Is it not time to revamp your project controls?

I have to admit that my first exposure to professional project control practices happened in 1984 when Turner International was appointed as the Project Manager Consultant on the Amiri Diwan project in Kuwait. Those were the first days of CMCS where we were awarded the project controls services for the different contractors appointed to deliver this massive project. The project controls scope of work was to create and maintain the detailed resource-loaded project execution schedule using Primavera Project Planner (P3), create and maintain the submittal (E1) and procurement (E2) schedules using Lotus 123 spreadsheet, create the cost loaded activities table using Lotus 123 which will be used to support the monthly work in place invoice, and prepare the two-week look ahead schedule along with progress narrative report and issues log to be presented during the weekly progress review meeting. As for the many other project communications including RFI, NCR, SWI, transmittals, Daily reports, meeting minutes, inspection requests, correspondence, snag lists, change requests, change orders, progress invoices among others were done manually and stored in the project’s filing room.

So did project controls improve after three decades?

Regretfully, and after more than 30 years of offering those project control which have seen major developments in affordable computing power and mobility, internet connectivity, integrated web-enabled applications, massive development in business intelligence and data visualization coupled with lower profit margins, highly contractual and legal projects delivery, more educated and certified projects managers, increased stakeholders involvement among others we find that the same old project controls practices continue to be used. Maybe the only differences are that now Primavera P6 is in use instead of P3, MS Excel instead of Lotus 123, MS Word instead of Word Perfect and MS Outlook which although it might had made communication become faster but with far less control. The issues of lack of transparency on capturing right data, poor accountability on responsibility on when to capture data, delayed information sharing, multiple data silos, non-existence of timely single version of the truth reporting among others continue to be the challenges that face the project control team.

Understanding Project Delivery Processes

Similar to any other business, projects delivery business depends on executing processes that could involve the different project entities. Those processes are needed to fulfil the contractual obligations as set in the contract agreements, specifications and other contract documents. The responsibility assignment matrix (RAM) is usually used to list all of these processes along with the role of the different project entities in delivering those processes. Those responsibilities are usually “P” for Performance, “S” for Support and Assist, “R” for Review and Comments, “A” for Approval and “K” for To be informed.

For each process, there will be a document template that will be used to capture the process data. For example, there could be document templates for RFI, Meeting Minutes, Non-Compliance Notice, Site Work Instruction, Site Inspection, Daily Report, Transmittal, Safety Incident, Change Order Request, Change Order, Progress Invoice, Notice To Proceed among many others. In addition, each process will have a register or log to report on the different transactions for each project process. For example, the Submittal Log, RFI Log, Change Orders Register, Progress Invoices Register, Non-Compliance Reports Log, Safety Incident Log among others.

How Can PMIS Improve Project Controls?

A Project Management Information System like PMWeb will help organization in enforcing transparency and accountability in managing those project management processes as well as provide real-time monitoring and evaluation on the performance of those processes and the impact they might have on the overall project’s success measures being on time and within budget delivery for delivering the project’s scope of work at the specified quality standards.

For each process in the responsibility assignment matrix, there will be an input form to capture the needed data. In PMWeb, most of the input forms needed in delivering engineering and construction projects comes ready by default while additional input forms can be created using the PMWeb form builder. Those forms can be in any form or format and can be in English or any other language, Latin or non-Latin. For each input form, PMWeb provides the option to attach supportive documents that are usually uploaded on PMWeb document management repository or any other location as well as link other PMWeb records that could be related to form or email communications that were imported into PMWeb incoming mailbox. The form will be submitted using the user defined workflow that will match the different actions stated in the responsibility assignment matrix. In addition, PMWeb workflow allows adding conditions and branches to enforce the authorities’ approval levels and other conditions that could affect on who should be involved in the review and approval process.

PMWeb report writer can then be used to design the output form and reports for each project management process in the desired form and format using the color branding and logos to be displayed. Nevertheless, the great benefit of having the project management processes data captured in the right format, by the right project team member at the right time is the business intelligence and knowledge that will provide to the project team members in the needed from and format. For example, The Request for Information (RFI) data captured in PMWeb can be analyzed by the reason for issuing the RFI, whether the RFI has impact on the project’s scope, cost and/or schedule, location of the RFI among others. The analysis can also be extended to the complete projects portfolio that the organization is managing. This could provide great knowledge when it comes to comparing trends and reasons for issuing RFIs. The same is applicable to all other project management processes.

Since PMWeb PMIS has all the project management processes on the same platform across the complete projects portfolio of the organization, a performance report can be created to monitor and evaluate the performance of all processes or at least related processes. The report reader can be designed to provide drilldown to get more details on the reported performance metric. For example, from the Change Event (CE) Summary, the reader can drilldown to the change events log. The same is applicable for RFI log, submittal register among others.

In conclusion, it makes one wonder that after more than three decades of growing demand for improving efficiency, enforcing transparency and accountability, adopting professional project management practices and engaging stakeholders in an industry that is faced with lower profit margins, increased contractual and legal disputes and more risks to fail but with more affordable computing power, internet connectivity, integrated web-enabled applications, massive development in business intelligence and data visualization, more educated and certified projects managers that are computer savvy among others we find that the same old project controls practices continue to be what most organizations use.

Maybe you have the answer because I do not.