Understanding the Project Controls Model

Wednesday, 01 August 2012
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Understating the subject of Project Controls model –


The traditional view of Project Controls as seen widely has been cost & schedule during the project execution phase. Although this view is persuasive in industry, I believe an effective Project Controls process can be applied in a collaboration of its various sub-disciplines, such as: Planning, Scheduling & Project Reporting, Earned Value Analysis & Management, Cost Engineering & Estimating, Change Management & Controls and finally Risk and Delay Claims.

Put simply, Project Controls encompass the people, processes and tools used to plan, manage and mitigate cost and schedule issues and any risk events that may impact a project. Read full definition of Project Controls and why it is important at

Project Controls Guidelines -

Project Controls is a community endeavor; it is not the domain or achievement of individuals acting alone. And that community must always include members from two distinct groups: those who provide Project Controls products and services, and those who consume them. Project Controls providers understand that the products and services that they generate and deliver are intended for use on real live projects – projects that have significant and urgent informational needs. Some consumers of Project Controls products and services come from within the organization that is performing the execution of the project, while others are members of the organization to whom the project will be delivered upon completion.

It stand to reason, then, that the ultimate test as to whether the Project Control Systems were as effective as intended and desired is whether the ultimate consumers of those products and services would ask for them on their next project. This suggests a powerful and profound guideline for Project Controls professionals, no matter what aspect of Project Controls you may be serving within: always keep your customers’ informational needs foremost in your mind. Imagine yourself to be the Project Manager. What information would you find useful? A waste of time?

And, as Dale Carnegie taught nearly a century ago, always speak in the other person’s field of interest. That is, when you speak to your customers about Project Controls topics, speak in everyday language, not technical nonsense. Explain concepts in a way that easily conveys how the topic matters, or should matter, to the customer.

Objective of Project Controls -

The objective of Project Controls department/professional should be to provide timely, pertinent, and objective management information to

  • Promote team understanding of, and commitment to, cost and schedule objectives and program baselines
  • Create awareness of potential problem areas and develop solutions
  • Facilitate team communications

and finally ; support informed management decision-making process

Project Controls Cycle -

The Controls cycle can be described as Estimate leading to development of Project Plan & Cost Budget leading to Monitoring the Plan and Controlling the Cost/Budget, Identifying and reporting deviations and as well Risks, taking corrective actions (such as by implementing MoC – Management of Change Process, updating the Risk register) and feeding these actions back into Plan & Budges. See the diagram below for better understanding.

Let’s conclude with understanding critical documents required for successful implementation of Project controls model –

1) Milestone/Baseline Schedule: While this may seem like a circular condition – that, in order to produce the Project Schedule, we must begin with a Milestone Schedule – the Milestone Schedule is typically produced or defined by the project Owner and establishes the contractual or mandatory deadlines and temporal goals of the project, to which the Project Schedule must aim.

2) Work breakdown Structure: This is a hierarchical technique that describes the project scope in increasing degrees of granularity.

3) Project Budget: Since there is always more than one way to skin a cat, there is also more than one way to execute virtually any project. One of the most significant variables influential in determining how the project will be executed … is available funding. The Project Budget provides a fiscal context for project execution. And in a symbiotic way, the ultimately conceived execution strategy, as depicted in the Project Schedule, in turn affects the Project Budget.

4) Scope Change Register: This tool is used to manage any changes to project scope.

5) Organization Chart: This document is developed in parallel with decisions as to which individuals and organizational entities will perform the project.

6) Staffing Plan: This tool documents decisions concerning how the project will be staffed.

7) Contract Document: This refers to the contract between the Owner and the Contractor who will be performing the work of the project.

8) Project Cost Report: This is a routine report that captures cost expectations and realities.

9) Risk Register: This is a tool that contains a growing list of potential and actual risks affecting the project.

10) Execution Plan – Listing all the responsible team members/disciplines scope of work and how it will be implemented. Project Controls Plan could be integral of this or can be a separate document.

Hope this gives blog gives some understanding of how Project Controls model works and I look forward to your valuable comments. This blog is written by Anil Godhawale, Director at ProjCon Consultants and can be reached at

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