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Project Governance: The Complete Guide

Your approach to project governance will fundamentally determine the way your project is managed, and whether the project runs smoothly. In this guide, we’re talking about all things project governance, and how you can create a strong framework from which you can manage your project. Let’s get into it.  

What is Project Governance?

Project governance is the way of controlling processes around a project. In simple terms, project governance refers to managing the structure of the project, the people involved, and how decisions are made. There are several essential elements that are generally believed to be essential to good governance, including:

  • Accountability
  • Transparency
  • Responsiveness
  • Equity
  • Participation
  • Consensus orientation
  • Strategic vision

When approaching your project governance plan for the first time, there is a key set of principles that you need to establish. These principles dictate how the project will be managed on all levels and will serve as a set of guidelines for you to adhere to.

What is the Purpose of Project Governance?

The purpose of governance depends on the type of organisation employing it. When it comes to the public sector, good governance is to ensure that the organisation is balancing achieving its intended outcomes with acting in the public interest.

In this way, good governance is closely linked to public trust and accountability, as few things destroy an organisation’s viability as quickly as a lack of trust and respect in those whom it aims to serve.

In general, governance:

  • Sets out the organisation’s objectives
  • Defines the organisation’s ethics
  • Creates the organisation’s culture
  • Ensures legal compliance

Therefore, governance needs to permeate the entire organisation and affect every project carried out within the organisation, from the initial planning stage through to final completion. At each stage of any project’s life cycle, managers and team members need to be working within a framework that incorporates all of the above.

Who Should Be Involved in Governance?

So that you keep to good governance best practices, responsibilities will need to be assigned and delegated to various people both within the organisation and externally. When it comes to project governance, it is vital to assign duties, authority, powers, and responsibilities clearly. This involves ensuring appropriate levels of accountability and transparency.

Those involved in governance may include board members, managers, workers, volunteers, and external review and assessment entities. Another important group often involved in governance is, of course, the community that the organisation is serving. This might be the students in an educational facility, the patients (and their families) in a health or social care setting, or the local community in the case of local government.

The Components of Project Governance

1) Delegation of Responsibilities

The first pillar of project governance is roles and responsibilities. Before the project begins, it is vital to establish with which team members certain responsibilities lie. This will create a solid structure for how the project will be managed, and will ensure that everyone involved knows what is expected of them. 

In addition, the communication of these roles and responsibilities throughout the team will ensure that all team members and stakeholders know who to contact regarding certain aspects of the project. For instance, the development lead will know to contact the design lead for anything related to design, and therefore avoiding unnecessary middlemen.

2) Stakeholder Engagement

Stakeholder engagement is key to get right , and setting up a strategy for this is essential. A solid stakeholder engagement strategy will dictate how and when stakeholders are communicated with, the correct wording to use when discussing the project with them, and the goals of each separate party. 

Again, when the team is informed on the stakeholder communication strategy, they will know the aims, and keep their comms with stakeholders to strategy-approved limits and terminology. This helps to keep stakeholders happy and engaged with the progress of the project.

3) Reporting & Data

It is highly likely that project managers will be responsible for managing the flow of data and reporting throughout the project team and / or with stakeholders. One crucial component of your project governance strategy is establishing exactly what data is provided to who, and when. 

Whether this is monthly reporting, quarterly reporting or benefits tracking, establishing this early on will provide consistency throughout the duration of the project. If team members are also responsible for providing data or reports, it is essential they are aware exactly what data they need to provide, and what the deadlines for this are.

4) Risk Management

While risk management is something that fluctuates throughout your project – as risks appear and disappear – the method by which you track these risks should not. Keeping tabs on potential risks can help minimise the actual issues that materialise. Utilising effective risk tracking software can help you gauge what risks you are facing, and help you devise contingency plans in case they come to fruition. 

How you track and manage your risks, what is considered a risk, and the strategy for devising back up plans should be set in stone from the starting line. Beginning a project without the necessary risk management plans in place can spell disaster, which is what makes it such a critical part of project governance. 

5) Quality Control

With quality such an important part of your final project delivery, how exactly are you going to ensure it? What tools are you going to use to manage the quality of your deliverables? What level or standard are you going to hold them to? 

These are all things that need to be considered in your project governance strategy. Without effective methods of quality control, your project may run smoothly, but the end result may fall below the standards that are expected of it.

6) Workflow Management

Making sure workflows are correctly allocated, tracked and managed is a great way to ensure productivity remains high. This can be done using Gantt charts or Kanban boards.

Decide how you are going to delegate workflows, and who is going to be in charge of that  before getting into the meat of the work to change the flow of productivity for the better.

Roles within Project Governance

A project doesn’t govern itself, nor is it up to the project manager alone. There are several roles that need to be assigned or formalised before a project can begin, and by ensuring everyone involved knows the identity of the below individuals, you’ll be off to a good start. 

1) Project Manager

A project manager is a person who manages the day-to-day running of the project. The stakeholders depend on this person to deliver the project and the team members rely on them for guidance and direction.

Typically, this person is an internal figure, perhaps a head of department. It could also be an outside party, brought in to specifically manage this project. It may also be more than one person, but deciding on the identity of this person is perhaps the first step in your project governance process.

2) Stakeholders

The stakeholders are the ones who have a vested interest in the project. This could be investors, managers of dependent departments, recipients of project benefits, or anything else. While a project manager may not be able to choose their own stakeholders, defining the background, role, and level of involvement of each one will help you devise a stakeholder management strategy that works for everyone.

3) Project Sponsor

The project sponsor is the person who takes ultimate responsibility for delivering the project. They are typically more senior than the project manager and will take charge of overseeing the bigger picture. The project sponsor may have conceived the initial idea for the project, or have accepted responsibility for its delivery. 

4) Team Members

The team members are the ones who keep everything moving. They’re on the ground, working day to day to get things done. These are the people to who the project owner/manager assigns tasks to, the ones who deliver data, track benefits, manage risks, and create those deliverables that are essential to the project’s continuation and completion. 

Consideration by the project manager of the perspective each person can bring – alongside their talents – can provide a unique opportunity to deliver a high-quality end product. 

5) Advisors & Consultants

Sometimes, any of the three above parties may utilise the insight of advisors or consultants. These people bring a specialist perspective on a particular part of the project. Be it branding, consumer relations, timelines, or other dependencies, these people are brought in to assess something specific about the project. They can sometimes provide a unique insight into the project or the target market, due to their specialism or general outside perspective. 

The Difference Between Project Management & Governance

Often used interchangeably, management and governance are fairly similar in their definition. In reality, the two terms mean two things that should be differentiated in the minds of every project manager. 

Project governance is the rulebook that is followed when overseeing, guiding, and influencing the direction of a project. Project management refers to the day-to-day, in-the-trenches management of the project. 

Creating your own Project Governance Structure

Now that you know the components of project governance, it’s time to put it all together and create a strategy for yourself. Here’s how:

  • Define your end goals and the deliverables needed along the way
  • Assign all roles and responsibilities within your project
  • Define your stakeholders, and take time to learn more about them
  • Put together a strategy for engaging your stakeholders
  • Determine how quality is going to be measured, tracked, and controlled
  • Decide how data and reporting are going to be handled
  • Decide how – and with what tools – the day to days of the project are going to be managed

If you’ve done all of the above, you’ve likely created a project governance strategy. Congratulations!

When deciding which tools to use to manage your project, Verto 365 combines a range of project management tools, which can all be used within Microsoft Teams. Verto 365 provides private and public sector organisations with the tools they need to build, govern, and complete their projects.

Teams use Verto

About the author – Laura Watts

Laura is the Marketing Manager at TMI Systems Ltd., working predominantly on Verto 365 and closely on the Microsoft partnership enabling the platform to be used in its entirety from Microsoft Teams. Laura and her family moved from London in 2021 and now live and work in Gloucestershire.