The Difference Between Regulations and Standards

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A blog that looks at all aspects of project and program finances from budgets, estimating and accounting to getting a pay rise and managing contracts. Written by Elizabeth Harrin from GirlsGuideToPM.com.

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Categories: budget, quality, scheduling


When you’re planning how to deliver quality results, and what needs to go into your project schedule, it’s worth looking at what regulations and standards you need to adhere to.

In this article we’ll look at the difference between regulations and standards and what that means to you managing a project.

What is a regulation?

A regulation is a requirement for your project. You have to follow regulations.

Regulations include applicable laws.

For example, there are a range of regulations that can influence the way you approach your project and what you can and cannot do. Here are some areas affected by regulation:

  • Breaks for workers and time away from their job e.g. for lorry drivers
  • Overtime hours
  • Maternity, paternity, family, sickness and medical leave
  • Health and safety
  • Data protection
  • Reporting e.g. for accidents or spillage of controlled substances.

Laws vary between countries, so check what is applicable to where you are based. Also note that in multinational projects, the laws and regulations might differ for people on your teams in different locations.

What is a standard?

A standard is a guideline. Your project should follow guidelines because they are there for a reason, but if you can justify why you need to approach something in a different way, then you don’t have to follow the standard.

For example, it might be the standard that no one in your office works on a bank (public) holiday. Let’s say it is normal for the office to close over the end of year period when many colleagues are celebrating Christmas. However, your project is to upgrade the telephony switches. Knowing that the call volumes will be low and no one will be around to answer calls anyway, you might decide that the Christmas period is the perfect time to do that project work. It’s not standard, but it’s the most appropriate solution for your project and least disruptive for the business.

Not all standards or regulations are going to affect every project. It’s important to have a view as to what is important for this project. It is something I would consider and resolve as part of project initiation, so that I can go into project planning with all the information needed.

How do standards and regulations affect projects?

Standards and regulations affect projects in a number of ways.

1. By affecting project scheduling

Any time legal compliance is required, you can bet you need to add extra time to the schedule to have the legal team check out what you are doing and ensure the project is ticking all the boxes. Build in enough time for regulation-related checks and work.

Equally, with resource-related regulations, you may have to constrain working time which will have an implication for the schedule. For example, you may not be able to use overtime hours, or you might have to factor in travel time to your schedule if your resources aren’t permitted to go over a certain amount of travel before taking a break.

Some of these constraints could be legislation affecting workers, others might be the way your company operates (or as PMI would define them, enterprise environmental factors). An example would be dictating that the standard working week is 40 hours. You would take that data and ensure your schedule reflects a 40-hour standard working week.

2. By affecting project quality

If you have to follow regulations or stick to standards, this could have an implication for project quality. You might have to do additional quality checks, or use particular materials. An example would be building control. In the UK, you need building control to sign off on construction work. You can’t simply carry on building or assume everything will be OK without having someone come round and inspect the site. That’s an external quality check you have to consider and plan for.

3. By affecting project budgets

If your project needs a building control check, you have to pay for that. The building controller will charge you for his or her time. That cost needs to go into your project budget forecast. Depending on what regulations and standards you have to abide by, your project costs will need to accommodate the related charges.

Once you understand the standards and regulations that affect your project, and how they are likely to affect the project, you are able to plan for them. Some might need mitigating factors and adding to the risk register. Others will be easy to manage, perhaps by adding a little extra time or an additional task to the schedule.

Do a bit of research at the start of your project and then incorporate what you need to so that your project, and your organisation, stay compliant with the relevant regulations and standards.

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Posted on: April 10, 2019 09:00 AM | Permalink

Comments (10)

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Nice post Elizabeth.

I've not considered things like company closing hours as standards, more as norms or traditions (but maybe that's splitting hairs). Either way they are constraints on the project and too often overlooked.

Great info Elizabeth - Very well detailed !

A regulation is a compliance requirement.
A standard is a guideline with a proven degree of effectiveness.

Thanks Elizabeth!

Interesting post. Thanks for sharing it.

Great article as usual. Thank you so much Elizabeth for sharing.

Thanks for the article.. great read..

Great explanation with right examples.
Thank you Elizabeth!!

Explanation well panned out with relative illustrations. Thank you for sharing.

Very informative and nicely explained

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