In the previous section you were introduced to the principles of control. This is done through the process of monitoring
The object of control is to check current achievements (Monitoring) against predetermined targets (Programme), and adjust deployment of resources to attain desired objectives (Control).
A good control system should establish:
- Realistic standards in terms of output, cost and quality.
- A good system of measuring and checking current performance against plans, goals and objectives.
- Action to be taken quickly by someone with the necessary authority.
- It should concentrate on essentials, be economical, comprehensive, timely, and acceptable within the organisation
In order to control and monitor a project it is essential that an efficient system of communications and of record keeping is established. Communications is looked at in the constructionsite unit ‘Means of Communicating and their Barriers’ which you should look at (a link is provided below). The ways of maintaining records is looked at in the Construction planning, programming and control book listed below.
A number of measures are available for the allocation and control of resources. In the previous sections we looked at the allocation of resources to task as produced in the method statements and programme.
During a project, the procedures for its control and record keeping are essential tools. These tools serve the dual purpose of recording the financial transactions that occur as well as giving managers an indication of the progress and problems associated with a project. The task of a project control systems is to give an indication of the existence and the extent of such problems. This will involve resource utilization, accounting, monitoring and control during a project.
The interpretation of a project accounts is generally not straightforward until a project is completed, though it does provide a guide and the project manager needs to know how to interpret accounting information.
Project control procedures are primarily intended to identify deviations from the project plan rather than to suggest possible areas for cost savings. The time at which major cost savings can be achieved is during planning and design of the project.
During the construction phase, changes are likely to delay the project and lead to an increase in cost. As a result, the focus of project control is on fulfilling the original design plans or indicating deviations from these plans, rather than on searching for significant improvements and cost savings. It is only when a rescue operation is required that major changes will normally occur in the construction plan.
Generally schedule information and cost accounts are kept separately so the Project Manager must be able to assess the information from different sources and the effect that each will have.
For cost control on a project, the construction plan and the associated cash flow estimates can provide the baseline reference for subsequent project monitoring and control.
For control and monitoring purposes, the original detailed cost estimate can be converted to a project budget, and the budget used as a guide for management control. Specific items in the detailed cost estimate become job cost elements. Expenses incurred during the course of a project are recorded in specific job cost accounts to be compared with the original cost estimates in each category. Thus, individual job cost accounts generally represent the basic unit for cost control. Alternatively, job cost accounts may be disaggregated or divided into work elements which are related both to particular scheduled activities and to particular cost accounts.
In addition to cost amounts, information on material quantities and labour inputs within each job account is retained in the project budget. With this information, actual materials usage and labour employed can be compared to the expected requirements. As a result, cost overruns or savings on particular items can be identified as due to changes in unit prices, labour productivity or in the amount of material consumed.
You should read through Chapters 6 & 9 of Construction planning, programming and control shown in the Publications box below for details on the methods used to control and monitor projects.
A guide to Planning and in fact all Project Management systems, which anyone involved with Project Management should be aware of PRINCE, this stands for PRojects IN Controlled Environments and is a process-based method for effective project management. It is a standard used extensively by the UK Government and is widely recognised and used in the private sector, both in the UK and internationally. It provides best practice guidance on project management and provides guidance on planning and control of projects.
The key features of PRINCE2 are:
- Its focus on business justification
- A defined organisation structure for the project management team
- Its product-based planning approach
- Its emphasis on dividing the project into manageable and controllable stages
- Its flexibility to be applied at a level appropriate to the project.
Further details of PRINCE2 can be obtained by visiting the website below.