When we do Assurance work on Programs and Projects we sometimes encounter questions which reflect some misunderstanding of the role of Assurance.
This is a few examples along with our answers.
Q. The assurance team has the right of veto over key decisions such as go-live?
A. No, this is highly unlikely. An assurance process only provides a report, which should include recommendations. It is then up to the accountable managers or groups to make decisions as it sees fit. Most projects do go live with some risk. It is up to the accountable managers to make well informed decisions on behalf of their organisation. The Assurance team helps them to be well informed. If, of course, the project is that much in bad shape that it shouldn’t go live, then the assurance team should make this recommendation. It doesn’t always mean that this recommendation is followed through on though.
Q. The assurance team can impact on contract milestones and whether suppliers get paid?
A. It is unlikely that this would happen directly, or that this would be a recommendation. If an assurance team was asked to comment on the achievement of a milestone, and a supplier had a payment linked to that milestone, then this could occur. But the accountable managers overseeing the project can always choose to ignore aspects of an assurance report, if they wish to.
Q. The assurance team can provide opinions on your performance and potentially your tenure?
A. Most assurance work is not about individual performance, but team or program/project performance. If you are concerned about this, you can always ask the team what aspects they have been asked to review.
Q. The assurance team decides whether the project gets shut down or funded?
A. The assurance team doesn’t decide these things, but could make recommendations which have a direct impact on these decisions. If you are concerned that the project may get shut down, or may not get funded there will be a reason for that. Ultimately the accountable managers will need to consider their options and make a decision. The assurance report will be an input into their decision making.
Q. The Assurance team is like an auditor and will report non-compliance?
A. It depends on the type of assurance requested as to whether it has a strong compliance focus or not. Where there are defined standards or processes not being followed, they will likely be reported upon if they are material to the overall findings.
Q. Is it mandatory to turn up to an assurance interview?
A. That does depend on your organisation, but it is normally accepted practice. You have been selected for a reason. If you do choose not to attend, it will depend on the organisation and the Program/Project Sponsor and potentially on your boss as to whether there will be any ramifications. It can also provide some insight into the team work on the program/project if some team members don’t want to attend an assurance interview.
Q. Is it mandatory to provide requested documents/deliverables?
A. If there is no apparent reason to withhold access then this won’t go down well, as it kind of wastes everyone’s time. If you feel you have a good reason for withholding access, then you should let the Assurance team know, seek direction from the Sponsor or your boss, and then comply accordingly. If the Assurance Team can’t get access to some documents for a variety of reason than this would be reported upon and it may change the complexion of risks and issues reported upon.
Article Written By: Mark Nicholls
Managing Director, Information Professionals.
Founder and Managing Director. He is one of the most trusted IT management advisors in Australia, and has managed, advised or reviewed some of the most complex IT and Change Management projects in Australia.