‘Health checks’ are one method to assess quality that can be designed to focus on all or some elements of the programme / project scope. They can be used to:
Provide a way to maintain accountability for the delivery of capability, but provide ‘peace of mind’ that project outputs are on track and aligned with objectives
Validate highlight or progress reporting provided by project managers and programme managers
Assess the technical and business requirement aspects of outputs to ensure that they will meet the needs of the business and that there isn’t excess expenditure on out-of-scope elements that may not lead to planned benefits
Ensure that all risks and issues that may affect the project, programme or portfolio are being identified and managed appropriately.
To enable a health check process to ‘assure’ that projects are delivering outputs that meet strategic objectives, it is recommended that a ‘blueprint’ of the outcomes for the programme or a portfolio plan to describe what the portfolio is seeking to achieve, is maintained. These documents can form the basis of health checks in relation to ‘assuring’ that deliverables are ‘fit for purpose’ and technically sound.
Generally, causes of failure fall into five key areas:
Design and definition failures – where the scope of the project is not clearly defined and required outputs are not described with sufficient clarity.
Decision-making failures – due to inadequate level of sponsorship and commitment to the project, governance arrangements or because there is insufficient authority to be able to resolve issues as they arise.
Project discipline failures – including poor approaches for managing risks and managing changes to requirements.
Supplier or contract management failures – including a lack of understanding of the commercial driver for suppliers, poor contractual arrangements and management.
People failure – including a disconnection between the project and stakeholders, lack of ownership and cultural impacts.
Designing a health check that assesses each of the factors within an organization’s context will achieve better proactive outcomes than a health check that only focuses on project management processes.
All projects in a programme or portfolio will not be equal. The project health check process should be scalable for small, medium and large projects.
Also, an assessment of a project’s criticality (for example, critical path) to other projects in a programme or portfolio will help to determine its requirement for periodic ‘health checking’.
Ensure that any outputs of the health check are presented back to the project or programme teams that may have been interviewed during the health check.
1. Determine what is to be assured through the health check. Some examples are:
Specific stakeholder requirements
Management and team skills and experience (competency)
P3RM organization effectiveness
Understanding of the project, programme or portfolio
Business solution impact
Effectiveness of governance arrangements
Organizational change management effectiveness.
2. Determine how, when and by whom health checks will be undertaken. This could be an appropriate P3O® function or carried out by an external service provider.
3. The timing of project health checks needs to be considered within the context of any stage gating processes in place.
4. Standardization across projects and programmes helps to assess relative health.
5. Agree the outputs of the project health check function:
Standard report with summary information/ratings
Action plan and remediation steps.
6. Develop a process for refining the health check process.
7. Post-implementation review recommendations incorporated to repeatable processes as lessons learned.
8. Can be a topic within P3RM forums or communities of best practice.
9. Can align to the P3M3 Capability Maturity Model.
EG. Project health check process