Compliance and Project Management should be married – not divorced… the one can’t function without the other

by Anita Potgieter

Compliance is generally defined as conforming to a rule, policy, standard or law.

Project management is the discipline of planning, organizing, securing, managing, leading, and controlling resources to achieve specific goals.


So, why should the two principles be married?

Companies looking at adhering to regulations and operational efficiency are more and more implementing compliance controls.

Project Compliance/Governance can be seen as the vehicle or method ensuring that projects executed within a company aligns to the company’s overall strategic objectives.  The project governance structures within a company may or may not be based on the project management methodology.  In an IT company the execution phase of the project management methodology normally consists of a system/product development life cycle.  In an Engineering company, the execution phase may include adherence to engineering standards and procedures.

Whichever project management methodology is used, the project governance structure generally consists of standards, processes and procedures that need to be followed.  Having a governance framework in place will also allow all stakeholders to understand exactly what their roles and responsibilities are.  The governace structure is all good and well, but controls need to be set in place to ensure that project implementation and execution will go smoothly.  Examples of these controls may include budget/cost control, management of scope, time management and deliverable review and approval.  A good step to build into the governance of the project is regular reviews of the Lessons Learnt in order to ensure that execution of future projects will be improved upon.

The focus of project governance/compliance should be that of transparency and accountability.  If not, Operational Efficiency may not be achieved at the required level.  No governance means that the company has no systems in place to sustain effective project management processes.

Having said all of the above, if all project resources have not been informed of the governance methodology/framework and what their roles, responsibilities and most importantly their limitations are, one “cowboy” or “rookie” can bring a project to its knees very quickly due to non-compliance.

How can systems be used to assist with the above?

A project and portfolio management tool can be set in place for project governance.  The company’s strategic drivers and constraints can be loaded in the system mapped to every single initiative to ensure optimal use of the company’s capital during portfolio selection.  Constraints may include resource availability, time restrictions, financial limitations or any other compliance constraints in the specific industry.  Some petrochemical organizations even prioritizing their projects based on the CO2 emissions that are foreseen.

Even though different types of projects may be executed, the project management tool will enforce good governance throughout the project lifecycle.  On a small project some of the steps might not be necessary.  On one large project the Project Manager and Team Lead might be overseen by the PMO, whilst on a regulatory project, the Project Manager and Team Lead may need to report to the executive team or to the board itself.

The point is that the project scope, size and level of risk will determine how tight the project governance on a project needs to be.


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