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Project Controls: Best Practices and Methods

written by: N Nayab • edited by: Jean Scheid • updated: 1/25/2011

The success of any project depends on the establishment of effective control mechanisms to ensure the project meets intended goals, while adhering to the laid down time and budget limits. Read on for project controls best practices.

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    Project Control Methods

    Project Controls Best Practices The major elements of project controls include tracking time and cost, prioritization, handling contingencies that occur during project implementation, tracking key project milestones to ensure the project remains on track, and controlling and managing outside resources involved in the project.

    The best and most popular project control methods grounded in industry standards are the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) and PRINCE2.

    PMBOK refers to a guide that contains standard terminology and guidelines for project management, introduced as an attempt to standardize general project management practices. The PMBOK offers 42 processes categorized into nine knowledge areas, and require that an effective project needs to accomplish the processes contained within the respective knowledge area.

    PRINCE2, or Projects in Controlled Environments is the de facto project management standard of the UK government, and finds widespread application in industry. The PRINCE2 project management methodology provides best practice guidelines grounded in the business justification of the project, such as procedures to coordinate people and project activities, project design, project supervision, and handling contingencies. It allows flexibility to apply such structures at any appropriate level of the project.

    Among the lesser-known project control methods, the MPMM Project management tool stands out. This project management methodology allows establishing effective project control through 1500 tasks, charts, tables, templates, and case studies concerning different aspects of the project and covers the entire project management process. The advantage is the ability to customize such tasks, charts, and templates as needed.

    Image Credit: flickr.com/Wouter Kiel

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    Planning and Standardization

    The most basic project control best practice is planning. Working out a plan for the implementation of each activity provides a definite framework that allows for easy tracking to ensure whether the project remains within acceptable limits, and also makes execution easy.

    One important consideration of project planning aimed at control is to ensure standardization. Standardized processes, tools, templates, and measurement values make analysis easy, facilitate easy communications, and help project team members understand the situation better.

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    Documentation

    One underestimated project control best practices is documentation.

    Writing down discussions and decisions at the appropriate place, and establishing a formal documentation procedure for meetings serve as valuable reference points on which controls rest. Such documentation helps to resolve issues of miscommunication or misunderstandings among the project team, and becomes the best way to communicate changes to the project scope and other parameters that occur after the fixation of the project plan, and during the course of the project.

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    Proactivity

    The best project control mechanisms are those which adopt a proactive approach to solve issues and problems that arise during project execution. Such issues can relate to budget, scope, time, quality, and human resources. Failing to resolve the issue owing to lack of time or other routine work lays the seeds of the project going out of control. If immediate resolution is not possible, the issue needs documentation and incorporation in the next project review meeting.

    Periodic reviews of key deliverables and project performance help correct errors and discrepancies when it remains within manageable levels. Failure to undertake such periodic corrective actions can lead to such discrepancies compounding, and projects controls going haywire. For this to happen, the project control approach requires integration with the risk management approach and methodology.

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    The Complete Picture

    Project Controls Best Practices One important consideration when establishing project controls is analyzing how the activity adds value to the business. For instance, turning down funding requests to incorporate a new technology might help in establishing successful cost controls and keep the project budget and scope on task. Failure to embrace such a new technology makes project execution perfect as per the project scope and plan, but leads to the project becoming redundant or useless in the changed external circumstances.

    Failure to see the complete picture while diligently adhering to the project control process ensures that the project control, far from benefiting, can actually doom the project.

    Finally, different facets of a project remains interlinked and piecemeal controls rarely work. Project controls best practices mandate covering the entire project, from project initiation to project conclusion, and the complete scope.

    Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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