A Guide to Project Controls

Project managers rely on project controls to plan, monitor, and control projects. But what are project controls and why are they a smart strategy for PMs? In this guide, we’ll walk you through the process of efficiently gathering and analyzing data to achieve consistently high ROI every time, no matter what you’re working on. Keep reading to discover some key definitions, benefits, and components of project management control, plus some tips on how to implement them. 

What are project controls?

Project controls are a set of processes that ensure large-scale projects overcome common obstacles to success. These obstacles can include heavy-hitters like: 

  • Inaccurate forecasting
  • Manual data input or storage errors
  • Improper resource allocation
  • Misplaced budget and/or timeline optimism 
  • Lacking enough data to make informed decisions

To mitigate these issues, the project control process fixes the organizational and implementation systems used in a business’s project management structure. This is done through a defined series of activities covering the full lifecycle of every new assignment. Project controls vary from business to business and project to project, but when building your framework, they boil down to three action words: plan, monitor, and analyze. 

Why are project controls important?

Project planning and control is a lifeline for both large and small companies. Not only are these functions scalable, but they also provide a consistent set of processes for every project that can easily be broken down into phases, tasks, and subtasks. Unlike other project management methodologies, project controls take a laser-focused approach to getting things done. For example, typical project management categories such as personnel or quality control aren’t really a factor in most project controls. 

The biggest difference between project management and project controls is that project management takes a holistic, detailed approach, while project controls look to budgets and timelines as the primary factors in project success. Deliverables are cut and dry, and goals are often reached at a much higher rate of success. 

What are the components of project controls?

There are eight key components of project controls, each representing its own process. Here’s how to use Wrike to manage each one: 

  • Planning: Create custom workflows to manage plans and task scheduling so that nothing falls through the cracks. 
  • Finance: Align costing with scoping and reporting to monitor projects closely. 
  • Risk: Draft and use a risk management plan that destroys roadblocks before they ever come up. 
  • Change: Use a visual tool such as a Gantt chart to track delays, status updates, and reassignments so that the project reaches the finish line no matter what gets thrown your way. 
  • Estimates: Monitor and predict key project components such as budgeting, resource management, and scheduling. 
  • Health: Create a routine for checking on the performance of ongoing projects to take corrective action as quickly as possible whenever things come up that could potentially derail the outcome. 
  • Administration: Communicate with team members company-wide with in-software tools like @mentions so that directly new voices can see chat history without missing a beat. 

How and when should you implement project controls?

Project controls should be implemented at the beginning of a project when you’re gathering resources. They must be in place by the time you start forecasting

To adopt a system of your own, start by using a project management tool you are already familiar with and create a standard operating procedure for each of the components listed above. Then, gather all necessary project documentation, create a plan for how you’ll monitor progress, and cross-reference historical data with your current models. 

Finally, get everyone on board by using visual tools like those offered in Wrike to make this complex information easier to understand. Visualizations like Gantt charts, color-coded timelines, and something as simple as adding photos to names assigned on tasks can help overcome unnecessary confusion. 

What are the benefits of project controls?

According to a case study published by System One, a client of theirs who started using project controls “has experienced immediate positive results from the implementation.” They explain that the shift from the client’s old system to the new one was challenging given how complex the process is. However, in the end, the client “gained more visibility into performance, down to the level of individual contractor costs.” 

Considering that their business had over 8 million U.S. clients in a variety of niche sectors, these results are impressive. But these benefits are not unique to just one case study. In fact, project controls are widely recognized as a secret sauce tool used by smart project managers to achieve results such as: 

  • On-time delivery
  • Better forecasting
  • Staying within budget
  • Increasing visibility 
  • Increasing job satisfaction among teams
  • Virtually eliminating scope creep

Master project controls with one essential tool  

To get the precise benefits of project controls for your budgets and timelines, you need a reliable project management tool to bring your new methods to life. That’s where Wrike comes in. Check out our two-week free trial to create custom workflows that nail down detailed project monitoring and analyze reporting so that you’re always on target at any stage of the game.

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