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Overview of Assurance Management Tutorial

1 Overview of Assurance Management

This lesson provides an overview of assurance management. Let us begin with the objectives of this lesson in the next screen.

2 Objectives

By the end of this lesson, you will be able to: ? Describe the five assurance management principles ? Explain the assurance management techniques ? Discuss health checks In the next screen, we will focus on assurance management principles.

3 Assurance Management Principles

Assurance management ensures that a programme is on track. It should satisfy the five assurance management principles to ensure the success of the programme. The principles are independence, integrated, linked to major decision points, risk based and action and intervention. The first principle is ‘independence', which means that the assessors should have no provision for direct line management of the programme team. They should be disinterested in and have no control over the project outcomes or service operations. The second principle is ‘integrated’. Integrated assurance is the planning, coordination and provision of assurance activities from the start of the programme till the delivery of benefits in a way which provides greater assurance with less effort. This is achieved through an agreed plan which indicates how assurance reviews of all types will be scheduled to support decision-making. The third principle is ‘linked to major decision points’, which means that the assurance activity should be planned to support major events, outcomes and tranche ends, throughout the life of the programme. The fourth principle is ‘risk based’, which means that the assurance activity should be focused on the high-risk areas, such as commercial, legal, regulatory, investment and performance requirements. This activity should be based on an independent risk assessment. The fifth principle is ‘action and intervention’, which means that assurance is most effective when appropriate follow-up actions are taken to resolve any serious issues identified through the planned assurance activity. These activities may include further reviews of action plans and case conferences. In the next screen, we will focus on assurance management techniques.

4 Assurance Management Techniques

Assurance management techniques are those techniques that help to assure that the programme is being delivered optimally, that is, in the most effective way for the achievement of its purpose and objectives. There are five basic techniques used in assurance management. They are audit, effectiveness of measurement, assurance reviews, P3M3 (read as P-3-M-3) maturity assessment and gated reviews. These techniques are explained in detail in the forthcoming screens. Let us discuss the first assurance management technique, that is, audit, in the next screen.

5 Assurance Management Techniques-Audit

Audit is a generic term, and is not limited to the audit of financial accounts. It is often used to assess the management and conduct of a programme. The following are a few facts about audit. It involves the examination of activities of the programme in order to determine the extent to which they conform to the specified criteria. The criteria may be internal or external standards, contract conditions or statutory requirements. Audits may be carried out by the internal or external audit team. Programme audits consider any or all aspects of the programme, including its management and the ability to deliver. We will discuss the next assurance management technique, that is, effectiveness of measurement in the next screen.

6 Assurance Management Techniques-Effectiveness of Measurement

Effective decisions are based on accurate measurement of data and analysis of reliable information, which is why information management strategy and plan are crucial. The following are some information about effectiveness of measurement. To measure progress and assess performance, the inputs, resources, activities and outputs prior to any planned change activity need to be measured. These will form the baseline. Similar data will be taken at different points throughout the programme’s life. The data is then analysed and reviewed at regular meetings. Measurements in a programme can be considered in two ways: Firstly, measurements concerned with the management and control of the programme, for example cost and budget reports; and secondly, measurement of the programme’s outcomes to assess whether acceptable benefits are materialising. Assurance should ensure that measurements, analysis procedures and systems are effective. This ensures effective decision-making. In the subsequent screen, we will focus on assurance reviews, which is an assurance management technique.

7 Assurance Management Techniques-Assurance Reviews

Audits tend to focus on conformance and compliance, while assurance reviews are used as a programme assurance tool by senior managers to determine whether a programme should continue. Health checks can also be used to provide an impartial view of the programme. Without review, the findings of audits or other forms of programme assessment cannot be evaluated properly by the programme’s leaders. The key areas to consider during a review should be based on the quality scope elements and the programme management principles. One of the key focus areas is how well the programme is controlling and enabling its projects, and whether the level of overhead is appropriate. The next focus area is how well the Business Change Managers or BCMs (read as B-C-Ms) are preparing the organisation for change , and whether the benefits are being truly delivered. Another focus area is whether the internal processes and governance strategies are working effectively and optimally for the purpose of the programme. Review activities include inspection of information, meetings with key individuals or attendance at any meeting where decisions that affect the efficiency of the programme are taken. We will discuss another assurance management technique, that is, P3M3 (read as P-3-M-3) maturity assessments in the next screen.

8 Assurance Management Techniques-P3M3 Maturity Assessments

The level of organisational maturity in programme delivery has a direct bearing on how well an organisation is able to support its programmes. The Portfolio, Programme and Project Management Maturity Model or P3M3 (read as P-3-M-3) has been developed to offer a specific programme management maturity model so that organisations can assess their effectiveness. The image on the screen depicts the Portfolio, Programme and Project Management Maturity Model or P3M3. The model views an organisation’s portfolio, programme management and project management effectiveness through seven perspectives, namely, management control, benefits management, financial management, stakeholder engagement, risk management, organisational governance and resource management. The P3M3 uses a model with five levels of maturity, which will help to understand the context in which the programme is delivering. The five maturity levels are awareness, which is the lowest level, repeatable, defined, managed, and optimised which is the highest level. A programme can use the maturity model to improve performance. This can be done by using the model to assess the maturity of projects within the programme. The programme can also use this model to measure itself against one or more perspectives such as stakeholder engagement. It can also use this model to ensure that it is working consistently with its projects. In the following screen, we will focus on gated reviews which is the last technique discussed in MSP®.

9 Assurance Management Techniques Gated Reviews

The following is some important information on gated reviews. They are an ideal way to apply assurance controls to programmes, as a programme cannot progress to its next stage unless it has undergone a gated review. They can take place at the end of tranches and ensure that the programme is under control and on target to meet the organisation’s needs. Gated reviews should also be applied to projects to ensure that they are under control and aligned with the blueprint and programme objectives. In the next screen, we will focus on health checks.

10 Health Checks

Health checks are essentially a quality tool providing a snapshot of the status of a programme. The purpose of health checks is to objectively assess how well the programme is performing with respect to its objectives and relative processes and standards. The steps involved in the health checks process are ‘preparation’, ’identifying information requirements’, ‘undertaking the review’, ‘analyse review findings’, ‘agree to corrective action plan’ and ‘follow-up’. Let us cover these steps in detail below with sample scenarios that are tackled in health checks. Preparation for a health check involves identifying a clear scope for the health check with reference to audits or review standards. It sets out the roles and responsibilities, for example, it states that the Programme Office will be responsible for the administration of all information related to the programme. A team is identified and briefed about the expectations from them. Finally, all the documentation that has been agreed to be in purview of the health check, is supplied to the review team. While identifying information requirements, the focus is on identifying the required records and audit trails, and deciding how the records should be recovered for scrutiny and how to validate the authenticity of the records. While undertaking the review, the best practice is to identify the areas of investigation based on reading the provided documents. Interview the key programme members and investigate the key specific areas. The Review should be based on an appropriately adapted health check framework, namely, P3M3 or OGC gateway review process. To analyse review findings, a draft report is prepared focusing on the overall health assessment, areas of concern, recommended actions and agreed action plan. Establishing lessons learnt will help the forthcoming health check cycles. It is essential to present the report in an agreed format and collate the agreed action plan in the final report. While agreeing to the corrective action plan, confirm the appropriate actions with the review team. Once the plan is approved, prepare a timeline of actions showing the effort. Once agreed by the review team, this timeline needs to be added to the final report for the health check. A Follow-up is done to ensure that the agreed actions have been carried out. After follow-up, the effectiveness of the actions is assessed. Once verified, the health check can be closed or further reviews can be recommended. We will continue to discuss health checks in the following screen.

11 Health Checks (contd.)

The framework of health checks basically deals with checklists that can be applied to a programme using MSP. The following are some of the sample questions that can be asked in the health check. Is there a complete framework actively used, based on known good practice, adapted to the programme and moderated by previous lessons learnt? Is there a detailed set of stakeholders and are they being engaged effectively? Is it clear from the programme brief as to what outcomes and benefits are required and how they are related to the organisational strategy? Is there a programme plan and is it updated frequently? Was the business case developed to best optimise the mix of benefits, cost and time? Is there a common understanding about the programme between sponsoring group and programe team? Is risk management effectively embedded, with active management of risks to the delivery of benefits? These questions can be further divided based on each governance theme (with each theme having its own checklist), principle or transformational flow.

12 Summary

Let us summarise what we have learnt in this lesson: The five assurance management principles are independence, integrated, linked to major decision points, risk based and action and intervention. The assurance management techniques are audits, effectiveness of measurement, assurance reviews, P3M3 maturity assessments and gated reviews. The P3M3 has been developed to offer a specific programme management maturity model so that the organisations can assess their effectiveness. Health check is a quality tool that provides a snapshot of the status of a programme. Next, we will focus on quality and assurance management within the transformational flow.

  • Disclaimer
  • PMP, PMI, PMBOK, CAPM, PgMP, PfMP, ACP, PBA, RMP, SP, and OPM3 are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.

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