How to implement strong project governance

 

person holds compass to depict staying on track of project governance

 

Project management is the key to guiding a project from the initial planning stage to completion and ensuring that successful implementation as smoothly and efficiently as possible. Good project governance is essential for efficient and effective project management, helping everyone involved to understand, monitor and implement the policies and procedures needed to bring the project to completion.

 

 

What is governance?

The concept of governance is, at its purest, the establishment of policies and the monitoring of their proper implementation. Governance involves designing systems, structures and processes that ensure that all team members are aware of their duties and responsibilities, allowing them to work towards well-defined goals and outcomes.

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

Governance is not a new concept. In fact, the very word has an old-fashioned ring to it, but don’t let that fool you. The way that good governance is being brought into 21st-century project management is modern, high-tech and increasingly implemented via solution-based software rather than bureaucratic box ticking.  One overarching component of good project governance is the process of review at various stages of the project.

 

The gateway review process 

 

In project management terms, gateways refer to key decision points that occur throughout the project life cycle.  Gateway reviews are carried out at each decision point to assess the progress so far and rate the likelihood of success. Gateway reviews involve an independent and confidential peer review process designed to ensure that the project is ready to progress to the next stage of implementation or development.

You can probably already see the potential problems with that, of course. Without an excellent communication and project management system in place, the gateway process can be the very thing that stalls a project or slows its progress. With the right system in place, the project sails through the gateway process efficiently address any issues, and continues briskly in the direction of its desired outcomes. With the wrong system in place, not so much.

 

What is the purpose of governance?

 

The purpose of governance depends on the type of organisation employing it.  When it comes to the public sector,  good governance generally has the purpose of ensuring that the organisation is balancing achieving their 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.

Within this broad definition, there are a few core functions of governance that all teams within an organisation need to keep in mind.

In general, governance:

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

Governance, then, needs to permeate the entire organisation and will 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 practice, 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, ensuring appropriate levels of accountability and transparency, and laying out a range of individual and team deadlines that often need to fit together like a (very complicated) jigsaw puzzle.

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.

 

How should communication work within a governance structure?

 

Effective communication is key to good governance, but it is far from easy to maintain. How often when dealing with large, bureaucratic organisations have you heard, or felt, that “the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing”? Clarity of communication is an ongoing problem for many organisations, especially large, complex ones such as local government departments, hospitals or social care facilities.

This is why those solution-based software options mentioned earlier are becoming increasingly important. While governance itself is an old concept, the solutions to developing good governance in a modern-day world are decidedly high-tech. Even most reluctant organisations realise that computer programs, cloud-based software and other technical solutions provide the answer to their many and varied communication issues. Solution-based software is increasingly the key to implementing and monitoring policies and outcomes, carrying out gateway reviews on time, and tracking projects through every stage of their life cycle to successful completion.

 

Governance in an agile environment

 

In an agile environment, project management necessarily works differently from in a traditional environment. Traditional project management establishes a detailed plan, with concrete outcomes for each stage, and then works towards the agreed finish point. Agile project planning involves defining the desired result, then working towards it by delivering each stage of the plan in a short period of time, and then clarifying what needs to be done next.

When project management becomes highly responsive in this way, project governance and gateway reviews need to be implemented differently. In short, they need to become “agile”. In agile projects, the gateway review process can still be carried out at pre-defined stages (such as pre-project, at the end of the feasibility stage, end of foundations, and so on). The steering committees of traditional project management will also take a different role, operating as a “management by exception” response in most agile projects. The good news? Solution-based project management software allows for adaptations to suit many different methodologies!

To see what Verto can do to improve the outcomes of your existing project management techniques, register for our 30 day trial or contact us for a demo