When you think about the term control, the first thing that might come to mind is the concept of authority. In the world of project and cost management, control has very little to do with telling people what to do. The term control is much more analogous to steering a ship through stormy weather. It is not about sticking to the path you plotted before you departed; it is about continuously charting and updating a course to get there, evaluating your location throughout the voyage, and keeping a watchful eye on what lies ahead.

Focus on the end result

Evaluating where you are in relation to where you’re supposed to be is certainly part of the overall control and getting back on track is almost always a good strategy. But your primary mission is to deliver what you’ve promised. Maybe you took another course entirely, but upon arrival at safe harbor you achieve your objectives. 

In the project controls discipline, we continuously perform actions to find out in which direction to steer the project:

  • Know what has to be done: you use a detailed budget estimate and tracking profiles which provide a basis for cost control and scheduling
  • Know what has been done: you set up reports providing actual performance data that is consistent with the detailed budget, in timely fashion
  • Know how actual performance compares with performance norms: analyze the performance to date
  • Know what remains to be done: forecast the potential result of the current situation
  • Identify and implement corrective actions: provide control in order to bring the project’s performance in line with the expectations 
  • Check results of corrective actions: verify if the goals of corrective actions were achieved

Standardized approach

This continuous monitoring gives the project team and stakeholders a valuable knowledge about the project’s performance and highlights areas that require special attention and may need changes. With this proactive approach you can anticipate to the most common problems, avoiding budget overrun and delays.

Project controls is a discipline integrated in the project team, where cost controllers, estimators, schedulers, risk managers and other team members can greatly benefit from. Taking a standardized approach when applying project controls makes it easier to find back performance and actual cost information of previous projects. Besides learning from your previous achievements and mistakes, this can greatly help you improving things like cost estimation models or listing common project risks.

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