The best way to understand the difference between project controls and project management is to think of the former working as a subset within the latter. The project manager has to shepherd the project from design all the way to completion, and needs to manage everything from people and processes to quality and deliverables.
Project Controls: costs and scheduling
The project controller on the other hand focuses on just two areas; costs and scheduling. But they need to monitor and track these two elements all the way along the project’s lifecycle, from design and planning, to execution and delivery.
Cost overruns and late delivery are problems that every project has to guard against. But they are particularly damaging for the kinds of complex, multi-year projects that large enterprise organizations oversee. And stories of companies going out of business because of spiralling cost overruns are, unfortunately, a regular feature on our news feeds. This is what project controls have been designed to address.
Gathering and analyzing data
Project controls are the mechanisms and functions that allow you to track and monitor the progress of your project. By gathering together all the data that your project generates and then carefully analyzing them all, you can anticipate problems and improve outcomes.
Practically speaking, there are a variety of activities that project controls will lead you to undertake. You’ll need to initiate a process to make sure that the project is aligned with the strategic goals of the organization. And to then develop a risk management plan, together with your initial project schedules, which will eventually lead to the work breakdown structure (WBS).
This will allow you to develop your forecasting and budgeting plans and structures. All of which will mean you can carefully monitor your costs, to see if and when your actual costs start to deviate from your planned costs. So you can anticipate and deal with any delays to scheduling.
So it’s vital that you activate a network of smart, automated reports, so you can analyze and act on the feedback they produce.
Project controls are a continuous process
The important thing to understand is that project controls are a continuous process, monitoring a project’s progress over its entire lifecycle. And the only way to manage a suite of complex processes that are simultaneously and continuously running is by employing the right software.
The right software solution will organize and manage all that data through a central hub. And it will take all your various processes and integrate them into the one system. So that everyone is working in the same standardized way, and are all using the same facts and figures.
Your software integrates all your processes
Crucially, all the forecasts produced by your project controls, around Value of Work Done, change management, risk, costs and scheduling will all be linked and integrated with whichever finance system you use.
What’s more, not only will your software be able to do this both at the individual project level and across your portfolio as a whole, it will also be able to consolidate all equivalent data from each of your business units across your entire organization. So you can see where costs are accruing and anticipate potential scheduling delays.
Project controls are what project managers rely on to keep their projects on track. And employing the right software package is the only way to guarantee that they function as effectively as they need to.