The Project Approval Committee

A project approval committee can be an effective way to enable business decision-making and ensure projects are successful.

Committees may be known as a project review or steering committee; however, consider the following (proposed) objectives as follows:

  • Approve new projects (and project resources)
  • Approve project phase (phase gate) completion
  • Approve project go-forward plans (including resources)
  • Cancel projects that no longer make business sense
  • Prevent rogue/unapproved projects from consuming resources
  • Direct / redirect projects to complete key tasks or deliverables before moving forward
  • Enforce project management planning and execution

With this approach, “approval” is more clearly the objective of the committee.

The project approval committee (PAC) would comprise of a team of senior management with the responsibility and authority to approve, prioritize new projects, and allocate resources accordingly.  Ideally, each PAC member votes his or her go/no-go or redirect decision.

Note from my previous article, the proposed product life cycle phase and gate structure lends itself to a gate (PAC) approval process.

Also note that the gate review (go/no-go/redirect) decision is not a technical decision; it is a business decision to proceed with the investment in the project.

While the scope of this article provides a (proposed) overview of a PAC role and responsibility, there are several additional considerations including:

  • PAC membership and voting criteria
  • Individual roles and responsibilities (PAC chairperson, PAC members, PAC facilitator, project manager, core team leader, functional managers, team members, etc)
  • Gate exit criteria
  • PAC presentation content (presentation by the team leader to the PAC)
  • Method (for the PAC) to manage and allocate resources
  • Business / financial decision metrics & analytical methods

While you may not have (or need) a project management organization (PMO), an experienced PAC process owner and facilitator can establish process clarity and build infrastructure for enhancing PAC effectiveness and improved business decision-making,   This is a key role and responsibility which can ensure effectiveness of the leadership team and, accordingly, should have support (for the process) from the highest levels of the organization.

Most organizations welcome clarity in project governance processes, especially with multiple projects and competing resources.  A project approval committee can be a significant step in the right direction.