Martin P Wilson

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Ideas, Innovation, Inspiration, Insight, IT

Facilitation and Mentoring for Success.

How is a Project Health Check Conducted?

A Solidus “Critical Friend” will usually work from a checklist but will also apply their experience and sixth sense. Often an experienced project consultant will instinctively know that something is not right but will still need to gather evidence to justify their recommendations.

Unfortunately a purely mechanical process can miss behavioural and other issues on a project as the team put on show for the assessors. So Solidus seeks to combine instinct based on considerable experience with formal methods to ensure all aspects are covered.

Solidus aims to share its findings at the end of each day on site with informal recommendations. We would then follow up with a brief report focussing on recommendations positive and negative with an action list to address any issues.

For many projects this might only be one full day on site with another office based day writing the report. Usually the aim would be to have two consultants undertake the work to seek different views on the evidence.

What Should a Project Health Check Cover?

A Solidus Project Health Check would be tailored to specific client needs so it would normally start with a planning meeting. Broadly a Project Health Check would cover the following aspects:

Scope and Objectives

Is ithe project properly defined, bounded and understood by the project team. In particular are they:
  • Aligned with business strategy and objectives?
  • Documented and approved by key stakeholders especially the Project Sponsor?
  • Under change control with an approval process?

Project Justification, Business Case and Approval

Solidus would want to confirm that the project has been thought through and its costs and benefits understood. The organisation should have clear idea why the project is being undertaken and what constitutes a successful outcome. Solidus would consider whether:
  • Full costs had been identified including dependencies other external; costs
  • Benefits documented and agreed that the business can achieve them
  • Project has be formally approved with delegation of appropriate authority to the sponsor and project manager

Business Sponsorship

A project needs to have the support of the business and a Solidus Project Health Check would ensure that effective business support and active sponsorship was in place. A review would need to check there is:

  • Clear sponsor role and accountability for achieving business benefits
  • A sponsor who positively champions the project to users and stakeholders
  • Support for and Challenge of the Project Team assumptions and plans

Governance

Governance is about the wider oversight of the project by the business and appropriate stakeholders. It has two main purposes. First is to hold the project sponsor and project manager to account for achieving the original business objectives of the project and to support them in areas outside their responsibility.

The second is to ensure that the project continues to make sense in the changing circumstances faced by the organisation. If the strategic plan changes then the project should be reviewed – an essential time for a project review but of a slightly different nature to a health check.

The group, usually called a project board in PRINCE 2 terms, should represent the main customers for the project and should require the project manager and main suppliers to provide evidence that the work is being properly managed and is meetings its commitments. The challenge by the governance group of the project team should be firm and supportive.

In that regard the topics that would need to be considered by the Project Health Check include:

  • Quality
  • Change control – is the scope being managed and only essential changes accepted
  • Risks and Issues – is the project managing, not just logging,  the risks
  • Dependencies outside the control of the project team – are they being managed?
  • Decisions and Documentation – are they made by the appropriate people and recorded?
  • Commercial – is procurement and supplier management following due process?
  • Escalation – is governance acting effectively on matters escalated by the project team?

Project and Milestone Plans

A formal project plan, probably maintained on software such as Microsoft Project, is current and actively used to manage the project. It should include key milestones against which the project sponsor and governance group can monitor progress. The project manager should use a more detailed version of the same plan for day to day management. It should be

  • Realistic and challenged through governance
  • Have contingency identified and managed
  • Has agreed baseline plan under change control
  • Monitored by Sponsor through effective governance

Resources and Functional Capability

No project can deliver without the correct resources. A Solidus “Critical Friend” would want to see that the project had adequate and appropriate:

  • People
  • Expertise
  • Budget
  • Technical Capability and Infrastructure

Users and Other Stakeholders

Managing all the groups external to project is usually a key role of the Project Sponsor with more detailed aspects falling to the project team. A Health Check would examine whether:

  • Stakeholders were properly engaged in project definition
  • There is clarity of each stakeholder’s role in providing advice and decision making
  • Stakeholders understand and accept the project scope and objectives, especially what is not included
  • Acceptance criteria and acceptance approach are understood and agreed
  • Communication plan is in place and actively managed as a project or associated work stream
  • Business change, Communication and Training plans in place and actively managed as a project or associated work stream

External Factors

For many projects there will factors external to the organisation that will have an impact on the project Some will be picked up through risk management and others may be a key part of the project itself. A Solidus Project Health Check would want to consider the impact on the project of:

  • Regulation
  • Competitors
  • Political changes and pressures
  • Economic factors, state of the markets
  • Technology, how is it changing
  • Social factor

Project Health Check Recommendations and Action Plan

The final outcome of a Solidus Project Health Check would be a brief report. A Solidus Project Health Check report would be no longer than absolutely necessary and it would concentrate on the actions needed to get the project back into good health. It would be honest and when necessary would pull no punches.

The report would not be a typical thick consultant’s report. It would be a justified set of recommendations and a high-level action plan that should be built into the project plan.

Need a Project Health Check?

To discuss Project Health Checks in more detail call Martin Wilson directly on +44 (0) 7831 410 801 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.a name, telephone number with suitable date and time for Martin to call back.

 

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