for planning.

All variables must be included in a general or master, plan, or in the appendix to it. The reason is straightforward, as it will indicate the thought process used to develop the plan and why. This level of information will also assist in subsequent iterations because the elements are discernible.

Two straightforward techniques can improve planning:

  • 1. Review past plans and the logic that gave those plans coherence.
  • 2. Cluster the variables of your current planning so that the relationship between them and net effect of one versus the other is clear.

By doing so the thought processes within the plan should be focused to everyone involved in the process.

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Conclusion: In an ideal world the business case report recommending the organisation invest in a business solution (systems, business processes and workplace change) should act as the cornerstone on which the ensuing project(s) proceeds. If the report is coherent, well researched and presents a credible picture of the future, all stakeholders can use it to guide their actions.

While many organisations have templates of the typical business case report, compliance is no guarantee of quality.

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Usage patterns will be different in every organisation, but the number and size of messages will continue to increase. It is important to watch for shifts in the technology that will help an organisation absorb more data with greater ease. Most of all, it is critical to understand how changes in the business, the technical capabilities of users or their correspondents, marketing plans or external events might create growth spurts or spikes in message size or volume.

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In The Economist’s most recent IT quarterly (September 2003) survey there is a scathing piece about the implementation of CRM in banking, and financial institutions generally. Australia is not mentioned in the analysis, but the point is clear – that as many as 80% of CRM projects fail – which is not news to anyone with experience of CRM projects. There is a gulf between the promise and delivery of CRM.

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Conclusion: Effectiveness is, along with efficiency, the aim of many projects and investments. It is commonly expressed as a ratio, outputs minus inputs. Measuring effectiveness is however a more delicate process of evaluation than employing the blunt, and occasionally, imprecise ratio method, described above.

Comparing effectiveness with other measures of a company’s performance, such as revenue, demonstrates how well a department or a firm is working. It is more valuable than simply comparing a ‘before and after’ financial scenario.

In adopting this type of approach two factors to consider are:

  1. Adequate ‘before” the event data, showing levels of performance is required to assess effectiveness. (Sound after the event data is necessary too.) Measurement of performance and function must use all key variables. These variables may include financial items, benchmarked service levels, and people performance measures such as e.g. job, morale index or similar;

  2. Make any analysis comparative, with the purpose of showing what has been achieved. Grey, and or, so-called mixed results from an effectiveness assessment arise from weak analysis.

Implementing the techniques above should improve the quality of effectiveness metrics and thereby raise the standard of business planning outcomes.

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Conclusion: Inability to manage the plethora of projects cutting across most organisations can lead to failed initiatives, an inability to align ICT and business investments, a lack of confidence in the organisation's ability to innovate and even substandard operational performance - quite simply operational performance can fall because renewal projects become late or are ineffective.

The main reason that these problems occur is that business initiatives are spawned within functional hierarchies and these hierarchies tend to act like silos. Organisations that are looking to effectively balance goal based and role based work need another structure to support the governance process so that resources and initiatives can become visible to the entire organisation. This paper recommends that a project office correctly implemented can play a key role in supporting the governance of goal based activities.

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More than half of all IT projects do not deliver the expected benefits. This is a metric that CEOs do not want to hear in these days of executive dissatisfaction with IT investment performance, and it is the CIO that is called to explain.

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The company has just won the largest job in its history and you are excused for celebrating long into the night and, perhaps, over indulging slightly. However when the baroccas have kicked in, and the effects of the alcohol have worn off, reality sets in.

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IT cost recovery is an ongoing issue for CIO’s as they try to regain the cost of providing IT services to the business. As illustrated by IBRS in previous publications, while there are a number of alternative cost recovery methodologies available to organisations not all methodologies are suited to all companies. This month, I will share with you the processes we apply when back charging for IT services. The methodology we use could be considered fairly unique; I certainly have not come across any other company utilising similar techniques. While I am by no means claiming our methods are any better or worse than others, they do have the advantage of being fairly simple both to understand and to administer, and most importantly, they work for us.

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Conclusion: Business managers, who sponsor major Business Solutions implementations, need to be identifying what they have to do to succeed and develop plans that will make success a reality. Focusing on the Right Things Starts with Astute Planning

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Conclusion: When faced with proposals requesting investment in Business Solutions in an environment in which demand exceed available resources, firms need to develop and apply an IAC (Investment Allocation Criteria) to help them prioritise and rank the competing proposals.

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Conclusion: Successful projects are analogous to freshly cooked puddings in that they not only have to smell nice when taken out of the oven but also excel when tasted to earn the praise of the client. Or to put it in simple terms a successful project is one that has helped the firm to realise the expected business outcomes.

To increase the probability of firms implementing successful projects senior managers must, at a minimum:

  • Identify staff with potential to handle the political as well as the technical arena of projects and a) give them training in project management disciplines as well as b) negotiation and influencing techniques

  • Implement the initiatives described below, monitor their outcomes and ensure the lessons learned in both technical and political arena are widely disseminated

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Conclusion: CIOs, because they have a cross enterprise perspective, are ideally positioned to champion the institutionalising of benefits management practices and demonstrate how to do it by corroborating the benefits from IT Infrastructure investment.

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