Project Quality Audits

The rationale behind project audits is to assess whether the chosen methodology provides the project manager with all the procedures and processes that will ensure project success. The audit report will identify the major concerns of the project stakeholders, its sponsor and its team members and then present recommendations of how flaws, issues and concerns could be overcome to keep the project on track.

Uncovering project concerns, challenges and issues is one of the most critical tasks a project manager has to perform. This audit report is one of the key documents that you can use when making such decisions and is a document that can, and should, be produced throughout the entirety of your project. This report is most frequently used in industry sectors where legislative compliance is extensive and in those where heavy penalties are used to ensure project completion is on-time. The project audit is a flexible tool and our audit report template can be easily adapted to suit your project environment.

Quality Audit

At any point in time a project manager needs to be able to provide evidence and reasoning to his or her stakeholders as to how well the project is performing according to it's various management plans. Acquiring such data is difficult and often involves sifting through thousands of communications to find out the true circumstances of your project.

The purpose of project audits

There are many instance where a project can be progressing smoothly right up until the moment that a cost, quality, contract, resource or schedule issue becomes apparent. The key to project success is identifying such issues well before they become obvious, because once this happen it is virtually impossible to meet the original requirements.

Good project managers ensure that they constantly receive pertinent data on the 'true' state of their project. It is only through sound project 'knowledge' that a project manager can retain the right level of control over his or her project. The project audit and its associated report provide the evidence that forms the basis of such knowledge on a project.

The audit on project progress is especially useful for individuals who are new to project management or those who find themselves performing the role without any training or coaching. It is an effective technique for the individual to learn how to adapt methodologies to suit the unique project environment. This report also enables him or her to identify their own development and training needs so that they can be come more effective project managers.

Project audits also enables organizations to assess how well their project management procedures work in practice. An audit can indicate where lack of training, poor governance and guidelines can be the cause of poor project performance or management. Many corporations who make extensive use of project and matrix management may wish to develop the auditing skills internally, but medium or small organizations may prefer to use external agencies.

Internal audits and external audits

Whichever style of audit your organization prefers it will shown them at that point in time how well managed the project is in relation to its plan and the likelihood of success. The importance of project audits has a direct correlation to the level of compliance your industry sector requires any project to meet and the level of risk associated with it. For many organizations the project audit has three functions, to assess the quality of: project procedures, project purchases & tendering, and third-party management.

The overall benefit of these audits is the ability to avoid mistakes that would otherwise have gone undetected until the point where they become grave or catastrophic. They are often conducted midway through a project and then repeated in its final phase so that the project manager, its sponsor and the project team can easily identify what has gone well and where improvements need to be devised to keep the project on schedule and within budget.

The success of the project audit relies heavily on the professionalism and expertise of the auditor so as project manager you need to feel confident that your auditor has the necessary skills or support to perform the role effectively. You must also ensure that the project auditor and his or her team have appropriate and timely access to all the facilities, individuals and documentation they need to perform the audit.

It is essential that audit resources, roles and responsibilities are clearly identified so that the audit team and everyone involved in the project clearly understand their remit and co-operate throughout the project audits. These details need to be referenced in the resource, budget and schedule management plans, as well as the organizational breakdown structure (OBS).

Most project audits follow four simple steps. First the 'success criteria' of the project must be established. The individual, responsible for the auditing process, interviews the sponsor and project manager to define such criteria that meet the project and their own needs.

Using the success criteria a questionnaire is developed that will be used in all audit interviews. It is often more effective to have these interviews conducted by an individual outside the project environment. Experience has shown that respondents will be more open and blunt than they would be with a member of the project conducting the interview.

Project Audit Stages

Once all the interviews have been completed it is the responsibility or the person in charge of the audit to oversee the compilation of the research findings into the audit report. This report is then circulated to the project sponsor, manager and key stakeholders to assess what impact it has on the project plan. The benefits organizations can achieve are:

1) Project members can 'vent' their emotions and thoughts in a safe and controlled manner.
2) Lesson learnt can be incorporated into organizational procedural documents.
3) Protection of project investors funds by minimizing re-work and scope creep.

Part of the audit procedure includes the design of a questionnaire that will be answered by core members of the project team and selected stakeholders. Its purpose is to tease from the recipients the issues, problems, challenges and successes that the project is facing as it progresses.

Project Audit Reviews

The questions used need to ensure that they draw objective answers from these individuals and not emotive ones. This can be achieved by using a variety of questioning styles the use of 'open questions' is often favored because it provides the recipient with the opportunity to explain the reasoning behind their answer.

Many project auditors distribute their questionnaires prior to audit interview. This allows individuals time to think about the questions asked and to present an objective and well thought out response. In some circumstances they may be able to provide evidence to support their answer. The questionnaire is extremely useful in auditing large multi-site projects situations because it allows a wider and more diverse number of respondents to be included with the interviews being conducted by conference calls.

Project Audit Reviews

Once all the questionnaires and interviews have been completed they are statistically analyzed and detailed in the audit report. Part of the project auditor's role is to present practical solutions to the main concerns that are highlighted in the report.

This will often follow each of the project phases and assess specific items relevant to that phase as shown in the diagram above. The report will outline the lesson's learnt at each phase and recommend ways in which project performance within the organization can be improved. This may require an organization to develop strategies that encourage project management.

You may also be interested in:
Managing Project Quality | Quality Management Techniques | Project Quality Management and ISO Quality Management | Quality Assurance | Quality Control | Testing Project Deliverables | Quality Audits | Post-Implementation Audits.

Key Points

  • Uncovering project concerns, challenges and issues is one of the most critical tasks a project manager has to perform.
  • Project audits enable organizations to assess how well their project management procedures work in practice.
  • An audit is a four stage process that involves: defining success criteria, creating an interview format, conducting the research and then writing a report.
  • The audit report will identify the major concerns of the project stakeholders and present recommendations to address them.
  • The audit can be done by the organization's own staff or by a specialist company.
  • The benefits of a project audit include: project team members can give an honest account of their experience, lesson learnt can be incorporated into procedural documents, and project investors can be reassured that the project is on-track.

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