January 17, 2018


Project management advice, tips, tools and recommended resources for existing and aspiring project managers.

Best Practice: Project Governance Framework

By Linky van der Merwe

This article will focus specifically on Project Governance that determines the effectiveness of the project manager (PM). You will find an explanation of what Project Governance is, why you need it, who is responsible for it and how to use it, with principles and examples to make it clear.

Project Governance Framework

Source: princetonprinciples.org

What is Project Governance?

Project Governance is an oversight function that is aligned with an organisation’s governance model and that encompasses the project life cycle.

The Project Management Body of Knowledge Guide (PMBOK) definition is:

“The alignment of project objectives with the strategy of the larger organisation by the project sponsor and project team. A project’s governance is defined by and required to fit within the larger context of the program or organisation sponsoring it, but is separate from organisational governance.”

Click here for PMI’s Practice Guide on Governance of Portfolios, Programs and Projects.

Projects are undertaken to achieve strategic business outcomes. Many organisations adopt formal organisational governance processes and procedures. Organisational governance criteria can impose constraints on projects especially if projects are for new products or services.

A project manager needs to be knowledgeable about corporate governance policies and procedures pertaining to the product/services in question; this tends to be very industry related.

Why Project Governance?

A project governance framework provides the project manager and team with structured processes, decision-making models and tools for managing the project while supporting and controlling the project for successful delivery. Governance is critical for any project, especially on complex and risky projects.

The governance framework provides a comprehensive, consistent method of controlling the projects. Governance will ensure success by defining, documenting and communicating reliable and repeatable project practices.

Governance provides important deliverable acceptance criteria and success measures to measure the benefits and success of your projects.

Who is responsible for Project Governance?

In many organisations a Project Management Office (PMO) exists. The PMO is responsible for  defining and owning the project governance framework.

The PMO also plays a decisive role for project governance that involves:

  • Documented policies, procedures and standards
  • Health Checks – Are we doing right things? Are we using right process? Do we conform to standards?
  • Stakeholders

Where to document Project Governance

The project governance approach should be described in the project management plan, which is the planning document compiled by the PM to describe how a project will be executed, monitored and controlled.

The PM is responsible and accountable for setting realistic and achievable boundaries for the project and to accomplish the project within the approved baselines.

How to use Project Governance

Use project governance to ensure that Project Portfolios are aligned to corporate goals. It will then form the basis to see that projects are delivered efficiently and that the interests of project staff and other stakeholders are aligned.

Governance will also ensure that the Project Board/Steering Committee and major stakeholders are provided with timely, relevant, and accurate information.

Principles of Project Governance

Here are a few key principles for project governance:

  • Projects should be clearly linked to key business objectives.
  • There should be clear senior management ownership of projects.
  • There should be effective engagement with Stakeholders.
  • Projects should be driven by long-term value, rather than short-term costs.
  • Projects should be broken down into manageable steps.

Examples of Project Governance Framework elements

Here are examples of elements included in a project governance framework:

  • Guidelines for aligning project governance and organisational strategy
  • A process to identify, escalate, resolve issues that arise during the project
  • Relationship among project teams, organisational groups and external stakeholders
  • Project organisational chart that identifies project roles
  • Processes and procedures for communication of information
  • Project decision-making processes
  • Project life-cycle approach including the transfer to Operations and readiness of business
  • Process for stage gate or phase reviews – Authorise to proceed. Approval of process/documents.
  • Process for review and approval for changes to budget, scope, quality, schedule which are beyond the authority of the PM

Operate within the Project Governance Framework

You can see that Project Governance is an oversight function that is applicable throughout the life cycle of a project.

Project governance determines the effectiveness of the project manager, because governance gives a framework for making project decisions, defines roles, responsibilities and accountabilities for the success of the project.

It’s important that you as project managers, understand project governance, that you document it on your projects, that you apply it as a consistent method of controlling your projects, and by doing this you will hugely improve your chances for successful project delivery.

Every successful project you complete, will bring you closer to being recognised as a competent, efficient and professional project manager who can be followed as a leader and entrusted with strategic projects and programmes.

How can I use this information as a Project Manager or PMO?

I’ve created a free Project Governance Framework Reference Guide to remind you of the What, Why, Who, When and How of Project Governance.

Click below to download the Free Reference Guide today!
Download a free Project Governance Framework Reference Guide


Governance is one of the 6 pillars of the Growth Framework that I have developed to help you remember the essential elements of running projects successfully. Visit Project Manager Growth to subscribe for more information and a free Growth Framework Infographic.

7 Steps to Becoming a Better Project Manager

When you become a full-time project manager, you are always looking for ways that will help you be more successful. The purpose of this article is to give you 7 steps towards a successful outcome for your projects.  The 7 Steps will be presented in two parts. Some factors will influence your success: like the power you are granted as a project manager, the responsibilities you are given and the type of organization you are in.

1.      Conduct a project discovery session

Have a discussion where the idea of the project is discussed. It may involve some formal planning with a Business Case, estimates and Benefit Management. At some organizations, this session is part of pre-sales or Deal Phase and the result may be a proposal to a customer. Once this proposal is accepted, the project receives the go-ahead to start. At this time the project manager is usually assigned. Make sure that you familiarize yourself with all the documents from this phase as well as any lessons learnt from previous projects.

2.      Document Stakeholder expectations

It is important to capture all stakeholder needs early on and to define the meaning of success for everyone. Small projects may collect the expectations through personal interviews or by email. Larger projects, with stakeholders potentially numbering in the thousands, may employ sampling strategies and extensive consultation.

Once such Stakeholder Management tool is called “Conditions of Satisfaction” which is a way of ensuring that the customer’s (stakeholder) expectations are identified, agreed and that action plans are defined and allocated to responsible persons to implement.

It is also vital to articulate an understanding of the core benefits of the projects implementation. Understanding stakeholder expectations and key benefits will influence how the project will proceed, and will provide input into the Communication Plan. Having well-documented expectations and clearly defined benefits will pay dividends when project success metrics are being created and when key decisions must be made.

3.      Put project governance in place

Document the governance and routines for the project as well as expectations for the team.  How will your project be managed? How and where will status reports and project documents be stored, and what will they look like? What is the team’s appetite for risk? How often will you meet as a project team? Have you worked together before?

Once established, the Project Governance and all key project components should be covered in a formal initiation meeting, also called a Kick-off meeting, to certify that everyone is on the same page.  When you conduct projects for external customers, it is important to have an internal kick-off meeting with the project team first to ensure alignment, before you start engaging with the customer.

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How To Setup a Project Governance Framework as a Best Practice

A more recent article on Project Governance can be found here:

Best Practice: Project Governance Framework


Wikipedia defines project governance as follows:

Project governance is the management framework within which project decisions are made. Project governance is a critical element of any project since it provides a framework for the accountabilities and responsibilities associated with an organisation’s capital investments (projects).”

Therefore, the role of project governance is to provide a decision making framework that is logical, robust and repeatable to govern an organisation’s capital investments. In this way, an organisation will have a structured approach to conducting both its business as usual activities and its business change, or project, activities.

Absence of Governance

In today′s business world, the absence of “governance” is equal to fraud, mismanagement and even scandal.
Project governance is fundamental to ensuring project success and control.

A Project Governance Framework

Guy Jelley, CEO of Post Vision Technology believes that the most desirable scenario is creating a project governance framework that allows projects to be fluid and move ahead – as opposed to those that are hindered by too much red tape and unnecessarily scrutinised at every opportunity – but, to implement this framework together with a mechanism that provides visibility on current projects and their governance status, so as to understand and manage risks.

“The framework should provide a logical, robust and repeatable management decision making process, with the purpose of governing an organisation’s projects. And, although I advocate that project governance should be simple and straightforward in order for projects to flow, its importance must not be underestimated,” he says.

According to Jelley, project governance is underscored by the overall strategy of a business and, consequently, project managers must understand the objectives and vision of a business in order to understand and appreciate the project governance framework.

“That is, analyse what the governance processes should be delivering and measure these against the business value that the implementation and monitoring of these provide. The bottom line is, your project governance framework is dependent on your organisation’s holistic requirements and should thus be business- and not technical oriented,” says Jelley.

“Important, however, is to be aware that project governance is not a part of IT governance, but is a set of rules and regulations under which projects fall, irrespective of their type,” concludes Jelley.

Elements of good project governance

Wikipedia lists elements of good project governance which include: [Read more…]

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