Project Management vs Project Governance

Story Highlights
  • What is meant by project governance?
  • What are governance activities?
  • How do you create a project governance structure?
  • What is the PMO's role in project governance?

When project governance works, it works. It creates accountability, reduces cost and ensures ethical practice to name but a few advantages. However, what happens when we become over-reliant on governance?

Project governance refers to the framework process and methodologies followed to ensure the success of a project. Effective project governance ensures that a project delivers expected results to the stakeholders. A successful governance framework creates accountability, involves stakeholders and ensures ethical and above-board project practices. It reduces project cost by ensuring appropriate expenditure for the risks in question. From a technical standpoint, governance involves setting project guidelines, decision points and overseeing project performance, risk management and change management. An adequate governance plan is a must for successful project management. As the complexity of a project increases, the need for appropriate governance increases.


Effects of Poor Project Governance

Poor governance practices are a significant stumbling block for the successful completion of any project. Over-governance is one such poor practice. Tell-tale signs of over governance include project management excessively spending hours completing paperwork, reporting project metrics, updating project management tools and perhaps relying too much on methodologies.

One of the primary weaknesses uncovered during the analysis was the total reliance placed on the project and development methodologies. Processes alone are far from enough to cover the complexity and human aspects of many large projects subject to multiple stakeholders, resource and ethical constraints.British Computer Society (June, 2008)

Over-reliance on governance creates bureaucracy. It increases project costs, delivery time and has an impact on the utilisation of resources. Demonstrating project progress to stakeholders through metrics is good up to a point, but too much detail may bury key messages and lead to confusion and disinterest. In extreme cases, over-governance creates a situation of successful processes but failed outcomes..

Set boundaries and expectations early in the project lifecycle. Agree on the level of detail expected with the project stakeholders. Instead of furnishing one big report, engage stakeholders consistently by providing decision-grade information that helps the stakeholders with risk analysis and management.


Project success is not dependent on governance alone. Failures do happen despite investing millions of pounds in tools and methodologies. This is because failures also occur due to business, organisational, political, cultural and other unforeseen reasons that are sometimes beyond control. For successful project management that does not run into micro-management, senior management must create a balance between project governance and delivering real benefits to stakeholders.

Imran Zaman

The founder of DIGITI.ORG - The Digital Transformation Magazine. Imran is a Senior Consultant who helps FTSE 500 companies develop Cloud-First Strategies, introduce Cloud Operating and Cloud Finance Models and leads international Program Management teams to deliver digital change. Imran writes about Business, Technology and Innovation.

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