TenStep Systems (TSS) Certification Process

The TSS follows a simple, yet rigorous process. 

Step 1. Defining the TenStep “System Model”

Some organizations implement the TenStep process directly as it is published. However, most companies need to customize the process somewhat to meet their specific needs. This is not a problem and is encouraged to make the TenStep process more meaningful to each organization. On the other hand, if the customized project management process varies dramatically from the base TenStep model, it would not be possible to certify the new process as “TenStep compliant”. Therefore, the first part of the assessment is to understand how the organization has implemented the TenStep process and to validate that it does not stray dramatically from the base TenStep processes. This includes the following:

  • Determining what parts of the implemented project management process substantially follow the base TenStep model.
  • Evaluating new content to ensure that nothing contradicts the base TenStep model.
  • Ensuring that none of the mandatory base processes have been removed.
  • Verifying that changes to the TenStep base model and the subsequent TenStep System Model are justified, documented and approved.

The resulting actual model that is implemented by an organization is called the “TenStep System Model.”

During this step of the certification process, the assessor is focused on understanding the documented process, templates, roles, procedures, etc. This is a paper-based assessment. No projects are assessed at this time.

The assessor must approve the TenStep Systems Model before proceeding to the next step. If the TenStep System Model is not approved, it would signify that the implementations of the base TenStep processes varies so much that a TSS certification would not be viable.  

Step 2. Defining the Scope of the TenStep System Model

It is likely that in a large company, not every organization and project is utilizing the TenStep System Model. The assessor must understand the scope of the assessment to ensure that elements that are out of scope are not evaluated during the assessment process. This includes:

  • The organizations (locations, daughter companies, etc.) that are subject to TenStep System Model.
  • The company regulations, processes, policies and standards that are a part of the TenStep System Model.
  • If appropriate, the specific projects, programs and portfolios that are a part of the TenStep System Model.

At the same time, the assessor will ensure that the organization elements for the assessment are significant and holistic.  

Step 3. Determine Assessment Sample

The organization may be large and diverse. The assessor must determine the total population of projects in the organization and how many will be sampled as a part of the assessment. Not all projects need to be assessed but enough projects should be assessed so that there is confidence that the projects assessed are representative of the entire organization.  

Step 4. Assessing the Organization

Now that the assessor understands (and approves) the TenStep System Model and also understands the scope of the assessment, the actual assessment process can begin. This assessment is a process of asking questions and validating the answers. Asking the questions will be accomplished through assessor interviews as well as questionnaires. The validation will come from inspection of the evidence. For example, if a project manager states that his project has been properly defined, we will ask to see an approved Project Charter, which is the evidence that the project was defined according to the TenStep model.

We will ask questions about, and seek evidence to support, the following areas.

  • Procedures. Make sure that the projects are following the processes and procedures established in the TenStep System Model.
  • Roles. Validate the people that are filling the major roles of the project and whether they are, in fact, performing the responsibilities of that role.
  • Competencies and skills.  Validate whether the people that are assigned roles in the project have competencies to fulfil the responsibilities.  
  • Forms and templates. Validate that they are utilized, completed, approved, etc.  
  • Documentation.  Is project documentation captured so that it can be accessed and reused in the future – both on the original project and other future projects.
  • Events.  Events are reasons or circumstances that would trigger the execution of a standard project management process. This includes issues, scope change requests, budget updates, reporting cycles, etc. For example, a well defined scope change process is nice, but it is meaningless if a change in scope does not trigger the scope change process to actually be executed. We will looks for some of these events to validate the processes are actually executed as documented.

The standard for compliance will not be that 100% of projects must be 100% in compliance. Instead, the standard for passing the certification will be “most projects most of the time”.  This means that there is a consistent use of the TenStep Systems Model on a consistent basis. Exceptions will be noted but individual exceptions do not automatically mean that the organization has not passed the assessment.

Step 5. Validating the Governance Model

The last step in the assessment is to validate how the TenStep System Model is implemented ion the organization. If the Model is implemented based on the direction of a senior manager, for instance, the Model may degrade if the manager is replaced.  To be effective over the long term, the TenStep System Model should be implemented as a part of organization policies and standards.

The assessor will evaluate whether the TenStep System Model is integrated into the overall organization policies and standards. The assessor must be convinced that the TenStep System Model will be adhered to over time and that proper governance is in place to make sure that the Model is enforced and sustained. This will ensure that the Model is not implemented successfully during the assessment window and then ignored soon afterward.     

Step 6. Submitting Assessment Results to Customer

After the assessment is completed, as assessment report will be delivered to the customer. The report will detail the results of the assessment, including any areas where the organization is doing well and any areas that mist be improved in the future. This report will be the basis for process improvement initiatives in the future.

Step 7. Submitting Assessment Results to TenStep Academy

After the assessment is completed, the results are reported to TenStep Academy using standardized templates. The assessor will also make a recommendation as to whether the organization has shown sufficient results to warrant certification.  A representative from TenStep Academy will review the results of the assessment and make the final determination as to whether certification is warranted.