Project governance models and frameworks provide options for the way an organisation can apply project governance. Models and frameworks cover the roles and responsibilities required for decision-making processes and the internal processes, policies and procedures used to manage projects. They are used to outline the approach for the management, control, monitoring and reporting of project performance and work outcomes. A governance model or framework is the overarching set of tools, processes, guidelines, procedures, policies, templates, and systems that are used to support and oversee the management of a project. These models can be created based on the needs of a project, or provided by the PMO.
There are several different models and frameworks for project governance within the literature; however, the fundamental aim of a model or framework is to clearly articulate how decisions are made, who holds accountability and when, and where the decisions will be documented.
The most referred to models and frameworks for project governance are Muller’s (2009) Project Management Governance Framework, and Oakes’ (2008) Integrated Project Governance Model. These will be discussed later in the module.
There are several considerations required for the implementation of particular project governance models. These include the characteristics of the project, project roles and responsibilities, processes, and documentation available and requirements of the organisation from a corporate governance perspective.
Project characteristics include:
- size (e.g., scope, budget, schedule, performance)
- level of risk
- stakeholders (e.g., number, type)
- skills and resources required (e.g., digital versus construction)
- type of project management methodology applied (e.g., agile, waterfall).
Project roles and responsibilities include:
- organisational chart
- roles and responsibilities set within project charter and stakeholder management guide
- decision-making authority (e.g., board, committee)
- project team.
- project approval (to start the project)
- change control process
- stage gates, or authorisation points which set approvals to proceed through specific milestones
- formal sign-off for finalisation of deliverables.
- business case
- project charter
- project plan
- project closure document.
Oakes’ integrated project governance model
Oakes’ (2008) integrated project governance model can be used to define the information flows and the roles and responsibilities within the project, linking the project governance process to the project management method applied. Table 4 shows the governance matrix which provides a simple model for the representation of the roles and responsibilities and how to identify information needs for different stakeholders. This matrix should be used to complement the project management plan, specifically the communication plan, providing another perspective of who is involved in the decision-making and information processes.
Table 4. Oakes’ integrated project governance model (2008, p. 187)
|Steering||Objectives and priorities||Strategy||Assurance|
|Managing||Policies and standards||Planning and execution||Peer review|
|Executing||Administration and status||Delivery||Technical verification|
The matrix outlined in Table 4 highlights the different decision types (in the columns):
- Set direction: The “what” decisions include defining objectives, priorities, policies, and standards.
- Implement: The “how” decisions outline how the project will be implemented.
- Assure: This is the validation that ensures that the decisions on the project are being implemented and managed adequately.
Decision levels scope (in the rows):
- Steering: Level where the organisation establishes objectives and priorities, with a focus on strategic direction, business needs and availability of resources.
- Managing: Level of available and allocated resources and how activities will be planned and controlled (e.g., risk management).
- Executing: Level where project activities and tasks are performed, to develop the expected deliverables and outcomes.
Oakes’ governance model is commonly split into subsets, Table 5 shows the project management governance, and Table 6 shows the project governance components. The project management governance outlines the roles, including the steering row, set direction column and a component of the peer review which are specific to project management. The project governance roles represent the roles specific to project governance, including planning and execution, delivery, technical verification, and a component of the peer review. The role of peer review is part of project management governance during the execution of project management audits, while fitting within project governance when the project review is occurring.
Table 5. Project management governance
|Steering||Objectives and priorities||Strategy||Assurance|
|Managing||Policies and standards||Peer review|
|Executing||Administration and status|
Table 6. Project governance
|Managing||Planning and execution||Peer review|
The cells within Oakes’ matrix provide an overview of the components and activities required to identify key roles and responsibilities, decision-makers, required information, actions to be taken and anticipated outputs.
Table 7 outlines the components of requirements at the steering level. This starts with the need for the development of a clear business case which is approved by the sponsors and owners (also known as the steering level of project management governance). A good business case will define the outcomes and intended benefits of the project in a clear and easy to read manner, linking to organisational objectives, strategic priorities, and resource availability. Support is required from senior or top management, who appoint project owners and sponsors. Project owners and sponsors support the development of the project requirements, including the benefits and outcomes (Turner, 2008).
Table 7. Detailed governance matrix steering level breakdown
|Governance matrix Cell||Who||Input||Actions||Outputs|
|Objectives and Priority||Senior management||Organisation’s value statement, vision and objectives||Development of strategies and business objectives||Organisational strategies and priorities, business needs, and project business case|
|Strategic business requirements and links to project priorities
|Transparent information to support decision-making, and
allocate resources as required.
|Prioritised projects, resource requirements and organisational and project forecasts
|Business as usual management
|Align resources with project needs
|Resources and team with necessary skills, knowledge and experience|
|Strategy||Project sponsor||Project business case||Projects terms of reference/glossary.
Review and approval processes for:
– Business case
– Project plan
– Proposed changes
– Status reports
– Project outputs
|Project terms of references/glossary and allocation of project manager
|Assurance||Assignment of internal team or external service||Audit requests||Project governance audits||Audit reports|
Project outcomes need to be evaluated by previously identified project success criteria. This success criteria should be based on both the project’s business case and plan, along with the organisational needs and strategic direction. These success criteria should be based on the project’s terms of reference for the project, and link to the team’s roles and responsibilities. They must also be measurable, and endorsed by the project sponsor and oversight committee, and clearly measure the project outcomes and benefits. Team performance (including the project manager’s performance), should also be considered as a measure of success.
Therefore, governance and project audits need to ensure that “what is done” as part of the project is aligned with the organisational strategies and needs, while being compliant with governance expectations, and the resulting audit report needs to provide directions for improvement. Table 7 provides the overview of the steering level, defining “what is the need” and “how will it be achieved”, to achieve desired business outcomes.
Table 8 outlines the detailed cells at the management level of Oakes’ model. Within the management level, there are the core components of the project management tools and processes as well as the scope, schedule, budget, resources, communication, quality, and risk management.
Table 8. Detailed governance matrix management level breakdown
|Governance matrix Cell||Who||Input||Actions||Outputs|
|Policies and Standards||Strategic managers, project support office||Project management methodologies, governance processes and
|Project management methodologies, policies, systems development, and technical support||Project management methodology and systems, team development plans|
|Planning and Executing||Project Manager||Project terms of reference/glossary, and business case.
– Project plan
– Change requests
– Status reports
|Prepare plans, control project execution, and leads project team||Project plan, status reports, issues and risk registers and corresponding report, and change requests|
|Peer Review||Assignment of internal team or external service||Audit requests||Project audits||Audit reports|
Table 9 outlines the execution level breakdown, which outlines the distinct roles and responsibilities, inputs, required actions and the outputs required to obtain the desired project results or outcomes.
Table 9. Detailed governance matrix execution level breakdown
|Governance Matrix Cell
|Admin and Status||Strategic application||Approved project plans and status reports||Consolidate project status reports, update project documentation, and administrative support for project managers||Admin support, and updated project information|
(Internal or external)
|Team assignments||Project execution||Project results, and progress reports|
|Team of technical experts and user testing
|Project quality plan, and audit requests
|Independent quality control
|Technical audits, and quality control reports
Tables 7 and 8 identify the various levels of project support that are required at each level. First, at the steering level, the required support includes the prioritisation of different projects, allocation of resources and how the project links to and supports organisational strategy. Second, the management level requires the provision of project management templates, processes and policies, organisational preferred methodologies, designs, and plans, along with the training required for project team members. Finally, the execution level requires administrative support. This includes the control mechanisms needed for reporting project status, along with the required tools to support the execution.
Each of the detailed breakdowns shows the required inputs and corresponding outputs that will support the varying stages of the project. These are based on the need for continuous improvement, ensuring that information flows to the appropriate stakeholders and project team members. Oakes’ (2008) model seeks to improve organisational project management governance maturity and support meeting desired project outcomes.
Muller’s project management governance framework
Similar to Oakes, Muller (2009) proposed a framework for the governance of project management. As outlined in previous modules, the type of governance applied should be based on organisational governance processes, policies, and culture. The overarching components of Muller’s (2009) project management governance framework are:
- roles and responsibilities
- decision-making process and levels
- communication process
- controlling process.
Each of these components needs to be clearly defined at both the organisational and project levels, to support consistent management processes and obtaining the required outcomes. Details of each of these components have been provided in previous modules. Governance frameworks should be continuously monitored, controlled, and improved to ensure it provides value to the project throughout its life cycle.
Figure 18 outlines Muller’s (2009) governance framework for project management. This framework outlines three steps linked to the organisation’s project management maturity. According to Muller and Stawicki (2007) the framework is based on three “Forces” which determine and impact the quality of project management. These forces are described below.
Force 1: “What can be done?”
This outlines what can be done by the project manager based on their level of skills, experience, education, and technical knowledge. In addition, there needs to be support from the organisation to develop their project teams and managers to improve competencies in technical, project and soft skills.
Within Force 1 the organisation is responsible for the development of its own project management framework, methodology, tools, and procedures, along with training practices for team members, sponsors, support staff and managers. The primary objective of this should be the development of a glossary or terms of reference which provides common language and procedure.
Force 2: “What should be done?”
This outlines how project management should be applied by the project manager and corresponding team, including adapting, and using tools, templates, methods, and procedures. Force 2 describes what is needed by the project owner and sponsors of the project managers to complete. To achieve this, the oversight committee and sponsors need to have a clear understanding of project management. Therefore, the oversight committees need to guide the project manager and team on business needs, schedule requirements and budget limitations. This is commonly supported by the project management office or support office.
Force 3: ”What is done?”
This outlines how project management should be performed, based on the methods, policies, templates, and procedures. This step links back to elements completed in Force 1 and Force 2, and involves the reviews of the project activities (e.g., through audits, reviews, or performance monitoring). These reviews should include ongoing development of capabilities and competencies of team members to support the maturity of project management within the organisation.
From “forces” to project governance framework
Once an organisation has established steps through Forces 1 to 3, they are capable of developing a defined governance framework to support project management. This includes setting clearly defined roles and responsibilities, based on decision-making capabilities and approval processes. These should link back to organisational governance requirements, determining how the project should be monitoring and controlling performance, based on a set of clear performance indicators and success criteria. As outlined in Figure 18, these forces link back to three key steps within each Force. These create the overarching governance framework and support project management maturity and development in organisations.
Test your knowledge
Integrating Muller’s and Oakes’ governance model/framework
The models and frameworks outlined above can be combined or linked to support governance in project management for organisations:
- Force 1 (Muller, 2009) describes “what can be done”, and includes the development of project management education, which is like the policies and standards cell outlined within Oakes’ (2008) model.
- Force 2 (Muller, 2009) describes “what should be done”, and includes the development of oversight committees, the potential use of Project Support Offices and benchmarking. This is described within Oakes’ (2008) model through the steering level and set direction column.
- Force 3 (Muller, 2009) describes “what is done”, which outlines an organisation’s steps for improving and developing project management competencies and maturities through audits, reports, reviews, and continuous improvement opportunities. This is outlined in Oakes’ (2008) model through the assurance column.
Overall, project management governance frameworks and models are largely the combination of the different methods, tools, techniques, procedures, templates, and policies developed by and for an organisation. These in turn support the ongoing project management development within an organisation.
- The governance framework will provide “instructions” on how to effectively manage a project, providing a vehicle for information gathering and reporting to all stakeholders.
- A project management governance framework, to be continuously improved and maintain its required benefits, needs to receive and analyse project management metrics across the project life cycle.
Oakes, G. (2008). Project reviews, assurance and governance. Grower Publishing Limited.
Muller, R. (2009). Project governance. Grower Publishing Limited.
Muller, R., & Stawicki, J. (2007). A framework for building successful project based organisations. Project Perspectives, 29(1), 68-71.
Turner, J. R. (2008). The handbook of project-based management: Leading strategic change in organizations. McGraw Hill.