The Governance Board

07 July, 2014

During your Project Management Professional (PMP)® studies, you will have encountered a process called Perform Quality Assurance and one of the tools and techniques listed was “Quality Audits”. A Quality Audit is defined in the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) as “a structured, independent process to determine if project capabilities comply with organizational and project policies, processes and procedures”. The interesting word here is “independent”. Where do these audit teams come from?

For a project manager, such an event (a Quality Audit) is just another part of the project. The audit team must be facilitated and steps must be taken to implement its recommendations when it completes its work. However, if you step up a level, you will see that the Quality Audit is just one of many services provided by the Program Governance Board. Depending on your organization, this board may have different names – a Steering Committee, Oversight Committee or even Board of Directors. Whatever its title, the Governance Board is made up of executive-level stakeholders with strategic insight into the company’s goals and objectives, technical knowledge, functional responsibilities, operational accountability, portfolio management responsibility and the ability to represent important stakeholder groups.

For Program Managers and the Project Managers who steer the component projects, the main benefits to having a Governance Board is that it lays down the ground-rules for how the work will be overseen. This means that the program management team knows what sort of audits to expect and what targets it will have to meet. The main target being to remain aligned to the organization’s strategic vision. It provides a forum to discuss high-level risks and issues, as well as setting clear expectations for the program’s stakeholders.

The Governance Board’s responsibilities can be grouped under four headings: (1) Defining, (2) Approving, (3) Planning and (4) Supporting. Under the “Defining” heading, the board defines the program’s reporting and control processes and establishes what the program’s success criteria are. To do this, it will consult with key stakeholders to determine what the minimum acceptance criteria are. Once these are known, the Board will then determine how these will be measured, communicated and endorsed. Finally, the Board will ensure that the program’s vision and goals support those of the organization as a whole.

From the Project Stakeholder Management knowledge area, project and program managers alike will be familiar with the RACI notation used in Responsibility Assignment Matrices. For every schedule activity, we need to have someone who is accountable; someone who will sign off that the activity has been completed properly. The Governance Board carries out that role in a variety of cases. It will approve, endorse and initiate the program by signing off on the Program Charter and the Program Business Case. It will review the Program Management Plan and sign this off if it is happy with the program’s approach. Similar phase-gate reviews will take place throughout the program to ensure that the work remains aligned to the organization’s goals. During the program’s Benefits Delivery phase, it will maintain a Decision Register and monitor the need for changes. It will also approve the initiation of a new program component (such as a new project) and the transition of an existing one to a sustaining organization. It also has to give the nod to the final closure of the program.

The Governance Board has overall responsibility for quality and defines the quality standards to be followed. It also has to decide how the Board itself will be structured and managed and articulates this in the Program Governance Plan. In here, it will lay down the goals, structure, roles, responsibilities, policies, procedures and logistics for the program’s governance.

Hidden under the heading of “Supporting” responsibilities are two crucial aspects of program governance: funding and performance support. It is the Governance Board that will provide funding for the program, even if that means seeking funding from outside the organization. It supports the program by optimizing performance, providing resources (staff, budget, facilities) and it might establish a Program Management Office to provide dedicated support to the program management team.

In short, the Program Governance Board provides overall control on the program. From a project management perspective, this can be seen in the Perform Quality Assurance process when independent quality audits are staged. However, the Project Manager can also experience the effect of the Governance Board if the project is cancelled. It is bad enough being in charge of a project that is cancelled because it has gone off the rails, but it is heart breaking to have a project that is going well cancelled. However, if the project no longer supports the strategic goals of an organization, it is better to terminate it and use its resources more productively elsewhere.

Velopi is currently developing courses in program management, up to and including PgMP® (Program Management Professional) certification. If this is an area that is of interest to you, then please get in touch – your requirements will help us to determine our courses’ acceptance criteria.

By Velopi Seamus Collins

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