Project assurance often features in a PMO practitioner’s job profile – often it’s alongside governance, control, reviews or audits. If you’re not sure what project assurance is all about, take a quick dip into this article on Project Assurance and the PMO.
There are also different tasks and activities associated with project assurance, depending on the type of organisation you are working in; the level of maturity of the project management approach; the different types of projects and of course, the service that the PMO is delivering around project assurance.
In this article, we’re having a look at the realities of project assurance – what’s happening in organisations today. One way we can look at the significance assurance can play in a PMO practitioner’s role today is to look at real job advertisements.
We’ve used 10 live job postings (as of November 2021) that specifically reference assurance in that job advertisement.
As we look at these job roles in more detail, it is evident that depending on the services your PMO provides, the PMO Analyst will have varying responsibilities and involvement with assurance.
Let’s take a look and see what they mean.
In this advert, the PMO Analyst is getting involved in supporting the development of the governance framework – simply put, governance is all about ensuring the right decisions get made by the right people. All that tracking and monitoring – telling others about the status of where things are at is what many PMO practitioners do on a day to day basis.
The carrying out of assurance review processes by key stakeholders is all about making sure those stakeholders are confident that things are going as planned. To give that confidence, a review of where a project is at is often carried out by the PMO at intervals across the project lifecycle.
- Support the development and implementation of consistent governance standards across the portfolio, including tracking, monitoring and updating the status of programme deliverables
- Maintain the programme level risks, assumptions, issues and dependencies (RAID) register
- Carry out assurance review processes as required by key stakeholders
Portfolio Assurance Analyst
With this role, the focus might be at a portfolio level but it will encompass portfolio, programmes and projects to provide that ‘landscape’. Here the job advertisement implies that assurance activities and the outcomes from those, are proactively managed. As this role is purely focused on assurance, they would have the luxury of spending time putting a great framework in place.
- Provide continuous and consistent review to both project and service delivery. Working closely with the PMO, SMO and Portfolio Intelligence the successful candidate will be responsible for developing a proactive landscape for assurance supported by management reporting to inform decision making and implement preventative action.
Portfolio Assurance Analyst
Another role purely focused on assurance but more details here to show activities such as critical friend health checks and reviews; pulling together and owning the assurance plan of activities – and of course the administration side of keeping everyone informed; actions being tracked, documents being updated. This kind of role feels like it’s in a more regulated industry than the first advertisement we looked at:
- Supporting the development and delivery of the Portfolio level Integrated Assurance and Approvals Plan (IAAP), targeting a rolling programme of assurance activities.
- Supporting the Assurance managers in the delivery of programme critical friend health check reviews, utilising resource pool and own capacity
- Ensure the smooth running of the assurance function through the administering of meetings including minute taking, document management etc.
This is the most common way you’ll see assurance on a job advertisement, gateway reviews are one of the most popular reviews you’ll likely to see. If you’re interested, the UK Government has a lot of resources on these.
- Gateways, assurance, and project governance.
In this example, we are given an insight into the types of documents – or artefacts that are being produced by the programmes and projects within this organisation. It feels quite traditional – PIDs being an indication that it’s very much a waterfall approach to project delivery here.
- Conduct assurance on key artefacts that are produced/maintained by projects and programmes as they move through the Change Journey/Lifecycle (e.g., PID, Business Case, Workspaces, Exception Reports, Closure Reports)
This advertisement feels like the project environment might have a low maturity level – it’s a very high-level description with no insights into what kind of assurance activities are expected. What is interesting is support and assurance is required for the PMO Manager too – which feels a little odd!
- Our Project Management Office (PMO) Analyst helps to deliver efficient and effective change by providing support and assurance to both project managers and the PMO Manager.
A classic type of job advertisement for a PMO Analyst which just lists out the typical competency areas you would expect to find. Most advertisements will just list like this – which is just another way of saying – ‘we want a good all-round PMO Analyst’. It’s common to see assurance aligned to activities that have ‘quality’ in the title too.
- The role holder will report through the Central PMO which is the information hub for projects and programmes within the portfolio and involves tracking/reporting, assurance/quality control, information management, financial tracking, risk/issue tracking, change control, support and knowledge management/learning from experience
Another job advertisement that puts assurance with control. Assurance is about giving everyone the confidence that the project delivery is going well – and control is just one way of doing that. More and more of our projects are utilising different delivery approaches, such as Agile, where heavy-handed quality control is just not fit for purpose. If you’re interested in how some of the more traditional ways of supporting projects are changing for the PMO, take a look at the Lean-Agile PMO course.
- Assurance and quality control of the portfolio, including regular project, programme and portfolio reviews.
Senior PMO Analyst
The senior in this title aligns with the word lead. The PMO Analyst should be able to spot and schedule where reviews need to happen based on what insights they’ve gathered from the projects running in that portfolio. They should also be expected to help others learn how to conduct reviews too. Peer reviews need structure and hands-on guidance to get the desired outputs from them. That requires an experienced Analyst.
- Lead ad-hoc audits on projects and programmes as directed by Portfolio Managers, peer reviews and other assurance activities.
Finally, project governance deliverables, what does that mean? Could you list some examples if you were going for that job? These are the ‘practices, steps, strategies and decisions used to direct project execution’ which could include, for example, change management, resource management, risk management, issue management, meeting management, the list goes on.
- Co-ordination of project governance deliverables (including quality assurance and stage-gate preparation)
As you can see, project assurance can mean different types of activities depending on a number of factors – not least shown here, the type of PMO role you might be performing.
Assurance is a key competency area within the PMO that can get overlooked, which is why PMO Learning are pleased to introduce a brand new course specifically for the PMO Professional.
This two day, Assurance for the PMO Professional course will allow delegates to learn how to ensure the principles of good assurance are met in all assurance activity, including establishing and maintaining effective independence, explore different types of project reviews and how to conduct them in an effective and consistent way, use case studies to discover how to provide assurance that avoids duplications and omissions, providing confidence to all stakeholders cost effectively and at the right time and learn how to advise on the design and implementation of effective P3 assurance arrangements.
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