Assurance and turn-around

I was recently asked to comment on the concepts of project assurance, solution assurance and turn-around. The following is a summary of my response.

Project Assurance is, as the name suggests, assurance of the way that the project is being run. Relevant experience is around project management rather than the implementation solution space. The concept od Solution Assurance is more related to confirming that solution being delivered will be fit for purpose once in place. In PRINCE2 terms the project assurance role will be most closely aligned to the project executive, whereas the the Solution Assurance will be aligned with the senior suplier. (Arguably the senior user could also be looking to take on solution assurance, but in PRINCE terms it would be the senior supplier.)

The idea of a turnaround specialist would be slightly different again. To require “turnaround” there must be an identified issue to address. The assurance role is required whether or not there is a problem, and its presence would hopefully avoid problems. The turnaround specialists task is more one of a troubleshooter – identifying the symptoms, analysing the cause and leading the solution. This might be in Project or Solution terms.

Let me provide some examples:

  • In my last role I was employed as a Solutions Architect, and my primary focus was on assuring that the solution to be delivered met its functional and non-functional requirements. The skills I employed for this were primarily technical, and example questions were around whether the particular solution would fully deliver the functional and non-functional requirements.
  • At the same time I also performed a level of project assurance for the programme manager for projects I was less directly involved in. In this case the experience I was drawing on was one of a project manager with years of delivering solutions under my belt. The examples of questions I was asking here were around the potential issues to do with processes being used for risk and issue management and whether they were appropriate.
  • In a turnaround role I would employ analysis based on *both* of the other assurance roles, but would go further to address an identified issue. I would use my own creative skills to provide potential approaches, and would use an engagement approach that would get buy-in and participation from the delivery team. I would then propose an exception plan, in PRINCE terms, in conjunction with the project or programme manager. The skills being used are more active and leadership based.

In the description above I have assumed a project/programme context for turn-around. The approach, however, is as likely to be applied in an operational setting, and in this case the set of techniques will differ somewhat. The result of business level turnaround application is likely to be one or more change programmes.

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