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Introduction to Project Control Techniques
Every project goes through a certain degree of turbulence and therefore requires monitoring and controlling. As a project manager, understanding the impact of influences and keeping them in check is critical to delivering the project successfully. The types of factors that can influence a project during project execution can find their roots in some obvious and some not-so-obvious sources, such as scope, scheduling, human resources, cost and risk management. Therefore, you should apply project control techniques in practically every aspect of the project.
In this article, the following project control techniques are discussed:
- Conducting Regular Project and Daily Meetings
- Using Earned Value Analysis
- Using Critical Path Analysis
Image Credit: SXC
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Conducting Regular Project and Daily Meetings
The most important resources in projects are people. The actions that project people take towards their assigned tasks leads to task completion on-time or delayed. In a worst case scenario, a task would not be completed. Project control techniques targeted at people must enable the timely completion of tasks.
Delays and incomplete tasks could lead to project delays, depending on whether the activities are in the critical path. In addition, project costs get impacted negatively. Delayed tasks translate to effort that has not been budgeted for, therefore cost of that task to completion goes up.
Some simple, yet effective, project control techniques that you can use to ensure timely completion of tasks are:
- Conducting Daily Team Meetings: As the name implies, this activity involves having a project huddle in which team members give a status update of their tasks. Daily team meetings also involve identifying dependencies and risks to the assigned tasks. Capturing meeting notes is critical to ensuring next steps and key decision are taken. You can also use this platform to determine team conflicts, gauge team motivation, and identify the slackers.
- Conducting Project Health Meetings: These meetings involve the larger team since many projects are broken into subprojects, intra-project dependencies are analyzed. Various factors are used to access the project health. For example, you can use earned value analysis, team motivation, and client satisfaction.
- Conducting Retrospectives: These meetings are generally held after a release or after project completion. Strictly speaking, retrospectives are not a project controlling technique. However, their value in controlling a project is critical to ensuring continuous learning throughout the project. Therefore, I recommend conducting retrospectives during the release and not leaving it till the end. The lessons learned can then be implemented proactively while delivering the release. You can view a template and instructions on how to conduct a retrospective from here.
Image Credit: SXC
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Using Earned Value Analysis
Project control techniques that pertain to measurement of project performance include earned value analysis. Earned value analysis is a technique that enables you to quantify project progress. Earned value analysis has some key indices, such as Cost Performance Index (CPI) and Schedule Performance Index (SPI). For example, if the values of CPI and SPI in your project are under one, this indicates the project is over-budget and will come in late. You can then take action to get the project back on track. Therefore, it is critical for you to keep an eye on the earned value indices. Similarly, you can use project cost and schedule variance.
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Using Critical Path Analysis
Every project has a critical path. If any activity on the critical path is delayed, the project completion date is directly impacted. Therefore, monitoring and controlling activities on the critical path is more important than doing so with other activities. The project control techniques you employ must always include the activities on the critical path. You can learn about the critical path by reading the Critical Path Examples of Using the Critical Path Method or the Critical Path Analysis article.