If you become responsible for assurance of projects and programmes, Graham Oakes' book is the perfect starting point.
This book will help you to learn from your own mistakes and understand what is really going on in your projects. The core of this book is built around a number of models for review processes and governance. These models have been derived from practice and between the different chapters you will find case studies and examples. You will find four parts:
- Part I, the introduction explaining project success and project failure and the need for project reviews and assurance to help to understand what's really going on in the projects. This part also looks at the different types of reviews.
- Part II looks at the Project review process itself. Effective project reviews needs more structure than a simple meeting or checklist. To add most value, reviewers need to be able to do four things: Agree terms of reference with the review's sponsor, where to look for information, identify what standards and `good practices' they will review against and last they need a clear understanding of what activities they will undertake. These four things are visualized in a systems model for a review. Several chapters will help you to understand and use this review model. The review parameters are explained, organizational learning, the importance of evidence and logistics matter are described. This part was completed with a table with signs of project stress and an extensive review checklist.
- Part III looks at the challenge to performing effective reviews: getting people to act on their findings. It sets out a simple model for mapping spheres of influence. This so-called `governance matrix' will help you to think about who is accountable for which decisions, and hence what sort of information you need to give them. This three level model: Steer, Manage and Execute perfectly fits with the three levels of Prince2 version 2009. In the Prince2 process model we now also see the levels Directing, Managing and Delivering. Next topic is the importance to frame effective findings and recommendations. Make sure you separate facts, interpretation and recommendations. The last chapter discussed the gaps and overlaps in governance. It looks at the way in which Prince2 looks at assurance (responsibility of the Project board) and what role your PMO can play. Assurance and the PMO must complement each other.
- Part IV looks at some of the factors that need to be considered when setting up a project review or assurance function within an organization, both from an organizational perspective as from the individual reviewer or review team perspective. A business case for reviews, the establishment of a review process and options for funding a review or assurance programme are explained.
For me this is a very helpful book, especially the systems model, the `governance matrix', the extensive review matrix and how to perform effective reviews.