Don’t confuse project governance with project management

By Terry Rowlings.

Using the word ‘governance’ has become very fashionable.

Unfortunately, it’s also very often misused to describe processes and activities that are actually management, not governance.

While we all have responsibilities which contribute in some manner to good governance, IT governance is defined by the IT Governance Foundation as:

… the responsibility of the board and executive management.

In very basic terms, governance is what governors do, and management is what managers do.

In projects, we need to be careful of not confusing project management and project governance.

Based on material from Dr Raymond Young:

Project governance occurs mainly outside the traditional boundaries of a project. In general terms, it involves the board of an organisation (or their delegates) and the project sponsor (an executive manager) charged with leading the organisation to above-average performance while taking into account risk.

Project governance is about increasing the success rate of projects. It provides a way for directors and senior management to exercise effective oversight and ensure their strategies are implemented and their benefits realised. Project governance sits above and outside of the project management domain.

Project management, on the other hand, is defined in PMBOK Guide as:

… the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to project activities to meet project requirements. In other words, it involves planning, organizing, monitoring and controlling the project activities in order to accomplish the project requirements.

So the difference between project governance and project management is considerable in focus and intent.

It’s important we use these terms in the correct context and for the right reasons.


Terry Rowlings is a senior business consultant with Frame, and has been actively involved in the development of IT governance thinking.

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