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The problem with project controls….

Preparing two presentations, one to the PMI Virtual Scheduling Conference last month, the other for ProjectChat in Sydney this week has started me thinking….  Why do so few project use effective project controls as a core input to project management decision making?

Most projects that have project controls staff seem to use them for forensics, claims and to meet client imposed obligations rather than as ‘trusted advisers’ to the project manager and project decision making teams.  Many more, probably a significant majority, don’t employ project controls staff at all and either rely on part time external agents or expect the project manager to do everything!  There are many and varied reasons for this I’m sure, but developing these two presentations suggests to me that at least one of the root causes for this situation is the simple fact project controls processes are ‘bolt-on’ extras rather then core elements in the overall information flow used to run the project.

For example the project schedule currently resides in a specialist tool (Primavera, Microsoft Project, etc.) that needs a trained expert to operate; the scheduling tool is not part of the work authorisation and allocation processes (at best schedule reports are used to inform these decisions) and it is not part of the progress recording system; update information is gathered separately after the event and reported even later. The scheduling functions are separate activities that may assist management but can equally be ignored by management, or can be not done at all. A foreman does not need a schedule to tell a work crew where to go next, he just has to point to the next work area he thinks needs attention, the instruction may be based on a schedule report, based on intuition or experience, or just a whim.

However, the world is changing ‘big data’ and integrated systems are becoming mainstream and these trends are starting to affect project management.  One example (used in the presentations) is the evolution of BIM (Building Information Modelling), 5D BIM integrates a 3D model of the project with time (4D) and cost (5D) information.  If this type of model becomes ‘fully integrated’ not only will time and cost information be part of the model, but the tools that process schedule, cost and earned value information will be integral to the model – ‘built-in’ rather than ‘bolted-on’.  And importantly the work crews use PDAs to access the model to understand what to do next (what, who, how and when all in the same place), and to record progress in real time.

When you read these presentations, don’t believe he BIM concept is limited to building projects – with very minor changes the BIM concepts can be applied to any ‘three dimensional’ engineering project.  And whilst ‘soft projects’ don’t typically operate in 3D the same approach can be applied to any system that can be mapped as a functional architecture or as a work flow.

The PMI presentation Projects controls using integrated data – the opportunities and challenges! looks at these concepts from the perspective of schedule controls, download from:

The ProjectChat presentation Earned Value Management – Past, Present & Future looks at this from an Earned Value Management perspective. Download from:

These ideas (or something similar) are in all probability coming to a project near you sometime soon.  And when they do the challenges outlined in the presentations will present grand opportunities for those open to change.

Read the presentations and let us know what do you think?? – if you are lucky enough to be at ProjectChat I will be here for the duration!

Why you need to attend PGCS 2016

CAPM Step outPGCS 2016 (Wed. 11th and Thur. 12th May – Canberra) is shaping up to be an important forum for the advancement of project management in Australia.  Every project manager is subject to governance by the organisation that work within and potentially wider scrutiny.  This means if you (or your division/section) are running significant projects sooner or later the auditors will be visiting!

Project surveillance is a key aspect of governance at every level and ‘audits’ are part of the landscape for working project managers (see more on project surveillance).  Proactive project managers on a successful career path know this, are prepared, and use the audit to enhance their reputation.  Furthermore, the good auditors like to help you and you project succeed.

Three of the world’s leading project auditors are part of the speaking line-up at PGCS 2016, Australia’s Tom Ioannou from ANAO, the UK’s Geraldine Barker, and the USA’s Lisa Wolf.  This concentration of expertise offers project manages, and their superiors a unique opportunity to understand the thinking of good auditors and to learn how to make your next project audit an outstanding success (and of course is you work in a PMO or similar, this is a unique opportunity to understand world-best-practice)!

Having the right skills and capabilities are critically important, and one of the key questions being asked at PGCS 2016 is; “Can ‘normal projects’ learn from major projects?”.

The UK and USA governments are demonstrating an enhanced ability to deliver successful major projects.  In the last decade, the UK in particular has a track record of successfully delivering complex major projects and programs, and we believe the lessons learned can be scaled to enhance the probability of success on projects of all sizes. Several of the people at the centre of project delivery excellence in the USA and UK are speaking at PGCS and will be networking with delegates over the two days.

So, if you want to hear ‘how-its-done’ from the experts and have the opportunity to discuss your project challenges PGCE 2016 offers a unique opportunity to develop your skills and knowledge – all you need to do is be there!  For more on PGCS 2016 and access to a library of previous years papers go to