Technology Assurance Framework – what we learned from Major Digital Project Reviews in 2022/23
Guest blog by Laura Johnstone, Continuous Improvement team, Digital Assurance Office.
In 2022/23 45 Major Digital Project Reviews were completed under the Technology Assurance Framework (TAF). The TAF was introduced to support programmes and projects to deliver successful outcomes. The Framework is intended to improve delivery and ensure that the lessons learned from previous experience are reflected and embedded in future practice. The Framework applies to new digital public services and new investments in technology for in scope organisations. Its main components are major digital project reviews and Digital Scotland Service Standard assessments.
For more information on applying the technology assurance framework within your project, please contact: DigitalAssurance@gov.scot.
The Digital Assurance Office, who administer the TAF, want to share the lessons learned from our assurance reviews. This blog shares our insights on the areas that presented the most challenge for major digital projects in 2022/23.
Major Digital Project Reviews
Major Digital Project Reviews are carried out by independent reviewers at key stages in the project life cycle. There were just under 400 recommendations from all review reports in 2022/23. Four themes stood out as presenting the most challenge for project teams. These are described below alongside recommendations made as part of the review for improvement.
Strong governance and project control
- clearly define and ensure remits for governance boards are widely understood and regularly reviewed to ensure they remain fit for purpose as projects progress through their life cycle
- put in place effective reporting mechanisms which provide the right information at the right time to decision makers
- have an effective project structure with appropriate control mechanisms in place e.g. project plan, critical path, deliverables, dependencies, milestones
- ensure appropriate project and programme management documentation to support control e.g. change management procedures, active planning, monitoring and reporting, dependency map.
Identification and implementation of resource requirements and/or capability
- actively plan so there is a clear understanding of when resource is needed. This will inform timing of any procurement (e.g. of specialist skills) and will help subject matter experts to know in good time when their input is needed
- communicate the risks of not securing the required resource to the leadership team
- actively prioritise people and enable effective training and transition
- draw on available help and knowledge from other teams/organisations.
- proactively build assurance into the project plan and make sure you actively use and regularly review an Integrated Assurance and Approvals Plan
- make sure recommendations from assurance reviews are recognised, understood and actioned
- work with the Digital Assurance Office to make sure assurance reviews are well timed
- align assurance reporting requirements with wider governance to avoid duplication.
Invitation to tender (ITT) and evaluation criteria correct
- ensure the Statement of Requirements is correct and meets the requirements of the project
readiness for issue of the ITT should be plan based and not date driven
- the plan should include time to quality assure procurement documentation. For larger or less routine procurements, it is good practice to get a specialist review of ITT documentation e.g. a peer review by a procurement expert or from another project
- make sure the ITT is detailed enough for a realistic and value for money estimate of costs
- have appropriate evaluation criteria, with weightings reflecting the requirements of the project
- have clear and transparent instructions for tenderers and evaluation guidance to ensure the fair treatment of bids
The Digital Assurance Office are working with organisations who have had assurance through the TAF to share insights which might help others deliver digital projects.
If you want to get involved – or have thoughts on what insights would be helpful to share – contact us at: DigitalAssurance@gov.scot.
For further information and signposting to advice and support on programme and project management contact the Programme and Project Management Centre for Expertise.
The Scottish Government programme and project management principles are available and apply to any project of any size.
For advice on designing and delivering high quality digital services visit Scottish Government Digital Support Hub (DSH).