Why control a project?
Projects are simple aren’t they? Have a plan, stick to the plan, achieve the plan… what’s hard about that…? Well how long have you got?
Projects have been around for as long as we as a human race have been thinking up new ways to better our environments; from the great pyramids of Egypt, to man setting foot on the moon, these ground-breaking endeavours are some examples of mankind’s greatest projects. However, to achieve these incredible feats the path to greatness has not always been smooth sailing. Throughout history, as increasingly complex and ambitious projects are embarked upon, the need to better manage these challenges has become more apparent.
Controlling these projects has been a key element of this ‘better management’ enabling the project manager and project team to better understand where they have come from, where they currently are, and have a good idea of where they are going. Through the collection, analysis and management of project data, project control can help to guide any project through to successful project delivery.
But make sure you have control of your controls…
Wait… did I read that right…? Yes, ensuring that a project has control of its controls is important for the successful operation of a project control system. That’s where a project controls framework comes in. A framework acts as a governing umbrella that ensures integration and information flow are managed in an efficient and effective manner to achieve the project’s delivery objectives. It ensures that there is a symbiotic relationship between the various methods of control; each performing a specific role to inform and enable the effectiveness of the project controls system.
So am I good at project controls?
Now that’s a hard one. Such a broad question can be difficult to answer categorically. With so many moving parts and high levels of complexity in a project control system, how can you know if you are deploying your controls correctly and how can you measure their effectiveness on the project?
Well one way this can be done is through the use of a Project Control Maturity Assessment Framework (PCMAF) tool, which is available to APM Members through APM Learning. This new tool has been created through extensive collaboration from members of the APM Planning, Monitoring and Control SIG, drawing upon the significant experience of project control experts across a number of different industries. It has been designed to build upon the pre-existing EV Compass tool that is currently available from the APM.
The PCMAF tool enables projects to assess their project control maturity throughout a project's life cycle. The self-assessment tool aims to ensure that the project is set up, mobilised and on track to support the delivery of a project, ensuring that it supports early action and objective decision making.
The step-by-step approach enables projects to understand the 'as is' project control position and reference it against a 'to be' aspirational future state. The model uses a common framework and can be used for the assessment of a single project or to benchmark and compare the relative strengths of various projects across an organisation. It gives project control system reviewers a consistent method of assessing projects.
So how will this help me?
The PCMAF tool provides you with a statement of maturity for each area of the project control system, against this statement, you are provided with a non-exhaustive list of ‘typical evidence’ that would be expected to be available to achieve the intent of the maturity statement. Through assessment of these two elements, you can quickly identify how mature your own project control system is and also identify any apparent shortfalls. Finally, the tool provides an ‘improvement action plan’ to help to record and manage the actions required to bring any areas of improvement up to the required standard.
The PCMAF provides a number of benefits, both at a project and organisational level:
- Providing a highly structured, fact-based approach to identify your organisations’ and projects' strengths and areas for improvement through periodic assessment.
- Creating a common language and conceptual framework for the way you manage and improve controls on your project and, if applicable, other projects within the organisation.
- Reaffirmation of the learning on the fundamental elements of project controls and suitably qualified and experienced person (SQEP) levels of the resources employed within your project and organisation, and how they relate to their roles and responsibilities.
- Involving people at all levels in process improvement.
- Ranking project control maturity across projects within an organisation or across the supply chain.
- Facilitating the sharing of best practice across projects within an organisation.
- Using it to assess and present the findings from a variety of project controls reviews in a standard format that is easy to understand.
- Facilitating comparisons with other projects.
- Supporting the development of your business plan and strategy.
This launch of the PCMAF tool marks the culmination of a number of years’ research and development. The intent is to ensure ongoing development and improvement of the tool so feedback is always welcome.