Project controlling is an effective tool to Project Management to ensure that project goals, timeframes, and costs are complied with.
The PMBOK® Guide defines Project Control with the following statement: “A project management function that involves comparing actual performance with planned performance and taking appropriate corrective action (or directing others to take this action) that will yield the desired outcome in the project when significant differences exist.”
Effective project control is used to deliver timely project information allowing managers to take corrective measures to keep the project on track. Project control monitors and compares planned objectives, requirements, risks, schedules and budgets against what is actually being delivered. The foundation of these planned metrics is derived from the original business analysis identifying the project requirements. Flaws in the business analysis will directly equate to major challenges and variances in the project.
Project Control involves the regular review of metrics and reports that will identify variances from the project baseline. The variances are determined by comparing the actual performance metrics in the Execution Phase against the baseline metrics assigned during the Planning Phase. These variances are incorporated into control processes to evaluate their meaning.
Impact of Project Control
Project Control has a direct correlation to project progress and stake-holder's expectations. Projects rarely fail because of just one issue. Rather, failure is usually a collection of minor issues that individually have negative impact in a specific project area; however, when looked at over the entirety of a project, these minor items can cause significant impacts to cost, schedule, risk, and can manifest themselves as deviations from the original Project Plan. Controlling process and functions
Controlling is essentially tracking and managing the core project management elements of scope, quality, time and cost. The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) identifies the core controlling processes as:
• Integration change control
• Scope change control and scope verification
• Schedule control
• Risk monitoring and control
• Quality control • Cost control and
• Project progression and performance reporting.
Project Control Techniques The following techniques can be implemented and used to manage and control a project's design and construction from initiation to successful completion.
• Small work chunks or small tasks— It is always advisable to break a big project into smaller chunks of tasks to verify the progress. From a control perspective, if your work packages are scheduled to complete within one reporting periods, it is much easier to detect a delayed or troubled task. With earlier notice, you are more likely to resolve the variance and protect the project's critical success factors.
• Baselines— A fundamental control principle is to first, establish a baseline. This is generally applied to the critical success factors of schedule and budget, but can be applied equally as well to product-oriented aspects of the project, especially requirements. Then, measure and report performance against the baseline and maintain it.
• Status meetings— Consistent and regular status meetings help to keep everyone honest, accountable, and on their toes—especially if work assignments are small and have clear completion criteria. In addition, status meetings are powerful tools for improving project communications and managing expectations.
• Completion criteria— This starts during project definition with defining the acceptance criteria for the project, and it continues for each deliverable and work assignment. Understanding the completion criteria up front increases productivity and avoids many of the issues associated with status reporting on work tasks.
• Reviews— Reviews are a key technique for ensuring quality and managing expectations on project deliverables, and they can take many forms. The principle here is to plan for the review-feedback-correction cycle on most, if not all, of your key deliverables. Common examples of reviews are process reviews, design reviews, audits, walkthroughs and testing.
• Milestones and checkpoints— A key feature of most proven project methodologies is the use of pre-defined milestones and checkpoints. These markers are important points to stop, report progress, review key issues, confirm that everyone is still on-board, and verify that the project should proceed with it's mission. Besides being a powerful expectations management tool, these pre-defined points allow project sponsors and senior management to evaluate their project investments along the way, and if warranted, redirect valuable resources from a troubled project to more promising pursuits.
• Track requirements— A technique to help control both scope and expectations is the use of a requirements traceability matrix. The traceability matrix provides a documented link between the original set of approved requirements, any interim deliverable, and the final work product. This technique helps maintain the visibility of each original requirement and provides a natural barrier for introducing any new feature along the way.
• Formal sign-offs— Formal sign-offs are a key aspect of change control management. The formal record of review and acceptance of a given deliverable helps to keep expectations aligned and minimize potential disputes. Most importantly, the use of a formal signoff acts as an extra incentive to make sure the appropriate stakeholders are actively engaged in the work of the project and thereby satisfied.
• Independent QA Audit— The use of an independent & dedicated quality assurance audit is another specific example of the review technique mentioned earlier, and is often a component of project quality assurance plans.
• V method— The "V method" is a term used for a common validation and verification approach that ensures that there is validation and verification step for every deliverable and interim deliverable created. The left side of "V" notes each targeted deliverable and the right side of the "V" lists the verification method to be used for each deliverable directly across.
With all these techniques and more if necessary, it is very important to put the correct amount of emphasis on project control, it can be the difference between success and failure of any project.
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