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Project controlling and monitoring – How to Better Manage a Project’s Cost and Schedule

In his latest blog Paul Rees, UK Country Manager for Cora Systems looks at project controlling and monitoring and offers advice on how to better manage a Project’s Cost and Schedule.

Before diving straight into the topic we’ll set the foundation:

What are Project Controls?

Project controls at its best is a way of capturing, managing and analysing data. In the engineering and construction space, for example, that’s gathering data relevant to a portfolio of projects that helps the staff working on those projects to make better decisions.

Because of advances in technology, there’s a growing expectation that there are software platforms available that can consolidate project information from different sources. In a typical project you’ll have data and information from several disparate, back-end systems and, of course, reams of spreadsheets – and from a wide supply chain. You’ll have partners and subcontractors who will all be contributing information on a project. Project controls is the ability to bring all that information together – and to make sense of it. The Project controlling and monitoring process oversees all the tasks and metrics necessary to ensure that the project is within scope, on schedule, and on budget so that the project proceeds with minimal risk.

How to better manage a Project’s Cost and Schedule

The key is transparency. You need a good software solution to convert all of these inputs so you can have a clear picture of the health of any given project. We’re working on behalf of WSP, for example, on the UK parliament’s £500m Northern Estate Programme. As part of that operation, WSP is working with several partner organisations and subcontractors. These could be specialist services like quantity surveyors, cost-management subcontractors, construction subcontractors or, say, a fit-out subcontractor. The entire supply chain, from the client down to the specialist partners, needs to be able to look at each project – at any one time – or the overall programme and know they’re on track from a cost, schedule and quality perspective.

If you don’t have insight into how projects are unfolding, it causes all kinds of headaches. That’s where a good project and portfolio management (PPM) solution comes in. It’s all about that precious commodity “time”. It’s about being able to make a timely decision and empowering project managers to make decisions based on accurate information. If you don’t have a PPM platform or an integrated, common data environment, you’ll be reduced to making a lot of manual interventions – a lot of manual analysis, a lot of copy and paste – to try and bring project and portfolio information together.

Manual intervention by definition is at the mercy of human error. What we’ve seen is by the time organisations compile and publish their monthly or period-end reports they can already be four to six weeks out of date. This causes a whole stream of problematic, knock-on effects. Effectively the senior management team or the governing body for a programme will be reduced to making decisions on inaccurate information. In this scenario, they’ll either make lucky decisions or wrong decisions because they’re acting off up-to-date data that isn’t available. They’re practically working blind.

However, if you have a digital PPM solution implemented, it allows your project controls team to manage projects effectively. Crucially they can spend their time on data analysis rather than data entry. Instead of looking in the rear-view mirror at a project, they’ll be able to look out the windscreen and see where challenges are coming on a project and re-adjust accordingly.

Our clients tell us once they’ve got comfortable with their Cora PPM solution that they see more clearly the performance of their project portfolios. They’re now able to easily assess progress. They can look at work-package completions. They can say: “We had a forecast. We have an actual financial number. Or we had a baseline and we have an actual figure. We can forecast that figure forward and, for example, establish – based on a current trajectory – that we’re not going to hit the output that we need by the end of this phase of the project.” That level of accuracy is huge. You can’t put a price on it.

Find out more about Project controlling and monitoring

For more information on Cora PPM’s project controlling and monitoring capabilities and the dos & don’ts of “project controls”, email:

See how Cora PPM can be used to manage complex construction projects in one centralized system by watching our on-demand Webinar here