PMI-Montréal project management blog
Project audit: Why? For whom? By whom?Author : Henri-Jean Bonnis
Panic! Upper management no longer knows if the chosen project is the right one, if it is well managed or if it poses a risk to the company.
A project audit aims to answer these questions to determine the project’s current performance, the company’s exposure to risk and, ultimately, if the project needs to be saved.
An audit can be seen as an additional expense, especially in a project that is not going quite right, but this is exactly when it becomes essential.
An audit analyzes a vulnerable project and provides a report on the project’s status for its administrator. Therefore, it is necessary to be very clear and determine with the administrator the objectives and scope of the audit as well as show, using the project audit chart, the process that will be implemented.
Identifying major stakeholders, the area of the investigation, and the environment of the project and organization will help in putting together a plan to manage the audit and ensure that the results will allow a decision to be made.
For the audit to succeed, the project teams or stakeholders must not feel that they are on trial. Good communication and clear explanations upstream lead to smart decisions that create value for the organization. An interesting approach is to determine in advance that all projects that meet specific and pre-established criteria will systematically be audited (e.g. projects beyond a given budget).
Another condition for success is the auditor. Which part of the organization will head the audit and who will receive the report? Of course, there is already a certain structure in place that should be respected, but the choice is still strategic since it can send a strong message.
Lastly, terminology matters. The term audit is always strong and, unfortunately, often projects a negative image. It might, then, be better to opt for a “softer” term such as “optimization process” or “status report after a major step,” or use it after a failed phase.
Auditing a project is a project in itself and, if done well, it can help move a project in the right direction or even determine that its risks are too great for the organization.