Topic 12.6: Forensic project review

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By its very nature, a forensic project review will also be much more comprehensive than a simple or even detailed reflection.

As you are now required to consult all relevant stakeholders, the time required for a forensic review depends very much on the complexity of the project, the scope of the forensic review and the availability of data – it may range from weeks to months.

Careful consideration should also be given to selection of projects for review to ensure that the costs of conducting a forensic review will not outweigh its benefits.

Selection criteria might include:

It is often worthwhile to review projects that involve high costs or use significant organisational resources.

Projects that will have a high impact on the organisation, its clients and/or the community may also merit forensic analysis.

A one-off project is less likely to be replicated in future. 

For that reason, a review of a project that is wholly outsourced (or otherwise not within the scope of ordinary operations) may have a lower reference value.

Although it is equally important to identify best practices/lessons from successful and unsuccessful projects, the lessons learned from unsuccessful projects may be of greater overall value to the organisation.

You could also pre-determine which projects should be subject to a detailed review, depending on their level of risk to the organisation.

This was initially prepared as part of the business case for the project

Note, too, it may not be necessary to conduct a full-scale forensic review for all the projects selected.

For instance, a simple minute or paper outlining the assessment results and recommendations may suffice for many small-scale or low-risk projects.

The other consideration is whether the review should be conducted by someone within the performing organisation or an independent third party.

Using, for example, a different project manager in the organisation to conduct the forensic review has the advantage that it can be conducted more efficiently, as they will be at least familiar with the organisational context and expectations.

It is also far more likely that lessons identified will be absorbed into the organisation and acted on.

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Yet for some projects, especially failed ones, an independent process is more likely to result in a frank and fearless examination of the issues, and an objective critique of shortcomings.

Obviously this depends on the expertise of the independent reviewers and may come at a greater direct cost. However, in some circumstances this a worthwhile investment.

Depending on the timing of the review, it may or not be possible to assess whether or not the project achieved its intended outcomes.

Important questions in this regard include, did the project solve the problem or realise the opportunity? Were there any unplanned outcomes?

Especially for those projects with a long tail to outcomes realisation, the responsibility for this review generally lies with the client or final owner of the output.