It is common in the construction industry to still find individuals that are yet
to discover the value of project controls. While many project members are open and
receptive to the functions and importance of project controls unfortunately there
are also many key project players that are simply stubborn and ranging in attitudes
towards project controls from passive, cynic, to downright hostile.
Therefore while the relevance of project controls might be self-evident to many of
us, we must answer the "why" for the benefit of our more conservative or reactive
So what do we want to accomplish via this organizational function?
In a nut-shell, we can think of project controls as a communication conduit. We can
formally and systematically in a structured manner report on project progress and
cost. We can identify the critical path and track actual versus budgeted costs. Risks
can be registered, communicated and actions can thus be initiated. Also it is important
to note that project controls as a “communication vehicle/ conduit” intends to generate
action where necessary, by flagging criticalities. This could be represented as follows:
Issue identified –> analysis –> reporting (the communication bit) –> action generated
–> result (the value added)
As an example let’s say that a schedule is reviewed for a chemical plant that is
about to be built and a long lead item such as a large PCV valve is found to be needed
in 6 months’ time. This would then be reported to the project manager, which would
then action this information by asking the procurement expeditor to check with the
vendor on their delivery time, find a solution to shorten the fabrication and delivery
of the valve, and a result the chemical plant’s schedule would remain on track.
To fully understand a position in favor of something, we must also understand the
counter-part's position. In this case, those from the opposing bench will claim that
project controls constitutes an unnecessary burden in terms of resources/ cost, and
a drag or distraction by "those out-of-touch-with-reality people with the papers
and numbers" on "those out there in the field actually executing" the project.
And that's in a way a fair comment. Except of course that it's all wrong.
Ok. To be honest there are some grains of truth (as in all opposing arguments). It
is true that cost controllers, planners/ schedulers, risk managers, estimators and
others in the profession can go off in a tangent (on occasion - we’re all humans
and therefore make mistakes) and lose contact with reality in a cloudy sea of inconsequential
minutiae while the big picture loses focus. As example, a site supervisor might not
be interested in a 100 page landscaped A3 pdf schedule, as that would be for him
simply an unwieldy and unpractical document. Rather a concise and neat summary of
the schedule such as a 2 week look ahead, filtered by the areas to supervisor's interest,
would be much more welcome.
Then why project controls?
As above mentioned it's a communication conduit. Large (and not so large) projects
may attempt to do away with project controls... at their own peril.
Typical of projects that choose to neglect project controls are gross schedule delays,
out of control execution plans, unknown cost position with consequent over-runs,
and a generous peppering of risks that could have been avoided or mitigated.
We all need an image to focus on… a symbol that simplifies the reason. So please
"remember the Alamo" and fill in the blank here:
This is my "project gone wrong": ______. It was a disaster. An effective project
controls team would have if not saved the project, at least greatly ameliorated the
Why Project Controls (and why we should remember the Alamo)