An OGC Gateway Review team relies for its evidence base on two sources:  documentation provided by the programme or project, and the discussions during the interview process.  How to get the most out of the interviews will be the subject of another blog, and so for now let’s focus on the pre-review reading material.

At the planning meeting, when the review team meet the programme manager and SRO, there will be a discussion about the documentation required ahead of the review, and also when it needs to be provided by.  The target is for the reviewers to have a week to look at it all, but I usually say I’m happy for some documents to come in a little later – just not all of them two days before the review.

The very simple starter for ten are the programme or project controls.  So the initiation documents, business case, risk register, plans, minutes of programme boards and an organisation chart.  You may also want to understand how the project controls configuration and quality.  The Gateway report headings provide a clue as to what is required for each gate, with the emphasis changing as the programme and project progresses, but always with an eye on the ongoing viability of the business case and the management, and level, of risk.

More difficult is to decide how much of the technical documents to ask for and then read.  For most programmes and projects the review team will have only a day set aside for this.  So there is a limit.  I’ve reviewed a few construction projects, where the project managers have reams of templates provided by their firms to complete.  The result is masses of paper that no-one appears to read, and distilling them down to answer the questions required of a Gateway Review can take time.  Too much time.  But herein lies an obvious credibility problem for a review team.  Ask for a document, and don’t read it, then during the review ask a question that shows you haven’t – and your credibility may be shot.  So it is better to be careful at the planning meeting about setting those expectations.

If the review team leader makes it clear that what is needed are the documents that set out the decision basis for the programme or project, then you can generate a good discussion with the programme or project manager about what they can provide.  So if you are conducting a Gate 1 and therefore focussing on the business case (and in reality answering the question, “should this project exist?”) then you will need to see not just the business case, but evidence of the thought process and investigation behind it.

It is that last point that sorts the wheat from the chaff.  Experienced programme and project managers will be less caught up in process and templates, and will be able to demonstrate the thinking that has gone behind the production of the documents.  If they can’t, then inevitably the review team has something to explore at the review.

The issue of confidentiality is sometimes raised, especially once bidders are engaged as part of a procurement.  The starting point is that the bids should be shared as the review team have a duty of commercial confidentiality and must destroy all documentation relating to the review once the report is complete.  I take the view that so long as the capability and capacity of the bidder has been assessed as part of the procurement then redacted documents are acceptable if the programme is otherwise nervous.

Programmes and projects, as we know, are diverse.  But as a starting point they should all be able to produce a standard set of control documents for a review team.  But the subject and review specific reading list is best drawn up as part of the dialogue at the planning meeting, remembering that it needs to focus on the “who, what, why, when and how” which are vital to ensure the  programme or project will realise the targeted benefits.

Don’t read anything else.  You don’t have the time.

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