Directing a project and the project board responsibilities

Maintain good governance over projects while carrying on with your busy schedules

Common processes to ensure good governance

Any well-structured project organisation will have a project steering committee or project board that will be authorised to make business decisions on behalf of the participating organisations. To enable a structured an organised means for the project board to interact with the project manager and project team it is useful to have a set of common processes to ensure good governance is enforced.

The Directing a Project core process gives the governance structure that the project needs from the project boards perspective. This core process is utilized throughout the project and encapsulates the sub processes and activities that the Project Board must carry out. Through the activities in this core process the project board are able to monitor, evaluate and control the project.

Be well informed throughout the project’s lifecycle

This core process when followed keeps the project board and senior management well informed about the project throughout the project’s lifecycle. Because the project board has the authority to make business decisions that affect the project, the project board is ultimately accountable for the project’s success. Therefor it is their responsibility to make sure that they understand the current status and the likely future status of the project.

The Project Board operates within the tolerances set by the company executive management; it is the formal interface between the Company executive management and the project.
The Project Board must supply unified direction to the Project Manager and take responsibility for understanding the current status of the project, failure to do so will jeopardize the project.

Simple version of a project organisation and where the project board fits in.

Typical activities of a project board in an eCommerce project:

  • Create an environment for the project to succeed
  • Ensure that there is a definition of who is accountable and who is responsible
  • Ensure that the project is started correctly
  • Ensure the initial Planning Process is carried out in sufficient detail
  • Approve the outputs from the Initiating and Planning Process and confirm they are fit for the build phase to begin
  • Authorise the build phase to begin
  • During build/development phase review the project status and take the appropriate action based on the status reports.
  • Ensure the company executive management are kept up to date on the project status
  • Authorise project closure at the end of the project or at any time the project becomes unviable.
  • Set tolerance levels for the project objectives
  • Play a pro-active role supporting the project manager in risk management and managing uncertainty
  • A few of these points are covered in a little more detail below.

    Create an environment for the project to succeed

    In most situations this will be a challenge simply due to the nature of projects and change initiatives in general. The cultures of the participating organisations and personalities of stakeholders will have a significant impact and need to be aligned.

    The project board has a leading role in keeping the participating organisations and influential stakeholders aligned with the project goal, especially those who are not part of the core project team. In terms of creating the environment within the project team for the project to succeed the board is responsible for supporting the project management team. The Project Board delegates the day to day management of the project to the project management team. In order for the project management team to do their job the Project Board must visibly demonstrate support for the team and give advice as needed.

    Part of creating the right environment is to motivate the team, read more on this topic here.

    Who is accountable and who is responsible?

    The project board needs to ensure that there is a good understanding of who is accountable and who is responsible for different processes and activities of the project. This knowledge will enable the board and senior management to give advice and direction to the right people and at the same time retain the integrity of the system.

    To be accountable you must be the person who has the final say in a decision on behalf of your company or project. You have the power to say yes or no to a decision and for your decision to be binding.
    Being accountable not only means being responsible for your actions and decisions but also ultimately being answerable for those actions and decisions.

    Responsibility is slightly different in that one or more people can be responsible for taking an action, but may not ultimately be accountable.

    Ensure that the project is started correctly

    Do the job properly from the start and you have a greater chance of being successful. Many projects fail because there is pressure to just get on with it, unfortunately people get on with the wrong activities resulting in waste. The project board can ensure this does not happen by giving the project team support and direction from the beginning.
    The Start up a Project core process defines the activities that should take place and the outputs from this process that should be created.

    Ensure the initial Planning Process is carried out in sufficient detail

    Make sure the project team is given the time and resources to carry out sufficient discovery and design work before starting to build the product or service.
    What do we mean by “sufficient discovery and design work”?
    This will depend on what you are building. In terms of building eCommerce solutions it means that you have a clear idea what capability the end products will deliver, this is normally described in the project product description. There is a diagram showing product breakdown structure and another diagram showing the build road map. Detailed requirements in the form of User Scenarios and Acceptance Tests have been developed for the work that will be done in the first three to six months, there are high level descriptions of any work that will occur after this period.