Many large projects frequently experience overshot timelines, cost overruns, and increasing workloads. This could be due to insufficient information during estimations, judgment bias, scope creep and many other factors.
The reason this happens is not due to lack of effort or intention. This happens because of lack of project control and management. It is important to note that project control plays a significant role in ensuring that the project stays on schedule, and within budget while ensuring quality of the delivered product.
A project manager is responsible for managing as well as controlling a project. That means as a project manager it is important to ensure that the project is being scheduled correctly, and the budget and quality of the project is maintained.
A project manager must have relevant knowledge and expertise in managing different domains of a project. This can either be acquired through formal education or on the job.
Formal education can be attained by acquiring certifications or by enrolling in project management programs. A Project Management certificate course can help you better comprehend and prepare for the exam by giving you in-depth knowledge of project management methodologies and procedures as well as hands-on experience.
What is Project Controlling in Project Management?
Project controlling is the process of gathering data on the progress of the project schedule and the cost incurred, and ensuring that it is on track.
The project controlling process includes evaluating the project progress, forecasting the future based on current measurements and then implementing measures to improve performance.
Since the project environment is dynamic and unpredictable, controlling projects is fairly challenging as things don’t always go the way planned.
Why are Project Controls Important?
Project control process is directly correlated to stakeholder’s expectations and project progress. Usually projects fail as a result of collection of small issues that cause significant impact to the schedule, cost, quality and risk in the entirety of the project.
These small issues are identified and dealt with under the project control process such that the project does not go off track.
Project managers understand that whether it’s a construction project or a website launch for a small business, additional costs, unexpected delays or unpredictable circumstances can arise at any point. However the lack of project controls to anticipate and resolve these issues can result in the project being off track eventually.
Features of Project Controlling
- Applied at Every Level: Controlling is a top down process wherein the top management lays out the strategic plans and budget constraints of a project, and this is applied at the project operational level.
- Ongoing Process: The controlling process has to be applied throughout the project duration and is a continuous process to monitor progress and control deviations. This helps the organization adopt a proactive approach rather than a reactive one.
- Regular Feedback: By regularly measuring the project progress against estimations, the project receives regular feedback on the progress or deviations.
- Flexible: The project controlling process can be adapted to the needs of a project and can be updated according to the phase of a project.
Benefits of Project Controls
- Optimized Resource Consumption: This process helps to ensure that the available resources are used effectively and efficiently by tracking the processes regularly and ensuring the project is completed according to the plan.
- Facilitates Decision Making: Regular tracking of the processes and deliverables helps an organization in making timely decisions that can get the project on track timely in case of any deviations.
- Accountability: Project controlling helps in establishing clear accountability and responsibility lines.
- Better Coordination: Since the processes are evaluated regularly and impact of each activity is measured against the desired outcome, this fosters more transparency and better coordination between the teams to resolve problems early.
- Regular Reporting: The process involves regularly measuring the performance of current processes and comparing them to the planned results. Thus, the status of the project is regularly reported.
- Avoiding Gold Plating and Scope Creep: Adding extra features to the product (Gold plating) or expanding the scope of the project without requesting for a formal change request ( scope creep) are avoided by project controlling as each change is measured against the originally approved plan.
Steps Involved in Project Controls Process
The process of Project controlling can be divided into 4 easy steps and they are explained in brief below:
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Alt – Project Controlling Process
- Standards and Baselines: Determining the qualitative or quantitative standards in order to ensure that the deliverables meet certain expectations. Baseline ( an approved plan accepted during the planning stage) is used to evaluate the performance of the project deliverable.
- Measurement: Once the standards and baselines are established, the project operations and deliverables are measured. This provides status updates in the form of progress reports, dashboards and checklists.
- Analyzing the Data: Comparing the collected data with the predetermined standards and baselines to determine if there are any differences.
- Corrective Steps: If the differences are more than the tolerable limit and can be corrected, this step involves taking action towards resolving the differences.
Types of Project Controls
- Feedback Control: This type of control uses inspection and feedback as a method to ensure that the product is as per the original requirements
- Concurrent Control: This type is focused on ensuring that the project timelines and important milestones are met, and if any corrective actions are needed to ensure the project stays on schedule.
- Predictive Control: This type of control measures the current performance of the project or the actual cost incurred till date, and forecasts the estimated performance or cost towards the end of the project.
If you want to demonstrate your understanding of Project controlling and work efficiently as a part of a project management team within a PRINCE2 supporting environment, then you should opt for PRINCE2 courses.
Processes That Define Project Controls
In order to have an efficient project control mechanism in a project, it is important to perform a root cause analysis in case of any deviation. In other words, it is vital to know which process or function leads to the discrepancy in the result. Thus, we need an integrated project control function that gives a holistic view on the processes.
1. Project Planning
This is the process wherein project managers and control managers collaborate for the project. Decisions regarding the cost baselines, schedule and milestones, and scope statement are made in this process, and the actual performance of the project is measured against these metrics.
In order to understand why variances occur, it is important to integrate the budgeting process into project activities. For senior managers and project teams, a transparent process in the form of time phased budgets serves as a benchmark for the project performance.
3. Risk Management
Risk management in a project is closely affected by the project control function in a project. By identifying potential risks, monitoring and assessing the impact of risks, and designing approaches to mitigate risks, the project control process helps in minimizing the impact on budget and schedule.
4. Change Management
The deviations in a project are caused by a number of different reasons and no particular factor can be singled out as a cause of the deviation. Identifying and assessing the impact of each change requested and deciding if the change is approved or rejected, is a part of the change management process. This process helps in establishing clear accountability and updates in the baselines, if any, due to approved change requests.
By regularly measuring the current performance against the approved baselines, the project managers are able to forecast the performance of the project at completion. Various statistical methods are used to arrive at the estimate at completion. This estimate helps the project manager take corrective measures if a project is going off track.
6. Performance Management
Using Key Performance Indicators ( KPIs) for evaluating the health of the project and for forecasting the trends, is useful for implementing corrective actions in the project control process.
7. Project Administration
Establishing processes and systems that enable transparent sharing of information amongst team members, and providing a platform to collaborate. The focus of this process is to enable project status updates, and exchange lessons learned so that the team can focus on execution and not on routine tasks.
Project Controls Techniques
1. Small Work Packages
Small work packages ensure more accurate estimates and better control over the project activities.
When work packages are scheduled to be completed within one or two reporting periods, the ability to detect a delay or trouble is much easier and is useful for controlling the project. With early detection, one can work on the preventive and corrective measures faster and reduce the impact on other critical factors.
The baselines are really important in the project control process, as the performance of the project is measured against the baselines.
The process includes establishing a baseline, measuring and reporting against the baseline, and deciding whether the baseline needs to be maintained or updated on the basis of an approved change request.
3. Status Meetings
The most common and simple technique is the status meeting. Regular status meetings help to maintain transparency, accountability, and responsibility for small work packages.
This tool is also used to manage expectations and ensure information is shared regularly amongst project team members.
4. Completion Criteria
Understanding what is meant by “done” is very important as what is done for the project team may not be completed according to the client. This helps all the stakeholders to be on the same page when it comes to project deliverables. This helps the team in being productive and avoids ambiguity in status reports.
For maintaining quality and expectations, reviews can be used for project deliverables. The steps to follow for key deliverables here are review, receive feedback and correct, if required.
These reviews can be in the form of design reviews, process reviews, audits, walk throughs, and inspection.
6. Milestones and Checkpoints
Establishing checkpoints and milestones to review the project progress , address key issues, and take corrective actions if necessary for keeping the project on track is an important technique for project control. This technique is also useful for the senior management and sponsors of the project to reevaluate their investments in the project and redirect funds if needed.
7. Track Requirements
In order to avoid scope creep or any other changes in the existing scope of the project, a traceability matrix can be used to control the project. A traceability matrix provides a link between the original stated requirements, the final product and the reason this requirement was made.
8. Formal Sign Offs
The process of receiving a final go ahead from the client to ensure the project deliverable is accepted and complies with the requirements, is a formal way of controlling the project and ensuring the key stakeholders are engaged regularly about the project progress.
9. Independent QA Auditor
In this technique, an independent Quality Auditor is appointed to monitor the project progress and inspect whether the deliverables meet the criteria and quality agreed upon. This technique can be used to inspect the project deliverables or the project management processes.
10. V Method
The V-method is referred to the technique that uses verification and validation for ensuring the project deliverable is according to the accepted requirements.
What are the Challenges within Project Controls?
When projects fail, running behind schedule or exceed the budget, the project control function is most likely to be blamed. However, before assigning the blame, it is important to consider if the project control measures are implemented correctly.
Some of the challenges project managers face while implementing project control are mentioned below:
- Unsupportive Senior Management: When the senior managers of the organization do not support the project control measures or are not as committed to the process, the project control process is not as effective as it could be. The controlling process involves active monitoring and taking corrective actions to keep the project on track, and this means the project manager must be given enough autonomy and authority to make such decisions.
- Perception: The costs associated with project control are considered as overhead expenses but there is enough evidence to suggest that if implemented correctly, the project control process can help the companies save much more than the cost of project control.
- Obsolete Processes: The use of manual processes and cumbersome processes to measure the project performance, assess impact on baselined and record any suggested changes, assess and manage associated risks, affects the project control process negatively, as it takes longer to gather all the relevant information to initiate a corrective step.
Project Control Templates
Here are the Project Control templates:
- Download Project Cost Control Template
- Download Project Budget Control Template
- Download Earned Value Management Template
- Download Project Monitoring and Control Template – Microsoft Excel
- Download Project Control Report Template – Microsoft Excel | Microsoft Word
- Download Project Management Quality Control Template – Microsoft Excel | Microsoft Word
Project Control Examples
- Financial controls: This control is used to keep the project budget within prescribed limits. For example, a structured process for approving and accepting vendor payments.
- Budget Forecasts: Measuring current performance and forecasting the project costs that includes overtime and schedule delay costs.
- Schedule: Measuring current timelines and forecasting the schedule, while monitoring schedule issues.
- Scope: Establishing a Change Control Board (CCB) to monitor, control and assess the changes requested for the scope of the project.
- Quality Assurance (QA): Inspecting the quality of the project deliverables on the basis of standards laid in the project plan.
Project Management vs Project Controlling
The fundamental difference between Project Management and Project Controlling is that the former focuses on managing different projects and the latter focuses on ensuring that they are performed as per the plan.
The focus of project controlling is around the following domains of a project:
- Project Scope
- Project Budget
- Quality of the Deliverables
Project controlling ensures that the project is on track and does not deviate from the project plan. It also includes corrective measures to be adopted to get the project back on track. This, and several other foundational concepts are covered at length in our accredited PMP training offered on our platform.
Project controls in project management are key to project success. It ensures that project work is performed in harmony with the project plan and within the constraints of the project. It focuses mainly on increasing the efficiency of resource management of the project. Organizations have realized the importance of project controls in order to deliver projects according to the project plan. Earning your certification and finishing KnowledgeHut’s Project Management training are well worth the time and money investment.