Conversation between Business Leader and Project Manager

“After all,  what have Project Controls ever done for us ?”

“Ah, well, applying Project Controls have helped countless organisations and individuals deliver Project outcomes more successfully than if they hadn’t applied them.”

“OK… But what have they ever done for us, really ?”

“Riiight… Um, applying Project Controls has allowed countless organisations and individuals deliver the right Project outcomes within budget, time-frames, and to the desired level of quality.”

“Yeah but what have they ever done for us ?!”…….

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Reality Check on Project Controls

Hopefully you get the idea, and combined with the image I included with this post perhaps some of the more, shall we say, experienced among you might even recognise the comedy sketch I’m drawing from.

Part of the job of any Project Manager is to help the Project Sponsor and Project Customer (and Project Supplier, to use Prince2 terminology) to deliver the desired outcomes within a specified budget, time-frame and quality standard, and if not deemed possible from the outset, then to manage expectations by working with those parameters to deliver a working and pragmatic solution.

It’s all very well to draw up a specification, estimate a budget and resource requirements, and then all too tempting to just want to crack on and get on with it, or “get things done” – a term I’ve often heard. Sadly, unless it’s a very small project of just a few days, or a very simple outcome, things rarely go to plan – assuming a realistic plan has even been drawn up.

So what do we mean by Project Controls ? Here’s a few examples (by no means exhaustive):-

  • An incremental, Staged approach to the Project;
  • Project Steering Committee sign-offs of each Stage;
  • A consistent approach to each Project, following a defined Framework;
  • A consistent understanding of Responsibilities for all parties involved;
  • Established and agreed criteria for each Stage;
  • An agreed Project Plan and definition of what the Project is being undertaken for, why and what it is supposed to deliver;
  • A methodology for handling Risks, inevitable Issues, and the strong likelihood that somebody will change their mind about what is required during the Project’s execution (Change Requests);
  • A Communications Plan;
  • Etc, etc…

As I said this list is far from exhaustive, although even what I’ve listed above might seem overkill and scary to some – the key, as usual is to adopt practices at a level of depth and rigour that are appropriate to the current level of maturity, capability and desire of the relevant enterprise.

One client I worked with had an informal process for each of their Projects which I helped them capture into a simple “chevrons” diagramatic workflow, covering the separate Phases (or Stages). During evaluation of the process it became clear that an important control was missing – namely the agreement of the Pricing by the business’ owner before the Price was communicated to the Customer. The result being that by the time the Project reached the delivery team, they were constrained to a timeframe and a number of chargeable hours (built into the Price) which might not be realistically achievable from the start – and therefore likely to be un-profitable. One way I helped was to introduce a Control point into the simple worklfow, where the owner had to review and physically sign off a Price before it could go to the Customer. Naturally a fair proportion of the Price estimates would have been appropriate from the start, but making the owner of the business (with the greater experience in that line of work,) spend 10 minutes a day looking at new Project Quotes helps them catch those that aren’t appropriate before it’s too late.

This is an example of implementing a simple Stage control in a simple but effective way in a relatively small enterprise, which pays for the extra time consumed by implementing the Control over and over again.

For more information or advice on Project Controls and what value they bring, please get in touch to discuss how Creek Consulting can be of help through the Contact Us page.