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When is an assessment not an assessment?

Stemming from an internal audit finding, one of the clients I regularly work with engaged me to conduct a few project assessments.  The projects in scope would be the initial project in a series of projects (releases) each under a program.  The preliminary meeting with the executive management team yielded a requirement to not use the regular assessment framework we have as well as any standardized criteria to measure against.  I posed the question, if we are not going to use any sort of framework to assess the work of the projects against defined criteria, which would enable the assessments to have consistent metrics across all projects (in applicable aspects) then is what you want really an assessment?

After some deliberation, what developed was more of a “risk appraisal”.  I was skeptical about the value of doing what appeared to be just an adhoc review of project team documentation and informal interviews of key/lead project team representatives. 

The focus became identifying risks when project number one would be completed and project number 2 would begin.  Just a few examples of risks that we looked for:

  • Incurring technical debt, where activities would be put off to a future project and with the passage of time greater levels of effort would be required and more funding as opposed to just doing something in the present time
  • The project team completing activities that were valuable but did not produce any formal documentation and project number 2 (or any successor in the program) redoing the same work
  • The project team not completing activities that they should have, the next project having the expectation that something was done and not planning or budgeting to do that work

The “risk appraisals” were quite valuable, although not an assessment, they provided good visibility into risks that had a high probability of materializing and significant impact to the subsequent project.

Joshua Barnes


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