Project documentation

The project steering committee is responsible for approving major project documentation and strategies. Specifically, it might approve (or support) documents such as the:

·      Text Box: A good contract will ensure there is consensus over scope and goals, and appropriate procedures for ongoing governance and management. This includes forums for discussion and negotiation, reports that offer visibility and insight, analysis that identifies risk and copes with reducing its probability and consequence.

project mandate (or charter);

·      business case;

·      tender documents;

·      contracts;

·      project management plan including:

–      delivery brief;

–      budget;

–      project schedule;

–      project risk management plan/framework, risk register and treatment activities;

–      outcomes management plan;

–      outputs or deliverables;

–      schedule and budget constraints;

–      change management plan;

–      stakeholder or community engagement/communication plan (if required);

–      procurement strategy; and

·      status reports.

NOTE: Some of these documents may subsequently require approval by government. For example HVHR proposals require the Treasurer’s approval of full business cases prior to submission for funding approval. The funding approval by government determines the project budget and may affect the scope, procurement and governance arrangements.

In considering documentation the steering committee needs to do more than confirm that the document exists. It needs to assess whether the document is appropriate/fit for purpose and ascertain whether the document is being used. A risk register that gathers dust on a shelf is of limited use. Finally, there is an ongoing need to determine whether it is effective in meeting its purpose. Are the risk register and risk management processes actually effective in managing project risk? The steering committee needs to be confident that all of the documentation generated as part of the project delivery process is actually helping, not hindering its delivery.

Approval of changes to the project

The project steering committee is responsible for the oversight of changes to the project within specified tolerances. It should be provided with the following information in support of a proposed change:

·      nature and reason for the variation;

·      effect of the change;

·      revised project management plan, if appropriate; and

·      suggested actions/options for the project steering committee to consider.

All changes should be presented to the project steering committee using an approved template and should also be recorded in a project change register or a specified section within the project management plan.

Changes can only be made within approved levels of authority.

The project steering committee may need to escalate certain change requests to a higher authority for example the Treasurer or a Cabinet committee. Change requests should not be sent to the higher authority for a decision without project steering committee endorsement or comment.

Resolution of escalated project risks, issues and conflicts

Project conflicts may arise from issues related to resource allocation, output quality, the level of commitment of project stakeholders and related projects. Conflicts and issues may lead to risk materialisation. The project manager is generally the first reference point for identifying, managing and resolving issues and can solve many internal project problems. Problems arising outside the control of a project manager are referred to the project director or project steering committee for resolution.

Risk and issue escalation, communication and rectification is generally guided by the severity of the risk or issue, project tolerance levels (predefined at the start of the project) and the authority or role hierarchy established for the project.

Responsibility for identifying need for strategic intervention, including termination

The project steering committee is responsible for identifying the potential need for remedial actions and/or strategic intervention, and termination where appropriate, escalating the need as appropriate on a timely basis.

Often when a project is under stress, early and decisive intervention can result in the best value outcome for the government.

Project steering committee meetings

The project steering committee meets regularly throughout the course of a project to keep track of issues and the progress of the project. The project monitoring content may be guided by an overview with specific detail to allow ‘a managing by exception basis’ to keep the meeting focused. The project manager should attend these meetings to be a source of information for project steering committee members and also, to be kept informed of project steering committee decisions.

A typical agenda for a project steering committee meeting is included in Appendix 4. Some of the decisions made by the project steering committee may require subsequent endorsement by government. For example for HVHR proposals the Treasurer’s approval of key decisions surrounding procurement is required prior to actioning the decision.

Project steering committee meetings may also be attended by key stakeholders including suppliers where appropriate to facilitate more effective dialogue on specific issues. Also issues requiring decisions may need to be handled outside of the scheduled meetings.

It is a good idea to periodically (once a year) test the health of the committee in terms of functionality and effectiveness.  A model survey is included in Appendix E.

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