Project Management Fantasies: What If There Was No Internal Audit Department?

What would you do if there was no Audit Department? What wouldn’t you do? (for this discussion, Audit are the folks who oversee your development/project process…SDLC Auditors – not financial auditors).

You have to be legal and moral here – those are the parameters…but what – if anything – would change in your project management approach if there truly was no internal/external process governance to whom you must answer? This is crazy talk in financial services, I know…but take a second…isn’t this a way to examine what activities and deliverables add value to your projects?

Now, we’ve all either been given – or have used – the “it’s for Audit” excuse:

“Why do we need to sign-off? It’s for Audit…

“Why do we need to fill this out?” It’s for Audit…

“Can’t we skip this step?” No – it’s for Audit…

But what if there was no “Audit”…

Would you explain to your stakeholders that formal agreement on requirements or test plans is actually IMPORTANT to the project – that a shared understanding has nothing to do with a signature or email? Or would you go on without a signature…?

Would you take the time to complete that entire project charter template? Document – in excruciating detail – every process step that potential users must complete – even though 99% of them are pure common sense? Would you “Stress test” a technical architecture with transaction volumes equal to the entire human race buying one share of IBM at the same time on the same day for a different price?

Extreme, I know…I also do know that our friends in audit play an important role in ensuring that we do follow the rules, and that our customers and companies are protected.

I’m merely trying to make a point – that often we spend a great deal of time working on activities that add little to no real value to our projects…this is kind of what Agile talks about, but I think it’s worth a look even in our traditional “waterfall” kinds of projects. Financial services is famous for a culture of working with one eye over our shoulders – always assuming that our work must be reviewed, approved, and signed-off. All of that inspection takes time and costs money. I think that if we work a little harder to apply a risk/reward equation to more of the daily work we do on our projects, we may just improve the efficiency of our project execution while at the same time diminishing the overall culture of professional fear that can persist in our compliance-driven industry.

So – for at least a fleeting few seconds – act as if there’s no Audit Department…you’ll be glad you did…

Just make sure it’s properly documented, of course…


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