What is a Project Audit?

Reviewing project paperwork
Reviewing project paperwork. OJO Images/Getty Images

Every project can benefit from an audit from time to time. But don’t worry, it’s not as scary as it sounds.

A project audit is where an impartial person reviews your project and provides guidance on what could be done differently to improve its chances of being successful. This article explains everything and takes you through how to prepare for a project audit.

How Formal is a Project Audit?

A project audit is normally a formal exercise.

The informal equivalent is normally called a peer review. This is where a colleague looks over your project and the associated documentations and gives you feedback on where you should be spending a bit more time.

Project audits are formal in that they usually have a defined set of questions and are carried out by someone who does that kind of thing regularly.

Who Carries Out Project Audits?

The person doing your project audit might be another project manager (probably someone with a great deal of experience in running projects) but it is more likely to be someone from the Project Office who runs audits frequently.

It is going to be someone who can consider themselves impartial so it won’t be your line manager or project sponsor. It could even be a team of people, depending on the size of the project.

How Do I Prepare For A Project Audit?

The first, and main, thing to get organized is to have copies of your project documentation for the auditor to review.

If you have a project coordinator, as them to pull together a pack of documents (preferably electronic). You should have all your information easily accessible but even if you do, this step can still take some time.

As a minimum, make sure that you have the project plan, risk log, issue log, budget, and schedule available for the auditor.

Who Needs To Be Involved?

This depends on the kind of things that the auditor wants to look at. You, as project manager, will have to spend some time with them. Expect your team members to also be called in to chat to the auditor.

Bear in mind that the longer they spend working on audit-related tasks, the less time they have for project work, so you may have to reschedule some activities and work more slowly during the audit period.

How Long Does a Project Audit Take?

There is no fixed time period for a project audit. On large projects you will find it takes a lot longer. On small projects the auditor could be done within a few hours. As soon as you know that your project is going to be audited, ask your audit team how long they anticipate their work taking.

What Does The Audit Look For?

If the audit was called because of a particular concern, such as failure to hit quality targets, then expect it to probe that area deeply. A routine audit will look broadly at the different areas of project management and the deliverables that the project is working on. It will cover the time, cost and quality of your project, and stakeholder engagement.

The objective of the audit is to find out whether the project is going to meet its objectives or not.

If the auditor feels that based on current performance the project will not hit those objectives, he or she will put forward recommendations for action.

What Will The Recommendations Be?

The recommendations in the auditor’s report will depend on what they have found. Expect them to be positive and phrased in a way that should allow you to adopt them easily. They should be practical.

At one extreme, the auditor may recommend that your project is closed, although this would only happen if they felt that there was no chance that any project work from this point forward would deliver any kind of value for the organization.

Look on your project audit as a positive experience. It should give you early warning of any signs that your project is in trouble and it’s an opportunity to work with an experienced project professional.

Implementing their recommendations should make you, your team and your project more successful, and that can only be a good thing.