Establish project governance
for your project
in 9 easy to follow steps
Online course – Project, Programme and Portfolio Governance - now available
See slide 19 for details
What is project governance?
• Project governance is the framework that enables effective project
• The focus is on key decisions that shape the project and its direction.
• It is made up of three core components.
The components of a project governance framework
The decision making structure
The people within the structure
The information that informs them
Why do I need project governance?
• “Why can’t I run my project using the organisation structure?”
• The organisation structure is designed for business as usual (or BaU)
decision making – not for projects.
• Projects have stakeholders scattered across the organisation and
they need to be brought together for fast and efficient decision
Business as usual versus change
• Another way to view this is to think of an organisation having two
fundamentally different types of activity:
• Running the business – this is “business as usual”.
• Changing the business – using programs and projects to do so.
• The governance triangle on the next page displays this.
• The Governance Triangle shows that BaU needs to be governed
differently to change (programs and projects).
BaU needs to be governed differently to projects
Step 1 – establish a single point of accountability
• A project should have ONE person accountable for its success.
• This person should remain constant over the life of the project.
• They should represent the business unit that will benefit from the project.
• This is NOT the Project Manager. The PM does not usually represent the
• This person is known as the Project Owner or (if you use PRINCE2) the
Step 2 – choose the right Project Owner
• It is important to choose the right Project Owner. Get it wrong and you’ll
get the wrong project outcomes.
• Remember the project is there to deliver a business outcome.
• Therefore the Project Owner needs to represent the business.
• The Project Owner needs to be that role in the organisation that will use
the project outcomes to meet their business needs.
• If you own a service outcome, you should own the project that will enable
that service outcome.
• Service outcome ownership determines project ownership.
Step 3 – support the Project Owner with a Project Board
• The Project Owner needs the support of key project stakeholders.
• Stakeholders, sitting on a Project Board, may include representatives of:
• Those who fund the project (this will almost certainly include the
Project Owner but there may be others).
• Those who use the products produced by the project (PRINCE2
refers to this role(s) as the Senior User).
• Suppliers to the project, perhaps both internal and external to the
• Too many stakeholders result in inefficient decision making. Try to limit
numbers to around 6 for a project.
Step 4 – separate stakeholder management and project
• What if you find you have 16 people on your Project Board?
• Your problem is that your Project Board has become a stakeholder
management forum rather than a project decision making forum (which it
• Not every stakeholder can be a member of the Project Board.
• Keep the Board to key stakeholders and form a “strategic advisors group”
for other stakeholders.
• Chair the strategic advisors group with the Project Owner to give it
Step 5 – separate project governance and organisational
• Remember we talked about separating business as usual and change?
• The Project Board needs to be able to make the key project decisions.
• If project decisions made by the Project Board are subsequently “ratified”
or “endorsed” or “approved” etc by someone “higher up” in the
organisation, then you haven’t successfully separated BaU and change.
• Hierarchical decision making slows down projects.
Step 6 – empower the Project Owner
• The Project Owner, who is accountable for the success of the project,
must be empowered.
• This means they must have:
• Decision making authority (see the previous slide).
• They must own the project budget because without budget
ownership there is no real control.
• They must own the business case because the business case
describes the investment they are making and what they want to get
from that investment.
Alignment of accountabilities
• Reviewing what we have discussed, its clear there are a number of
accountabilities that must be aligned for effective project governance.
• This is best displayed in the Accountability Equation below.
Step 7 – maintain the business case
• The business case has two roles:
• To justify the investment being made in the project.
• To act as a governance tool for the Project Board.
• It contains the key parameters that define the project – drivers, expected
outcomes, benefits, budget, schedule, quality standards, scope, funding,
assumptions, interdependencies etc.
• If any of these are impacted, the Project Board need to know.
• In assessing any variation the Project Board must be able to assess how far
the project has moved from it original intent.
• This means the history of changes to the project must be maintained.
The business case box
Only when the “shape” of the box is threatened does the Project Board need
to make a decision. This is the essence of management by exception.
The Project Manager works
inside the business case
As long as the boundaries of
the box are not impacted,
the Project Board need not
Step 8 – ensure consistent decision rights
• There may be many entities associated with the governance of a
• It is important that each decision making “layer” is clear on its
decision rights. i.e. who makes what decisions?
• Clearly there should be no gaps.
• More important still is that there are no overlaps because this
• The next page gives a simple illustration for a project operating in an
organisation with a portfolio board.
Example of consistent decision rights
Approve the release of funds to the projectPortfolio Board
Approve the business case & key documents
Make any decision that can have a material impact
on the business case
Make day-to day decisions that do not impact the
Step 9 – document
• The governance arrangements should be documented.
• Ideally, each organisation should have a project governance policy (or,
better yet, a capital investment policy).
• A capital investment policy should define:
• A risk based approach to governance.
• Decision rights of all parties.
• Roles and responsibilities.
• Terms of reference of committees.
Online course now available
Online course - Project, Programme and Portfolio Governance
Build a complete understanding of project, programme and portfolio governance using principles and techniques
proven to work across multiple business sectors. Learn how to ensure effective decision making on your
organisation’s projects and programmes.
The 13 lectures and 52 minutes of content in this course are designed to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of the
governance of projects, programmes and portfolios.
Learn how to establish effective governance for your projects, programmes and portfolios.
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