Desktop Project Controls Reference Manual

"Desktop Project Controls Reference Manual By Tom Reichner


This reference manual is provided for guidance to XXX Corporation and its personnel and their contractors and partners who have project management or project controls responsibilities within the organization. The vision is to build upon the skills and capabilities of XXX Corporation project management to be able to more aggressively meet increased, more comprehensive demands in managing the XXX Corporation responsibilities for these projects. This manual provides an understanding of the project management planning, budgeting, executing, and reporting processes and the processes associated with baseline reviews, cost estimating, and project control systems.

Project controls are used to manage and measure the execution of a project through its life-cycle, including variances (actual changes to planned activities) and trends (anticipated changes or risk to activities). Project controls spans the elements of scope, cost and schedule. Because variance and risk management require identification, analysis, and mitigation (the minimizing of potential problems), the focus of project management must be on communication (and, therefore, understanding) by all parties of the issues and risks involved. Tools must be in place to evaluate progress against the initial target, or "baseline," plan to the satisfaction of all project stakeholders and especially the XXX Corporation.

Identification and analysis of cost and schedule issues are often the result of scope changes. They begin with an evaluation of variances from the baseline plan, at the lowest level of definable task. These tasks can cause problems in timely completion, due to changes in the scope of work or to the planned sequence.

Mitigation requires an understanding of contractual requirements to rapidly respond to project scope or other changes. Mitigation may include daily, weekly or monthly periodic monitoring of cost and schedule variances and trends, implementation of effective safety and quality assurance plans, and also flexibility in the application of resources. Flexibility must be built into a project budget (contingency to recover lost time) and schedule (ability to re-sequence work to recover lost time without increasing costs). These variances and risks may be managed by early application of a "semi-continuous" process to address positive and negative impacts to budget activities, the progress of critical tasks, and potential or pending scope changes. It should be noted that positive variances are also important because it may be possible to exceed the goals or provide offsetting allowances as the project progresses.

The focus of project controls is not only on issues, but also on the timeliness of the decision-making process. To avert costly delays, issues must be resolved as soon as possible within a phase, and certainly prior to moving to the succeeding phase.

The identification of performance issues begins with an understanding of scope, cost, and schedule. At each phase of a project, negative variances in budgets and schedules are the most common areas to be identified and investigated. Time-tested project control tools such as scheduling software, cost forecasting reports, and documentation procedures must be integrated at the beginning of the project in order to give the typical project a better chance for success.

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