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Project Controls – Yay or Nay (part 1)

Have you ever been a program manager of a new program?

The first thing you do as PM is look at the statement of work and other contractual artifacts. Laboriously you take inventory of the grenade the proposal team just handed to you. Then you notice there is no longer a pin in the clip and your proposal team is running in the opposite direct of which you are heading. Upon further review you open the voluminous three ring pricing binder and notice the basis of estimate (BOE) has a 50% allocation for a project controller.

What is your response? Yay or Nay

Of course without context it is hard to answer this question with objectivity. I’m sure many have both positive and negative experiences in regard to the value of employing a project controller. Some believe that Project Controls is an overhead function that is a hard sell to the customer. Others believe that Project Controls is like an American Express card. “Never leave home without it!”

Why Project Controls?

The function of Project Controls encompasses people, procedures, tools, and accounting systems. Project Controls methods provide an “early warning system” that alerts the program manager and the project team to take proactive measures to ensure success. The two primary objectives of the Project Controller are:

  1. Implement and maintain a project performance measurement system that provides management with the cost /schedule performance data and transparency needed to meet contractual requirements in an effective and efficient manner.
  2. Establish a comprehensive control system, including policies and reporting procedures, that provides all of the necessary cost/schedule status information to the project team, management, and the customer in a timely manner. This information includes the interrelated impacts of contractual, financial, schedule, resource, performance, and technical status on the project.

How does Project Controls fit in the organization?

The Project Controls function is strongly dedicated to the project team, either reporting directly to the Project Manager with dotted line reporting to the functional organization, or reporting directly to the functional organization with dotted line reporting to the Project Manager. This may vary depending on the organization’s private vs. public trading status (refer to Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOx) section 404).

To be continued

Future posts will include how project controls can add value to your program and/or organization.

Please leave a comment with your experience(s) related to Project Controls.

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Josh Nankivel

I love the live grenade analogy Travis! It’s funny because it’s true!

Project Controllers/Schedulers are critical to me, and become more so the larger and more complex the program/project.

  1. It puts a more specialized resource on these functions so they get due dilligence
  2. It frees me up to focus on the people and technology issues we are facing day-to-day
  3. It frees me up to be more strategic about how planning and execution happen

Of course, project controls just like anything else can be taken too far as well. The guiding question should always be, “Is this process value-positive?” – If not, stop doing it that way and if so, how can it be optimized further?