So your project is being audited? Lucky you! There’s quite a lot to think about if this is happening to your project, whether the audit is a formal thing or whether you’ve been selected as the project that’s being scrutinised by the PMO this month as part of an informal ongoing review process.
But auditing isn’t that big of a deal if you know what to expect. Every audit process is going to be slightly different but here are some common things that you can prepare for.
Provide The Information
The first step is that you’ll have to provide a whole pile of information to the people doing the audit. Whether that’s your best mate from the PMO or a scary-looking external auditor, they’ll give you a list of the kind of things they want to see. This will include:
- Your plans and project initiation document
- Latest project reports and budget spreadsheet
- Risk, issue and change logs
- Process documents
- Test scenarios
- Access control information or policies
- Strategies that relate to your project such as your approach for data consolidation, cleansing or validation or coding quality approaches.
The auditor (or audit team) will then take some time to go through all of this. It’s likely to be around two weeks as there’s a lot to digest, and they’ll want to understand it so they might come back to you with follow up questions.
They’re preparing to dig deep into the material and establishing what else they might need to know.
Once the audit team has reviewed your paperwork, they’ll start digging more deeply into the project. At your first meeting (for which there should be an agenda so you can prepare adequately in advance), expect to be taken through a list of points. Consider this the orientation meeting.
It can help if you provide an overview of the project and the objectives as part of the scene setting so be prepared to do that on the spot if asked.
Use the time to really understand what is expected of you and what the process is going forward. For example, what are the reporting expectations during the audit period? If they are asking you for updates, how long will you have to put those together and send them over? In what format?
And if you are expected to make changes to the way you are doing things (which might not be at the request of the auditors but by your manager or the PMO perhaps) then how long will you have for doing that?
Try to establish what the outcome of the audit process will be – they should be able to tell you, and should be able to explain what input you will have to the format and content of the final report. There should be a process by which you can comment on a draft and put your points across before anything is published to senior management.
Find out what your management team or project sponsor intends to use the audit output for, so you can better prepare for any action that is coming your way at the end of the audit.
Following the first meeting you should expect lots of emails! The auditors may want to speak to people in your team or subject matter experts, so make the right people available. If you are submitting follow up or additional documentation you may need to upload this to a secure online repository (if they are external) or provide it over email. There are lots of documents whizzing around in a formal audit situation so try to keep track of what you’ve sent to whom and when.
You might find that after a flurry of activity it all goes quiet for a while. This is the time when the report is being written up. Try to find out when the draft will be coming to you for review so you can block out some time to look at it and add your comments. Be honest in your commentary back but be prepared to challenge anything that you don’t think is accurately representative of your project or the processes being used to manage it.
All that sounds quite daunting but taking part in a project audit shouldn’t be scary – it’s just time consuming and a drain on your team’s resources while you are also trying to get work done. Make sure that your stakeholders and project sponsor know what is going on so that they can give you a bit of grace when it comes to short deadlines and the like during the audit period.
Audits like this won’t take more than about 8 weeks start to end as a maximum, from finalising commercial terms and the engagement letter that kicks off the audit process with an external group to the submission of the final report. However, that time can drag when you are trying to hit project milestones and keep all the plates spinning as well!
Remember that audits are supposed to be highly useful, informative exercises, whether that’s a formal external review or an informal assessment by your PMO peers. The outputs are going to help you manage the project more effectively and get better results for the business, so don’t take the recommendations personally and work together with your team to put the advice into action. Not everyone is lucky enough to go through an audit and what you learn can be invaluable to helping you manage future projects more effectively.