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Project Review – Think of it as an ‘Annual Physical’

In this post we look at the value that an external Project Review brings to a project.

A project review is typically undertaken for two reasons:

  • A project is challenged in some way and a review is needed to identify the problems and recommend solutions to resolve the problems.
  • A project is not challenged in any meaningful way but there could be areas that may need a little ‘tightening.’ A Project Review is a sound way of confirming that a project is running as well as it can. Think of it as an annual physical — you don’t feel unwell, but it is comforting to hear that all is well from a fresh set of eyes.

What is a Project Review?

It is an apolitical review of a project conducted by people who have not previously been involved in the project. A review usually will have four distinct steps:

Step 1:  Read-in –where the reviewers will review every document created during the project, e.g.,  The Project Plan, Change Control Documents, Communication Plan documents, Design Documents, Risk Management documents, Quality Control documents , etc..

While the existence of the documents is an important measure of maturity of approach to the project, evidence that the documents are being used, and that they are updated to reflect the inevitable changes that wash over projects as time passes. are of greater importance.

Usage, and the related updating of documents, shows that the project is formally recognizing that change has and is occurring. All to often, critical project documents get created, filed and never looked at again. If the documents do not get updated it is indicative of a project that is being managed by the seat of its pants.

Step 2: Interview– the reviewer(s) interview almost everyone on the project. On very large projects this can be impractical, but the critical point is to interview a representative of every group of people on the project. Just interviewing the senior people will tell you how they hope the project is being run; interviewing the less senior people on the project (as well as the senior ones) will tell you how the project is actually being run.

Step 3: Report and Presentations – the review team will create a comprehensive report, not only on their findings but also comparing the project to industry standards (e.g., PMI’s Project Management Body of Knowledge – PMBOK). The report explains what is happening within the inner workings of the project and gives the audience an indication of whether it is following best practices. The team will then create presentations based on the intended audience. The presentations will point out areas of the project that are running well and areas of the project that could benefit from change.

Step 4: Implementation – the deliverable from the review are recommendations that can improve the management of the project.

For example, most project managers know that they need a certain level of documentation to correctly run a project. Rarely do project managers stop updating such documents because they can’t be bothered.  The challenge is usually found in two areas: lack of time and a forest / trees problem.

There are many techniques that project managers can use to both recover sufficient time to start to apply better controls to a project and to step back from the trees to look at the forest. Part of the review is the suggestion of and support for implementing such changes.


A Project Review is a simple, low cost method of obtaining a non-biased review of your project(s) that will confirm that the project is running well and / or point out areas that perhaps could stand a little change.


Peter Symons ([email protected]) is vice-president Insurance Services at Mariner Innovations. an innovative IT services company, as well as Canada’s leading supplier of Application Modernization Services.

Headquartered in Saint John, NB, with regional offices in Regina, Toronto, Fredericton, and Halifax, Mariner Innovations provides professional IT consulting services to Insurance, Telecom, Healthcare and Government organizations. 



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