Project control is quite possibly the second hardest part of project management — after project closing.
For instance, project managers on a software development project using waterfall methodology will need more than luck for successful project delivery. Some of my first projects were of similar circumstance, which made the case for me why following best practices is important.
Read more: What Is Project Management?
What Is Project Control?
Project control is a set of processes that enables the delivery of timely project information so project managers can take corrective measures to keep the project on track. The communication-intensive processes rely on status reports and other project management feedback systems.
Although part of the Project Monitoring and Control phase, project managers apply it in all the stages of a project lifecycle, from Initiation to Closing. The PMBOK Guide’s definition of project control is “a project management function that involves comparing actual performance with planned performance and taking corrective action that will yield the desired outcome in the project when significant differences exist.”
Project control includes activities of tracking and managing core project management elements of scope, quality, time, and cost. It promotes the monitoring and comparison of planned project objectives, requirements, risks, schedules, and budgets against actual results.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Project Control
Project control is iterative and ensures regular tracking. But it is also easily manipulated and prone to project scope creep. Many organizations miss their project targets despite best efforts and intentions.
Good project control practices may spell the difference between a costly, long-overdue project and one delivered on schedule and within budget. Here are some methods of managing this stage of the project without alienating the client or negatively affecting the project cost, time, quality, and scope.
DO: Track Regularly
Project managers should consistently keep tabs on project progress. They should regularly get updates from the internal team on a daily basis. It is also vital to update clients regularly, at least on a weekly basis.
DO: Document Consistently
The team should document everything. They should include in the documentation all phone calls, meetings, and even informal discussions. If a stakeholder made a decision or parties struck an agreement, then the project manager can summarize the important points and send it by email to all stakeholders. This helps keep everything in perspective and avoids assumptions.
DO: Have a Single Point of Contact
The project manager should take charge of the communication between the team and the client. In many software development projects, the development team may be working within client premises. It creates an opportunity where the client can communicate directly with the developers. And because of constant and direct pressure, the development team may change priorities or add tasks to accommodate undocumented client requests.
DO: Adhere to Priorities
The team should have a clear understanding of essential tasks and schedules. They should avoid gold plating of any kind. All the “nice to have” features rarely increase functionality or value when done outside of their allotted time and purpose.
DO: Communicate Openly
It is crucial for the project manager to have clear and open communications with the team. Project control is dependent on regular, timely feedback. Team members should understand that the process exists to safeguard the project. They should also know the steps to take should the client has suggestions or amendments, as well as the reasoning behind the formal procedures.
DON’T: Say ‘No’ Outright
The project manager should not say “no” to clients too quickly. They can reserve a limited number of no’s for minor requests. They can invite clients to make use of a change request procedure and formally have a big change signed off.
This ensures not just the quality of the deliverable but also clarifies the requirement for the client. There are too many instances where a project team incorporated a change but no one remembers the reasoning why. It is important to keep in mind that teams can change not only at the project team’s end but at the client’s end as well.
DON’T: Rely on Project Control Alone
Project managers should not assume that a project control system will do all the work required to ensure a successful project delivery. The system is only as good as the team that understands, promotes, supports, and enforces it.
Establishing Project Control With Project Management Software
Project control gives many benefits such as on-time delivery, better forecasting, and staying within budget. Project management software allows project managers to have a reliable tool that increases visibility and streamlines project communication.