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What is Project Governance?

26 November 2007

What is Project Governance?

Governance is the organization's answer to these two questions:

  • Who is accountable for work results?
  • Who is responsible for performing work processes?

Governance is best understood if one assumes that the PMO's methodology, standards, and processes are already in place. Governance was created as a solution for organizations that had these elements in place, but found that significant problems with effectiveness and efficiency were still occurring. Looking at the problem, these experts found that Project Management Methodologies, standards, and processes answered the question, "What should be done?" but failed to answer the question, "Who should do it?" For example, post-project reviews of failed projects would indicate that project managers did not know that certain elements of the methodology applied to their own work.

Or, at a larger level, two separate divisions of a large company implemented redundant major projects to solve the same problem, each without realizing that the other project existed. This resulted in a lot of wasted effort and unnecessary costs.

Governance is a proactive solution to these kinds of problems. Governance is implemented at the level of the PMO steering committee, and requires the support of the highest executives in the organization. The executive committee assigns a planning committee to define governance. In a project environment, that planning committee can be run by the PMO, and project governance can be integrated into PMO services and operations.

Governance is closely related to audit services and the auditing profession. As the name "governance" implies, much of the concept was initially developed by and for government management. However, it is now common to talk about corporate governance, as well. A formal audit compares what is actually happening with the methodology, processes, and standards that say what should be done and how it should be done. The audit report is a gap analysis between the methodology and the actual practice. However, without governance, there is a loophole.

The manager in charge of the work being audited can say, "I didn't know about that rule." Or, "I didn't know it applied in this situation." Governance closes that loophole. Governance makes it very clear, in advance of the work, who is accountable to make sure that work follows the methodology, standards, and processes.

Another way to think about governance is that it is the result of linking the methodology, standards, and processes with the online project management career path and other job definitions. The methodology and its components say what will be done, the career path and job definitions say who will do it, and the governance plans says who will do what.



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