For those who are involved in managing projects, and particularly capital projects, making assumptions when it is something that will always happen. It is critical to document any assumption made that could have an impact on the project. Therefore, there should be a formal process to provide the mechanism for recording and controlling these assumptions and their resolution. Some of the assumptions made may require decisions to be made that are outside the scope of the project.
An assumption can be defined as a statement of belief concerning the outcome of a future event, i.e., they arise from an element of uncertainty. Assumptions are factors that, initially for project planning purposes, are assumed to be true, real, or certain. Assumptions should be based as much on fact as is reasonably possible at the time that the assumption is made.
Using a Project Management Information System (PMIS) like PMWeb, organizations can implement a formal assumption management process. Similar to all other project management processes, there will be a need for a form to capture the details of all assumptions to be managed, monitored, evaluated, and reported on. The form will be attached with all supportive documents as well as linked to other relevant project management processes records such as benefits, dependencies, risks, and issues. In addition, a workflow will be assigned for the Project Assumption Form to capture the details associated with raising, reviewing, and closing the assumption. The data captured in the project assumption management process will then become available for having a real-time log to monitor, evaluate and report on the raised and closed project assumptions.
It should be noted that the content of this article including the proposed assumption form was based on a document titled “Assumption Management Process” which had no details of the entity who have generated this document. The content of this referenced document applies to all types of projects including capital projects.
Using PMWeb Form Builder module, the Project Assumption Form will be created to manage the process. The form will include the assigned assumption number, assumption title, the category that the assumption is associated with, and the company the assumption is associated with. The assumption form will also include a table that will list the reference numbers of any linked project benefits, risks, dependencies, or issues. The form should also include a detailed description of the assumption and how it was derived along with the date the assumption was raised, raised by who, name of the person who owns the assumption, and name of the person who is responsible for managing the assumption progress, i.e. ensuring it is endorsed or refuted.
The assumption form will also include the activity that will be impacted by the reported assumption including the start date of the activity for which the assumption will be resolved or otherwise it will impact the project objectives. The list of activities to be selected from will be picked from the Primavera P6, MS Project, or PMWeb schedule linked to the project.
The form will also include the field of assumption sensitivity and assumption stability which are critical for determining how assumptions will be prioritized. The assumption sensitivity is a measure of how important the assumption being true is to the success of the project i.e., what is the impact of the assumption proving to be true. The sensitivity categories will include “3” for “High – Crucial or vital”; “2” for “Medium – Important”; and “1” for “Low – Desirable”. On the other hand, assumption stability is a measure of the likelihood that the assumption will prove false or change during the project. The stability categories include “3” for “High – It is highly likely the assumption will change or be proved false”; “2” for “Medium – There is a possibility the assumption will alter”; and “3” for “Low – It is unlikely the assumption will alter”.
The value for those two fields will become the basis for calculating the assumption priority field value which will range from “1” to “9”, where assumptions who have a value less than or equal to “3” will be of low priority, the value of “4” medium priority and value of equal to or higher than “6” of high priority.
The form will also include the field for review frequency to indicate the frequency with which the assumption should be reviewed. e.g., daily, weekly, or monthly, and the date on which the assumption is to be reviewed. The form will include a note field to provide information relating to the assumption, related actions, and progress as well as an outcome field to describe how the uncertainty has been resolved, reasons behind endorsement or refutation.
The form status field indicates the status of the assumption. Status values may include:
- Registered – assumption has been registered but not yet reviewed;
- Endorsed – assumption has been agreed and actions to track and manage are in progress;
- Refuted – it has been agreed that the assumption is false; or
- Closed – the uncertainty from which the assumption arose has been resolved, the impact date of the assumption has now passed and actions taken were adequate.
The field for the date last status changed to provide the date on which the status of the assumption was changed while the resolved date field provides the date on which the assumption was resolved.
The Project Assumption form attachment tab will be used to attach all supportive documents which will be usually uploaded and stored in the PMWeb document management repository under their designated folder. In addition, links to relevant PMWeb records and imported MS Outlook emails will be added. Those PMWeb records could be related to project benefits, dependencies, risks, and issues.
A workflow will be assigned to the Project Assumption form to ensure that responsibility for raising, assessing, and closing assumptions is formally implemented. The workflow will identify all needed steps, the duration for each step, responsibility for each step, actions that can be taken for each step, and the sequence for performing those steps. PMWeb also allows adding conditions to the workflow steps to incorporate the approval authority levels.
About the Author
Bassam Samman, PMP, PSP, EVP, GPM is a Senior Project Management Consultant with more than 35-year service record providing project management and controls services to over 100 projects with a total value over the US $5 Billion. Those projects included Commercial, Residential, Education, and Healthcare Buildings and Infrastructure, Entertainment and Shopping Malls, Oil and Gas Plants and Refineries, Telecommunication, and Information Technology projects. He is thoroughly experienced in complete project management including project management control systems, computerized project control software, claims analysis/prevention, risk analysis/management (contingency planning), design, supervision, training, and business development.
Bassam is a frequent speaker on topics relating to Project Management, Strategic Project Management, and Project Management Personal Skills. Over the past 35 years, he has lectured at more than 350 events and courses at different locations in the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, and South America. He has written more than 250 articles on project management and project management information systems that were featured in international and regional magazines and newspapers. He is a co-founder of the Project Management Institute- Arabian Gulf Chapter (PMI-AGC) and has served on its board of directors for more than 6 years. He is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) from the Project Management Institute (PMI), a certified Planning and Scheduling Professional (PSP), and Earned Value Professional (EVP) from the American Association of Cost Engineers (AACE) and Green Project Management (GPM).
Bassam holds a Masters in Engineering Administration (Construction Management) with Faculty Commendation, George Washington University, Washington, D.C., USA, Bachelor in Civil Engineering – Kuwait University, Kuwait and has attended many executive management programs at Harvard Business School, Boston, USA, and London Business School, London, UK.