Program assurance can be defined as a methodical approach to measure the probability of success of a programme or project and proposing improvements that will ensure success.


The role of assurance is to provide information to those that sponsor, govern and manage a project to help them make better informed decisions which reduce the causes of project failure, promote the conditions for success and deliver improved outcomes. – National Audit Office (NOA), June 2010

Programme Assurance Guiding Principles:

  • Evaluates Time, Cost, Quality, Scope Risk and Benefit  – able to test that the defined control limits for each project within the programme, are appropriate and highlight whether they have exceeded or are in danger of exceeding Time, Cost, Quality, Scope Risk and Benefit  variances against level identified as part of the business justification.
  • Capable of testing defined control limits – tests if control limits for each project are appropriate.
  • Clear evaluation criteria – establishes clear a criteria for identifying and measuring elements in a project which are uncertain and turning them into understood areas of risk which have a value placed on them.
  • Outcome focused – is outcome focused, not activity focussed; it should assure the benefits of construction programme, not the projects themselves.
  • Inform Investment Decisions – inform portfolio investment decisions using forecast expenditure and deliverability
  • Test programme viability – informs the assessment of programme status at defined control points and help test if the programme remains viable, if variance against the business justification is manageable.
  • Enable manage by exception – acting as a trigger for interventions if projects exceed agreed control limits.
  • Inform Decision making – informs decisions based on an understanding of forecast expenditure and deliverability.
  • Learns from previous lessons – acts as a primary method for transferring learning between projects and developing an understanding of any systemic issues affecting the delivery of the programme.

Assurance Lifecycle Stages:

  • Plan: from consideration of the assurance needs of the portfolio to the point at which a review team is commissioned to perform a review
  • Preform: from the point at which the assurance team is commissioned to perform a review to the production of a report
  • Report: from the point at which an assurance report is produced to the communication of analysed findings to different stakeholders
  • Control: from the point at which analysed findings are received to the escalation of issues for decision making or remedial action

Benefits of Independent Programme Assurance:

  • Increase in the impact of assurance (time, cost and quality)
  • Increase in project action following assurance
  • Increase in quality and reliability of reports received.
  • Revelation of ‘hidden’ risks and advice on risk mitigation approaches.
  • Anticipation of issues based on similar situations that we have seen on other projects/programmes.
  • An insightful challenge to the effectiveness of certain assumptions, decisions and approaches taken in key moments of the project/programme.
  • Increase in the perception of reviewer quality
  • Evidence that project staff are using and learning from the lessons of past projects; i.e. a reduction in the number of repeated lessons learned
  • Enlargement in stakeholder perception of the value of assurance
  • Improvement in stakeholder perception on the degree of system integration