Schools do it, football does it, why don’t educated businesses do it?

First of all, apologies to Cole Porter for a different take on his 1928 masterpiece, immortalised later by the wonderful Ella Fitzgerald. Secondly, what has this to do with project assurance? Well let me explain…

Let’s start with football first. As a lifelong supporter of Aston Villa I’ve probably seen more managerial changes than most other teams with players coming and going for some mind-boggling sums of money. And for what? Well, a couple of minor trophy wins in the 1990s after failing to build on a major European Cup win in the ‘80s. Before that a mere FA Cup win in 1957! As an organisation who are thought to be a ‘big club’ then it’s hard to convince myself that they can be described as a successful business. 

But what has this to do with project assurance, I hear you asking again?

premier league logoWell, for me I look at clubs, especially in the Premier League, as being some of the UK’s biggest businesses. And they have the chance, twice a year through the introduction of the ‘transfer window,’ to assess their strategy, learn from their mistakes, validate that their current approach is still viable and that they have all the right tools and resources in place to deliver a common goal (excuse the pun). 

In 2019 Premier League clubs spent over £1billion on transfers, proving this form of business assurance exercise clearly has the potential to deliver an enormous financial impact.

And so, what about schools? Well the link for me is obvious… set you targets, deliver the learning, continuously assess and review, adjust course or approach where necessary, assess and review again, undertake mocks, assess and review, final exam and then wait for the TV cameras to appear at your school to see you opening that brown envelope with the results (well that’s what it was like in my day; I’m sure it’s far more technical than that now).

So now think about how other businesses should approach reviewing their projects, their investments, future plans, their learning and then most importantly, putting these findings into action. Prince2 talks about project assurance as one of the key principles and tasks which should be a part of any successful project. Yet the stats suggest that businesses – big and small – are missing out on this golden opportunity to test the health of projects at the right time, i.e. DURING the project lifecycle and not when it’s all over and done with.businessess

On there are some nerve-wracking stats…

  • Nearly one third of all projects fail to meet their objectives
  • Businesses lose $109 million for every £1billion invested in projects and programmes ($109 million would buy a great forward line!)
  • Large projects (i.e. more than $10 million) only see a success rate of 10%

And then look at why this happens. I think most project managers would have at some time come across one of these reasons:

Changing priorities within the organisation

Inaccurate requirements

Change in project objectives

Undefined risks/opportunities

Poor communication

Undefined project goals

Inadequate sponsor support

Inadequate cost estimates

Inaccurate task time

Poor change management

Resource dependency

Inexperienced project manager

And so on and so on…

So what can businesses do to improve their chance of implementing a successful project, delivering the return on investment stakeholders expect, enhancing your reputation of being an efficient and effective organisation…. and boost your personal reputation as a business professional who delivers?

I’ve worked with many organisations who have waited until the end of a project or programme to see where lessons can be learned for their next challenge.

And that’s commendable because not all do this.

But only a couple have had the sense to do a project health check during the delivery stage and not because the project was failing, but that it made sense to work with independent assessors to give the project board the confidence that things were working well, they were in control and to make adjustments where and when necessary.

And independent assessment was essential – going back to the school theme, how reliable is it in marking your own homework?

So whether you’re a Premiership club embarking on delivering a new business initiative (maybe not who your next star centre forward should be), a school or in fact any type of business investing in a new programme or project, then it has to be good sense to build into your plans a point where you carry out an independent project assurance health check and that you have the right people in place to do it.

network, control, projectThis will help you ensure that you are fully in control of business finances and that the return on investment is sound, that the focus is on delivering what you expected to be delivered and that your stakeholders have the utmost confidence that they can rely on you to deliver when asked.


If you would like more information on how we can provide businesses with cost-effective, professional and reliable project assurance support that could generate such benefits as these, then please contact us at or use the Contact form on the site and we will get back in touch to discuss options.

Finally, as this is my first blog on if you get the time to share it by posting it on Twitter, LinkedIn or by emailing it to a friend or colleague then I would be very grateful. Or just leave a review – and mark my homework!

Thank you

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