Project controlling

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Project controlling is an essential part of project management and is understood to be the task of project leadership. In short, the term encompasses various methods and instruments for monitoring the project throughout its entire duration, controlling it by observing key figures and thus ensuring that the project objectives are met.

Definition of project controlling

Here's how it is defined and approached by three major project management frameworks: IPMA (International Project Management Association), PMBOK Guide (Project Management Body of Knowledge), and PRINCE2 (Projects IN Controlled Environments).

IPMA (International Project Management Association)

IPMA emphasizes a competence-based approach to project management. According to the IPMA Individual Competence Baseline (ICB), project controlling is part of the "Control" competence, which involves:

  • Monitoring and Controlling: Regularly measuring and monitoring project progress against the plan.
  • Performance Evaluation: Evaluating the project performance based on predefined criteria and taking corrective actions as needed.
  • Reporting: Providing accurate, timely, and relevant information to stakeholders.
  • Change Management: Managing changes to the project scope, time/schedule, and costs effectively (magic/project triangle).

PMBOK Guide (Project Management Body of Knowledge)

The PMBOK Guide, developed by the Project Management Institute (PMI), provides a structured approach to project management. Project controlling is primarily addressed in the Monitoring and Controlling Process Group, which includes:

  • Project Performance Monitoring: Tracking, reviewing, and regulating the progress and performance of the project.
  • Project Performance Reporting: Collecting and distributing performance information, including status reports, progress measurements, and forecasts.
  • Change Control: Identifying, documenting, approving, or rejecting changes to the project baselines.
  • Integrated Change Control: Coordinating changes across the entire project, ensuring they are properly reviewed and approved.
  • Risk Monitoring and Control: Tracking identified risks, monitoring residual risks, identifying new risks, and evaluating risk process effectiveness.

PRINCE2 (Projects IN Controlled Environments)  

PRINCE2 is a process-driven project management method that emphasizes the need for a controlled and organized approach. Project controlling in PRINCE2 is embedded within several processes:

  • Controlling a Stage: Monitoring and controlling the work packages and ensuring that the stage remains within tolerances. This includes regular progress checks, issue management, and quality control.
  • Managing Product Delivery: Ensuring that team members understand the work to be done and deliverables meet the quality criteria.
  • Managing Stage Boundaries: Reviewing the current stage performance, updating the project plan, and preparing the next stage plan.
  • Directing a Project: Providing overall direction and ensuring that the project remains viable and aligned with business objectives.
  • Exception Management: Handling deviations from the plan, and implementing corrective actions or escalating to higher authority when tolerances are exceeded.

Each of these frameworks has a slightly different approach, but all emphasize the importance of monitoring, measuring, and controlling project performance to ensure successful project delivery.

Relevance of project controlling

Project controlling plays an important role in every project phase: all processes are monitored and interventions are made where necessary. Project controlling helps to continuously analyze the project, evaluating it based on certain parameters and, if necessary, developing suitable measures that can be implemented by the project team in order to achieve the project goals.

Project controlling thus supports project leadership and provides key figures that show whether the project is on track for success. The key figures of time, costs and scope (magic triangle) are usually used as basic key figures. Based on the figures from project controlling, project leadership can systematically coordinate decision-making and bring transparency to the decision-making process.

In practice, there are many other methods, information and tips relating to project controlling.

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