Integrated Project Controls

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Project controls is an integrated process that include the data gathering, management and analytical processes used to predict, understand and constructively influence the time and cost outcomes of a project or program through the communication of useful information. This subject focuses on the overall integrated process of ‘controlling’ a project or program.

Topics included in Integrated Project Controls:

- Project Controls Overview
- Project Control Functions & Techniques
- Future Trends in Project Controls
- Project Control & CPM Failures and Challenges
- Useful External Web-links & Resources.

Other related sections of the PMKI:

- PMOs (Project, Program or Portfolio Management Offices)
- Monitor and control project work (PMBOK)

Project Controls Overview

Project ControlsThe five functions of management define by Henri Fayol in 1916 include planning work, organizing and directing resources to perform the work, and controlling the performance of the work based on feedback and observation (see more on general management). The objective of project controls is to assist the project's management in the planning of the project's work, and then to provide the feedback needed to maintain effective control and manage the ongoing activities. This requires the integration of the various project controls functions focused on scope, cost, and time, as a minimum, to develop the information needed to assist in both the management of the project and communication with stakeholders.

WP: Project Controls – A Definition. Project controls are the data gathering, management and analytical processes used to predict, understand and constructively influence the time and cost outcomes of a project or program through the communication of information in formats that assist effective governance and management decision making.

Prs: Setting your project up for success. A brief summary of the key elements needed for project success.

Blg: Setting up a project controls system for success. A couple of hour’s hard thinking focused on the control systems that will be needed and useful can make the difference between project success and failure!

WP: Proactive Project Surveillance. Effective surveillance systems are needed to identify which of an organization's projects are currently candidates for failure, in sufficient time to take action that will change the probability in a favorable way.

Art: Assurance for high risk projects. Project or Program Assurance is a discipline that seeks to provide an independent and objective oversight of the likely future performance of major projects to those responsible for sanctioning, financing or insuring such undertakings.

Blg: Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future. The questions posed in this post is how accurate do we need to be with our projections to be useful? And how do we persuade managers to make use of the predictions?

Art: ‘Not knowing’ is no longer an option. Ethical governance and management requires timely access to accurate information. A key 'controls' function is ensuring the information used to manage the organization is accurate.



Project Control Functions and Techniques

Prs: Projects controls using integrated data. The future of project time management as an integrated part of an overall project information system.

WP: Gateways and Score Cards. Two approaches to determining the on-going viability of a project and measuring its success are ‘gateway reviews’ and balanced scorecards, this paper provides a brief overview of both.

Art: Three Steps to Validate a Variance. Variances are to be expected, but before taking action to bring performance back into alignment with the plan, it is a really good idea to make sure the variance you are seeing in the control systems is real and significant.

PP: The Project Start-Up Conundrum. At the time when the project team can exert the greatest influence on a project's overall success, the team itself is forming and at its least effective!!! Solutions include:

  • Providing support to the project team to minimize the time required for it to grow into an effective unit
  • Expanding the role of the Project Office to include specific project "Start Up" responsibilities, and
  • Training (or developing, or contracting) a specialist project "Start Up" task force to assist in the critical initial phases of a project and progressively hand over to the permanent team.
    Download the paper.  

PP: Improving Schedule Management. When used as a dynamic motivational tool, focused on maintaining the momentum of work on a project, the schedule has much to contribute to the overall success of a project. Project Management grew out of the ideas of Scientific Management, and the catalyst for the emergence of PMI and other associations was the rapid spread of scheduling in the 1960s. However, the emergence of the ‘knowledge worker’ and ‘soft projects’ is challenging the concepts of ‘command and control’ derived from Scientific Management and embedded in traditional scheduling practice. Modern business projects are complex and dynamic; new paradigms are emerging based on complexity theory and social network theory; and these ideas challenge the traditional role of the ‘contract schedule’.

This paper explores these emerging ideas and defines a new role for the project schedule and the project scheduler within the complex, dynamic, collaborative environment that defines many modern projects and programs. The schedule shifts from posing as an ‘accurate prediction of the future’ (if this was ever possible) to a dynamic tool used for communication, coordination and motivation of the project team. The key focuses for effective schedule management in the 21st century and the attributes required of a ‘good schedule’ and an ‘effective scheduler’ are described; defining a new role for the project schedule and the project scheduler within the complex, dynamic, collaborative environment that defines many modern projects.



Future Trends in Project Controls

Integrated Controls

Blg: The future of project controls. Using modern technology to focus on what really matters, resources accomplishing work in the optimum sequence for each location. 

Prs: Projects controls using integrated data. The future of project time management as an integrated part of an overall project information system.

Prs: Project Controls in the C21 – What works / What’s fiction. This paper takes a controversial look at cost benefit and ‘usefulness’ of scheduling, cost control and Earned Value systems as project control mechanisms versus their use as pro active project management aids. Project management is transitioning from a focus on the ‘iron triangle’ of time, cost and output (scope + quality) defined in the late 1960s; towards a future that focuses on maximizing stakeholder value through the effective application of ‘soft skills’ in an environment that increasingly recognizes ‘risk’, ‘uncertainty’ and ‘complexity’ as key challenges facing the project team. For the tools that defined ‘project management’ to remain relevant in the 21st Century a new paradigm is needed, this paper suggests the changes in skills, attitudes and practices needed to keep scheduling, cost control and EV relevant in the coming years.

Prs: Trends in Project Controls - AIPM Update. A review of project controls and their ability to predict outcomes effectively.

Art: Radical Uncertainty. Making predictive models more mathematical does not improve the accuracy of the predictions, a different paradigm is needed in a complex world.



Project Control & CPM Failures and Challenges

DP: £500m Project Failure - Riding A Tiger: some lessons of Taurus. The collapse of project Taurus, the London Stock Exchange’s £500 million IT venture in 1993 still ranks as one of the major fiascos of business history. This paper highlights key mistakes in the project’s design and discusses their implications for management.

PP: The Paradox of Project Control in a Matrix Organization. This paper explores the hypothesis that, within complex matrix organizations, the ‘zone’ between the strategic vision set by senior management and the projects created to fulfill the vision, is a highly complex and dynamic organism and its reaction to stimuli cannot be predicted. Succeeding in this environment needs a different management paradigm from that developed for management in traditional project industries. The characteristics of a complex matrix organization include: multiple/competing lines of authority, virtual and part time teams, divergent objectives, and many competing levels and types of authority. This paper describes the paradigm shift in management thinking needed to succeed in managing projects across this ‘zone’. To succeed, managers need to combine vigilance and agility to identify and capitalize on unexpected gains and deal with unexpected problems. 

Prs: Practical project controls – the art of getting to ‘Done’!  Getting to ‘done’ is the objective of any project, done on time, done on budget, and done to the satisfaction of stakeholders. Most projects fail to achieve this. This presentation looks at the reasons for this failure and suggest a practical framework for successfully getting your projects to ‘done’ including:

  1. The importance of properly defining how the work of the project will be done including understanding scope, resources, and time management, all of which affect cost outcomes.
  2. The importance of proactively managing the risks and uncertainties that will affect the work needed to be accomplished.
  3. The critical importance of stakeholder engagement and communication in making project controls an effective tool to help the project team successfully reach ‘done’.
  4. The limitations of project controls (real and imposed) and mitigation strategies.
    Download the presentation.

CPM Issues and Challenges

Art: The Scheduling Conundrum. Effective scheduling makes a significant difference to project success but in most projects, the schedule is ignored, bad scheduling practice is the norm, and most projects finish late.

Art: Problems with scheduling practice. A brief look at the three major problem areas affecting scheduling practice.

Art: The problem with CPM. The problem with scheduling and CPM is not the technology, it’s a lack of skills on the part of the people employed as schedulers (see more on skills development).

Blg: Critical confusion – when activities on the critical path don’t compute…… The use of Finish-to-Finish and Start-to-Start links (particularly in combination) can cause significant issues in calculating the overall project duration.


Useful External Web-links & Resources

The Guild of Project controls. Developing standards and certifications based on the Project Controls Compendium and Reference (GPCCaR), developed and managed by a global project controls community:

Project Controls Online ("PCO"). A large repository of Project Controls knowledge and information: 


Easy EVM

Easy CPM

EVM Work Sheet

Easy Stakeholder Management

Stakeholder Work Sheet

Communication Plan

Project Charter Template

Easy EVM

Easy CPM

EVM Work Sheet