Project Controlling & Reporting

In this lesson, you’re expected to learn about:
– project controlling methods
– project reporting methods

In any project, there will be at least four types of controls applied:

1. Time Control

Project network scheduling begins with the construction of a diagram that reflects the interdependencies and time requirements of the individual tasks that make up a project. It calls for work plans prepared in advance of the project.

Once the overall schedule is established, weekly or biweekly review meetings should be held to check progress against schedule. Control must be rigorous, especially at the start, so that missed commitments call for immediate corrective action.

2. Cost Control

Periodic reports showing the budget, the actual cost, and variances is a good start for cost controls. It is necessary to break the comprehensive cost summary reports into work packages or major tasks and focus on major problems and opportunities.

The cost reports should be distributed to technical and functional managers alike.

3. Quality Control

Quality control comprises three elements:
– defining performance criteri
– expressing the project objective in terms of quality standards
– monitoring progress toward these standards

Examples of performance criteria include market penetration of a product line, processing time for customer inquiries, and the like. Both quantitative and qualitative measures need to be defined.

4. Earned Value Management (EVM)

EVM provides a standard means of objectively measuring work accomplished based on the budgeted value of that work—it is “what you got for what it cost.”

EVM is a project management technique that integrates cost, schedule, and technical performance measures to monitor and control project resources and compile results into one set of metrics so that effective comparisons can be made. It also helps
evaluate and control project risk by measuring project progress in monetary terms.

It provides the project manager with a more complete picture of the health of the entire project, not just certain segments of the project.

The fourth control, EVM, incorporates three vital aspects of effective project/ program management: scoping, costing, and scheduling.

EVM is a technique aimed at comparing resource planning to schedules and to technical, cost, and schedule requirements.

The EVM technique serves two distinct purposes:
– it encourages the effective use of internal cost and schedule management systems
– it affords the organization the ability to rely on timely data produced by those systems for determining product-oriented contracts status.

In order to perform an EVM analysis, one needs to start with a solid baseline schedule that accurately reflects how much work is planned for each time period.

After this baseline is determined and captured, work becomes earned in some quantitative form as work is performed. This earned work is then compared to the initial resource allocation estimates in order to determine whether the project or investment has utilized its resources meaningfully and cost-efficiently.

EVM is most effective when implemented using a bottom-up and incremental approach. 

Examining small, manageable chunks is a more efficient process for identifying problems and root causes and allows the project manager to assess the health and risks of a project more accurately. Generally, small milestones are easier to plan for (their scope can be defined more specifically) and can be measured more objectively than large ones.

Project managers should ensure that milestones (or sub-milestones) are as small and specific as possible, in terms of scheduling. It is good to limit milestone duration to a single fiscal year (or less) instead of multi-year milestones.

Other Types of Project Control

Since a project can have a number of people working on it for a long time, monitoring and control become essential management tools.

Formal control techniques include change-management policy, procedures, and forms; logs; checklists; and status reports.

Phone conversations and face-to-face communications are examples of informal control techniques.

Where possible, formal control techniques should be practiced, since they provide some evidence as to what has been said and when to resolve a question or dispute.

Change Management

Change is a constant aspect of dynamic project management environments, where several people interact with each other.

Specifically, project requirements change, design approaches change, business needs change, and team member turnover occurs. Any change in the baseline document is a change.

The project manager should define the cost/time and schedule impact so that the change can be given a fair evaluation. If the change justifies the estimated impact on the project, a decision may be made to incorporate it.

A change-management procedure is needed to introduce discipline into the change process.

Some basic change-management techniques include:

– logging all changes with a sequential control number,
– assigning the change task to the appropriate staff,
– checking progress periodically, and
– reporting the status of the change (e.g. completed, deferred or pending).

[Optional] What are Project Controls?
Effective and frequent personal communication is crucial to keep the project moving, identify potential problems, solicit suggestions for improving project performance, keep abreast of whether the customer is satisfied, and avoid surprises.

Personal communication can occur through words or non-verbal behavior, such as body language. Personal communication can be oral or written.

Oral Communication

Personal oral communication can be face to face or via telephone. It can be by means of voice mail or video-conferencing. Information can be communicated in a more accurate and timely manner through oral communication.

Such communication provides a forum for discussion, clarification, understanding, and immediate feedback. Face-to-face communication also provides an opportunity to observe the body language that accompanies the communication. Even phone conversations allow the listener to hear the tone, inflection, and emotion of the voice.

Body language and tone are important elements that enrich oral communication. Face-to-face situations provide an even greater opportunity for enriched communication than phone conversations do.

Written Communication

Personal written communication is generally carried out through internal memos to the project team and external letters to the customer or others outside the firm, such as subcontractors. Memos and letters can be transmitted in hardcopy or through e-mail or groupware.

Reporting

Written reports are just as important as oral reports in communicating information about a project. The required types, content, format, frequency, and distribution of reports that the project organization must prepare may be specified by the customer in the contract.

There are two types of project reports: progress reports and the final report.

i) Progress Reports
It is important to keep in mind that a progress report is not an activity report. Do not confuse activity or busyness with progress
and accomplishment. The customer, in particular, is interested in project accomplishments—what progress has been made toward achieving the project’s objective rather than what activities the project team was busy doing.

ii) Final Report
The project final report is usually a summary of the project. It is not an accumulation of the progress reports, nor is it a blow-by-blow story of what happened throughout the project.

Project Progress

Management needs to assess the progress of projects. To do that, meaningful and measurable checkpoints are needed, combined with a progress-reporting mechanism to determine whether the project is on schedule.

Reporting mechanisms should fit the size of the project, meaning that a small project may not need the elaborate reporting mechanism that a large project would require.

Team members should believe in the periodic progress-reporting mechanism, since they are the ones providing input to management. A 90% completion syndrome should be watched for, since the team members may report the task as 90% completed week after week.

A better approach would be to require estimated times and efforts to complete all tasks. Status-monitoring can be accomplished with periodic status reports and scheduled meetings.

Course Corrections

No project stands still and very few projects proceed according to plan. Therefore, midpoint reviews or some other checkpoint reviews are needed to bring the project back on schedule.

During these course corrections, management assesses the situation, identifies the problems, isolates the causes of problems, and allocates resources to fix problems. Timely and proactive action by management is vital to prevent major disasters and delays.

Project Communication

Project communication can take place in several ways in which meetings and reports are a vital part of it. Project management should provide reporting guidelines to project members so that consistency and quality of reporting can be maintained. With this approach, trends and problems can be readily seen due to a standard reporting format.

With regard to meetings, certain guidelines should be followed so that attendees do not consider meetings to be a waste of time.

Specific guidelines include defining the purpose of the meeting, informing the attendees in advance with an agenda of what is expected of them, inviting the right people to the meeting, keeping the meeting to a small size (less than 10), limiting the length of the meeting to less than an hour, bringing the meeting to a definite conclusion, and setting a clear direction for future events.

[Optional] 4 Types Of Project Reports
Jim Rohn