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Project Direction

The aim of the Project Direction process in PM4SD is to allow the Project Board to maintain overall control of the project delegating the day-to-day running of the management activities to the PM. The Board will be responsible for the success of the project, which they will ensure by providing guidance and by making key decision during the project lifecycle. The PM will facilitate the preparation of all the necessary documentation and information required by the Board to enable them to make decisions and take actions related to approvals, authorisations, acceptance, sustainable criteria and the achievement of the required objectives/benefits. A strong collaboration between the Project Board and the PM during this process is vital.

  • The Project Board uses this process to ensure the following objectives are being met:
  • The project is justifiable and there are the necessary authorisations at the start to initiate it.
  • The plans for the delivery of the various stages and products are reviewed and authorised before they are carried out.
  • Stakeholders are represented and kept informed of the overall progress/performance of the project
  • Acceptance of the project products is formalised and a controlled closure can be authorised
  •  Activities related to the Benefit Realisation process are carried out and the relevant benefits reviews are performed when appropriate.

Members of the Project Board should have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities as they might be called upon at any time to provide decision-making support to the project.

Following the Management by Exception principle the Project Board will allow the PM to exercise control over the daily activities of the project within a delegated level of authority, maintaining overall decision-making authority for events beyond the authority level of the PM.

The Project Direction process covers the entire PM4SD project Lifecycle starting at project initiation and ending with the Benefit Realisation and Review activities of the post-project environment.

Additionally the Project Board is in charge of maintaining the flow of communication between the project and its various interested parties. This is particularly important for projects that are part of a larger strategic Programme Environment or for projects that are implemented as part of a government/local authority policy.

The structure of the Project Board represents the key interests involved in a project:

  • Client/End User, which represents tourist/citizen’s interest
  • Business/Strategic, which represents the commitment’s interest (in tourism projects it should represent a public interest, as all tourism projects impact destinations)
  • Supplier/Provider, which represents the interest of the contractor.

The activities performed by its various members are aimed at ensuring these interests are looked after throughout the project.

Given the importance the Project Board has at the decision making level it is clear how risky this process can become where there is no clear guidance, nor understanding of the authority level for the PM. Moreover, in commercial contexts conflicts of interest might arise between the interested parties. It is for this reason that the ultimate accountability for the decision making activities during the Project Direction process is given to the Project Executive to whom the PM will defer any potential conflicting decisions.

The Project Board will perform the following six activities described under the Project Direction Process:

  • Authorise Initiation (upon review of the contract agreements with the PM).
  • Authorise the Project (upon satisfactory Project Initiation Document (PID) review).
  • Authorise Management Stages (on a stage-by-stage basis).
  • Authorise Project Closure (upon acceptance of the projects products).
  • Give general direction and support when needed and keep the Stakeholders informed.
  • Perform the Benefit Realisation review.

Authorise Initiation

Once the project has been assigned and a contract has been stipulated (possibly as a result of a tender offer) the project mandate can be created and reviewed in its details by the Project Board and the PM in order to agree the activities which will deal with the preparatory stage of the project – called in PM4SD the Initiation stage.

This activity is meant to help the PM prepare the initiation process of a project by eliminating any unnecessary restrictions. This allows for a more efficient use of time and resources throughout the project as it is normally during the initiation stage that agreements are taken related to effort required, resources needs, planning horizons etc.

The PM will specifically ask the Senior User to provide a detailed description of the Project Product while at the same time asking the Executive to provide a financial/Strategic summary of the investment and funding arrangements, and will seek help from the Senior Supplier to define the delivery approach to be taken.

Once these aspects have been defined the Project Board will review them and, on the basis of their reliability, will authorise the PM to proceed with the activities for Project Initiation.

Finally a “Stakeholder Analysis” will be done by the PM to ascertain which parties are to be involved at the various levels of management, both from an operational and decision making points of view.

Depending on the nature, complexity and formality of the project at hand, the PM might have to seek the direct involvement of local councils, authorities or even governing bodies in order to deliver a successful project.

Once these aspects have been defined, the Project Board will review them and on the basis of their solidity will authorise the PM to proceed with the activities for Project Initiation.

In public-funded tourism and cultural projects, the time, the budget and the activities dedicated to the initiation stage are usually underestimated.

This is one of the main reasons for project failure. The initiation stage is crucial to start with sustainability in the project, allowing creation of a motivated team, a shared vision among all the interested parties, and a clear and very well detailed description of the final product.

The Initiation Stage should be characterised by meetings and the organisation of group dynamic activities such as: team building, swot analysis, consultations, logical framework.

The recommended activity flow is the following:

  • Review Feasibility Study results
  • Provide Product Description for the final product
  • Provide a stakeholder analysis
  • Provide Draft Business Case
  • Establish Project Delivery Strategy
  • Create the Project Management Team Structure
  • Confirm Project Management Team Appointments
  • Assess previous project experience
  • Assemble the Project Brief
  • Authorise the Project Initiation stage

Authorise Project Delivery

Once the PM has provided the documentation created during the Project Initiation process the Project Board will review the information and make the decision on whether to authorise work to start on the development of the product or not. In order to do this they will also have to give authorisation to the next management stage of the project and for this reason they will require a stage plan from the PM. Once again, the decision making process will be centred on ensuring the project is still forecast to provide a fit-for-purpose solution which will represent value for money thus maintaining the validity of the project justification. Therefore, this authorisation will be dependent on the validity of the project’s Business Case. Amongst the documentation sent by the PM at the end of the Project Initiation Process the Project Board will have to pay particular attention to:

  • A suitable Business Case is authorised.
  • A Draft Project Plan provides a clear high level picture of the project. There is an adequate support structure where roles and responsibilities are understood and adhered to.
  • Plans to deal with events which might impact the projects objectives are in place and suitable. Plans for the realisation and review of the projects benefits are in place and are being maintained.

The scope of this activity covers a large array of recommended actions that are aimed at ensuring that the best possible framework is in place to start the development of the project’s product.


Authorise Management Stages

Only the Project Board has the authority to decide on whether the project can continue or whether it should be closed prematurely. This decision is the foundation of the Manage by Stage principle. This means that at the end of each management stage the PM will carry out activities aimed at updating/creating the necessary documentation in order to demonstrate to the Project Board the continuous validity of the project, followed by a request for authorisation to move on to the next stage. At the same time the PM will request acceptance of the stage that has just finished by providing a report on the performance and achievement of the stage against the forecasts planned. This documentation provided by the PM is the basis of the end stage assessment activity performed by the Project Board, during which the various members of the board will evaluate the current status of the project in order to take the decision on whether to continue or not. The recommended actions for the Project Board are as follows:

  • Review and Approve the End Stage Report
  • Review and Approve the Stage Plan for the next Stage
  • Make decisions on aspects regarding project performance, resource management, risk and issue management, and any other aspects which may need the input of the Project Board
  • Update the key Interested Parties on Progress.

These recommended actions cover a larger scope of suggestions for the Project Board which are outlined in the table below.


Authorise Project Closure

Whether the project has reached its planned end, or a premature termination has been requested, the closure must be performed in a controlled way. Closing a Project in a controlled manner allows for an assessment of the sustainable objectives that have been achieved against what had originally been planned. This assessment not only provides a clearer understanding of what has or hasn’t been achieved but also provides a further (and ultimate) control point where the project management activity and the project performance in general can be measured and audited and lessons can be recorded for future projects. Another main aim of this authorisation is to confirm that the project can be officially closed since it has nothing further to contribute and all the appropriate maintenance / service / operational agreements are in place.

The recommended activities for the Project Board to take when authorising the project closure are as follows:

  • Review and compare the various versions of the project documentation to assess actual achievements against forecasted ones
  • Review and approve the End Project Report sent by the PM requesting project closure.
  • Assess and take accountability for any Post-project benefit reviews that have been planned.
  • Communicate to all project stakeholders that the project has been closed and where necessary what the result has been.
  • Confirm official project closure.


Give general Direction and Support when needed and maintain the stakeholders informed

Apart from providing authorisations and acceptances, the Project Board is a point of reference for the PM when seeking help or guidance during the project.

For instance the PM might need the help of the Project Board in order to deal with a particular issue, or it might need information related to a specific aspect of the project that can only be sought through talking to the User representative.

At the same time the Board might need information from the PM for a range of different reasons, for example to communicate project performance to corporate management, provide updates on the status of the project to its stakeholders or generally perform a periodic follow-up of the project.

In order to allow for this passage of communication/information the Project Board and the PM always maintain an open channel through which information is passed.


Perform the Benefit Realisation Review

As the Project Board ’owns’ the project and therefore the business case, is ultimately accountable for the project. It is vital that benefits will be realised with the results obtained in a project. Often results are obtained but benefits are not achieved due to a lack of control of the benefits. Therefore the Project board needs to organise benefits realisation reviews during and foremost after the project. In these reviews the achievement and status of a number of benefits will be reviewed. Stakeholders are often involved in these reviews.

The benefits realisation plan provides a basis for these reviews as it describes how, when and with whom these benefits reviews should take place. In such a plan the Project Board will assign Benefits owners, a specific role for those who will manage the achievement of such a benefit.

Recommended actions for the Project Board are:

  • Assure that the Benefits Realisation Plan forms an integral part of the project plan.
  • Assure that the correct end benefits are identified and being measured as part of the Benefits Realisation Plan
  • Approve the Benefits Realisation Plan proposed by the PM
  • Prepare for Benefit Realisation Reviews
  • Assure that the right stakeholders are involved in the Benefits Realisation Reviews
  • Perform Benefits Realisation Reviews during and after the project
  • Evaluate benefit performance after Benefits Realisation Reviews and provide guidance to the PM for corrective action if needed
  • Assure that the Business Case is updated as part of follow up of the Benefits Realisation Review
  • Assign Benefit Owners for each benefit
  • Assure that responsibilities are clear at the end of the project as to by whom, how and when Benefits Realisation Reviews are held in the period after the project.