Tools and control systems in project management

Tools and control systems in project management

Monitoring and controlling is a traditional practice in project management practices. Every project needs monitoring and control to meet deadlines and save resources.

The project manager plays a key role in monitoring and controlling practices by creating tools and control systems. Reference: “Monitoring, control, and evaluation of the implementation of infrastructure projects”,

Project control with formal or informal mechanisms

Project control can be exercised through formal or informal mechanisms. Small projects implemented by small teams located in the same place in a separate organizational unit may not need a formal control system. This is often the case when team members are well stimulated and have a good relationship with each other. Reference: “Monitoring and control in project management”,

The decision to implement a formal control system and the choice of the specific system should be broadly based on two aspects of the project: the risk involved and the value of the control system and its expected benefits.

High-risk situations

High-risk situations where the likelihood of adverse outcomes is significant due to project complexity, environmental conditions, or other factors, and where the costs associated with such adverse outcomes are high, justify investing in formal, well-established control systems.

The choice of control system depends on many factors such as the characteristics of the project structure, technological aspects, program, budget, and the individuality of the members of the team working on the project.

Project control systems can be very simple, taking the form of weekly team meetings to discuss the current situation, or they can be very complex, covering the set of technical means, documentation, and staffing software. The value of the control should never exceed the expected gains (ie savings) as a result of the operation of the control system. Reference: “Monitoring and Controlling in Project management presented with real scenario examples“,

What is Program control?

Program control in its simplest form is based on a comparison between the planned program, represented by the Gantt Chart, and the results of the analysis of the critical path and the actual implementation.

Actual progress data is collected periodically (every week, every month, etc.) or continuously (as soon as the activity is completed or reached a stage) and is used as an element of the control system.

By comparing the original program with the current updated program, deviations are detected. These deviations are used as a starting point for corrective actions, such as reallocating resources to speed up delayed activities.

Cost control

Simple cost control is achieved by comparing the actual costs of project activities with the planned budget. Although most organizations have certain forms of cost monitoring systems and cost control systems, it may be difficult to obtain the required project cost control data from these systems.

For example, direct labor costs and materials for specific project activities or subcontracting costs for a specific element may not be available. The actual cost can be accrued either by a department or by tasks set to facilitate cost control through project activities, a special control system for project costs may be required. Reference: “Monitoring and control over the project implementation”,

Information on real costs, when not related to real progress, may not be a sufficient criterion for controlling costs.

Quality Control

In addition to cost control and program control, performance control is the third aspect common to the control system of many projects. Simple performance control can be achieved by using a quality control system and quality assurance system. Reference: “Quality Management in Project Management and Agile practices“,

The reports received from these systems provide information on the level of performance achieved. A major problem with performance control stems from the nature of the projects.

Engineering changes during the project life cycle make quality control a difficult task, mainly because it is not possible to use old data as a basis for statistical process control. Reference: “Project Change Management Plan, a real example and template”,

Stage-related review meetings

Although individual independent cost, plan, and implementation control systems are very common, in most projects these three criteria are not completely independent.

To bring the three control systems together, project review meetings are often held. Stage-related review meetings are often programmed to demonstrate prototypes and major subsystems.

The unifying nature of project review meetings, where progress is assessed and problems are identified, is a significant advantage of this form of control; however, the need to bring together experts from different functional areas for such meetings makes this form of control expensive.

Integrate the project structure with value control

Integrate the project structure with value control and the program
The project control system is designed to reassure management that the project is progressing according to plan.

Its main function is to monitor progress and note the deviations between the original plan and current conditions and trends, which show a high probability of deviations in the future.

Control limits have been set for important parameters and any deviations outside these limits have been signaled. Corrective actions are taken when deviations are considered significant. A major problem of project control is the lack of standards created by past implementations.

A detailed report can be drawn up for several activities or the whole project. Each report must be drawn up according to the needs of the management level for which it is drawn up. By presenting the difference in costs and control limits, it is possible to automatically detect deviations. Reference: “Plan, monitoring and control in project management: Data collection, processing, and analysis”,

Based on the specific limits set, management may be given information on the difference in the cost of activities whose periodic or cumulative difference exceeds the allowable scope and therefore needs to be addressed.

Data structure for traceability

An appropriate data structure is required to achieve traceability. This structure should link the plans to the relevant periods, to the relevant segments of the content of the project work, and the organizational units responsible for these elements. Two hierarchical structures are usually adopted in an integrated way to facilitate tracking:

  • the organizational structure of the project (OBS);
  • task allocation structure (WBS).

Hierarchical structures

OBS is affiliated with WBS, which is product-oriented, hierarchically composed of the technical facilities, software, services, and tasks required to complete the project.

Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) organizes, defines, and displays the product to be manufactured, as well as the work to be performed in the project. Reference: “Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) and project risk management”,

A list of specific tasks is made at the lowest level of the WBS. These tasks are connected through higher levels in subsystems, systems and at the highest level in the project as a whole.

The design of the control system begins during the conceptual design phase of the project when the objectives and criteria for implementation are determined. Later, OBS and WBS are developed together with the activities to be performed, the corresponding costs, duration, and priority links.

At the end of the planning phase, the detailed OBS and WBS, the program and the budget serve as the basic basis of the control system.

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