What is a project audit?
Project audit is something somebody is doing, somebody loves, somebody hates. Project audit, basically speaking, is activity to review project status, vitality, probability to deliver. It’s the informal part. Or it could be focused on more formal attributes like how project is following standards, doing all necessary activities, how complete and accurate project documentation is, etc.
Project audit can be executed by many different parties ranging from your colleagues, internal audit to formal audit oriented company.
I’ll focus here on more informal audits that helps you to understand how healthy the project is and what to do in case in any bad findings.
How to execute informal project audit?
Informal project audit has to be informal. Right? I always do the audit the way not distracting people from their work. Not to cancel their project meeting, no preparation, no formal way of interviews.
I do have couple areas to focus to during Project audit:
Project morale and atmosphere
I always want to understand in what position project morale stands. It really makes difference.
Do people understand what are goals of the project? Do they like and happy doing the project? Do they communicate? Are there real teams working together? How much they solving daily issues or escalate everything immediately? How much leaders are effective leaders, empowered with proper level of responsibility? Do everybody understand how the project is organized? Do they feel boring, passive, stressed or full of energy and properly challenged?
There are many questions you should get answered during Project audit. How to get the information? Interviews. You should select enough representative roles from different positions. It includes project sponsor, all project leaders, key roles, vendors and some project team members? Ask them rather generic question. Let them talk. Listen, listen, listen. You need to observe the body language and feel the situation. This more social situation information you need to collect rather than hard facts.
Project delivery approach and methods
I always want to understand during Project audit what is the project approach to deliver. I need to understand what are the project phases, deliverables, quality controls… You need to study project documents like work plans, status reports, design documents.
Always try to take helicopter view. Just browse and scan. Don’t read documents in detail. Otherwise you will get lost in detail.
You just need to understand whether project is doing reasonable things not to check for all minor issues and gaps. That’s different exercise.
Just couple examples:
What I told Project manager reviewing his work plan? It was nice, detailed, very well formatted, a lot of colors. I told him: “You are focused on planning but not managing the project itself. Project manager usually doesn’t have time for polished project plan preparation”.
What I told Chief architect after large audience Architecture review board meeting? You are not doing your job properly. You should give the team enough guidance by your Solution Architecture Blueprint, Architecture patterns and standards. The they will not come to you with that many questions and requests.
What I told Test Team Leader experiencing high number of unresolved bugs and long resolution time? You don’t have proper identification of bug sources. Everything is the same. But you have issues coming from bad designs, bad test data, external deliveries (interfaces), bad test scripts… And you re handling all of them the same way, trying to assign everything to implementation team thus overwhelming them with bugs and issues they are not able to resolve themselves, need to do analysis and handover to proper party. And therefore they don’t have capacity to fix bugs, spending all their time on analysis and bug distribution.
Doing informal Project audit always try to catch and recognize issues in setup, concepts and soft factors. It makes difference.
Project audit output
You have to produce some physical output from the Project audit. Why? You need to communicate your findings and recommendations. Report always serve for this purpose, presentation even more. You should present your findings from Project audit.
One important thing you shouldn’t forget. You should transform your findings to recommendations or even better to Action plan proposal.
There is one trap you should try to avoid doing Project audit. Try to understand what is the position of the guy, who called you in, to the project. You might find yourself in the situation presenting major mistakes to guy, who did these stupid mistakes, and even made your findings public. This guy will not be your friend, will be?
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