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Introducing Project Control
Project planning is vital to the success of any endeavor, but even the most well-planned project will have things go wrong. Knowing this, a process must be in place to recognize discrepancies in the project. These discrepancies can involve scheduling, budgeting, resources, deliverables and other key parts of the project. However, identifying deviations is only part of the project control process.
Because the project control process is important to the project's success, it must control deviations from the project plan and emphasize the collection and analysis of information that will facilitate decision making. By taking steps to ensure that sufficient data is at hand at all times, deviations can be quickly managed in ways that will support project objectives and stakeholders while minimizing the disruption to the project's execution.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Alphamu57
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The term "control" does not mean a rod-of-iron dictatorial approach to team associates. Managers should fight to avoid falling into the micro management trap while still retaining control.
Rather it refers to the system in place that will help project managers keep the overall project under control when unanticipated circumstances affect it. Because in normal situations, deviations from the project plan can be expected, a mechanism must be in place to prevent deviations from snowballing into major crises. To do this, a project process control system involves the following:
- Communication. Without an adequate communication plan in place, project managers will have difficulty acquiring the information necessary to identify deviations from the project plan and will thus be unable to develop plans for minimizing the effects of those deviations. After all, fixing something is difficult when no one recognizes that it is broken.
- Corrective action. What will be done to bring the project back into control? When project variables change unexpectedly, those changes must not require the entire project to collapse. Process control should have a system of corrective action that keeps the project on schedule, on budget and in line with quality objectives.
- Stakeholders. When corrective measures must be taken, often, some sacrifice is required. Rather than making a unilateral decision on project priorities, the priorities of the stakeholders should be understood and taken into consideration. By thinking of the stakeholders, project control can maximize overall satisfaction with the project's performance.
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Information required by a project control process includes project scope, performance metrics, project organization, budgetary performance and production. Without an awareness of what each data set should be and what it actually is, project control could become difficult.
Information necessary for project control includes the current status of the project and updated estimates for completion. Once this information is obtained, managers can compare it to the most recently approved execution plan to see if the project is deviating from the plan.
When sufficient data exists to compare actual results with those that were anticipated, project managers can easily determine necessary corrective action.
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After identifying variations of the project from the project plan, managers can begin formulating possible corrective actions. If pre-established contingencies will not suffice, alternate corrective options should be formulated. As solutions to variance are pursued, the process for implementing changes in scope should also be activated.
Once a list of possible solutions is identified, the project manager should select the best option and then submit it for approval.
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When addressing what is meant by the project control process, the stakeholders are often ignored or relegated to a secondary position. Although many project managers may be inclined to take the corrective action that would minimize the overall impact on the project, when different outcomes must be sacrificed to keep the project under control, it's best to know what the priorities of the stakeholders are.
For example, if either cost or production must be sacrificed, managers should attempt to ascertain which value to prioritize. Stakeholders may want to minimize cost even if it negatively impacts production. In other cases, stakeholders may wish to maintain production targets even if cost overruns occur.
By considering the stakeholders, project managers take a vital step in selecting the appropriate corrective action.
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In a Nutshell: What is Meant by the Project Control Process?
The project control process is the system in place used to identify project variations from the approved plan and identifying and implementing corrective action in accordance with stakeholder preferences.
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Heerkens, Gary. Project management. McGraw-Hill Professional, 2002.
Richman, Larry. Improving Your Pproject Management Skills. AMACOM Books, 2006.