Laying the Groundwork for Controlling Your Project

By Stanley E. Portny

Controlling your project throughout its performance requires that you collect appropriate information, evaluate your performance compared with your plan, and share your findings with your project’s stakeholders.

Selecting and preparing your tracking systems

Effective project control requires that you have accurate and timely information to help you identify problems promptly and take appropriate corrective action.

Throughout your project, you need to track performance in terms of the following:

  • Schedule achievement: The assessment of how well you’re meeting established dates
  • Personnel resource use: The levels of effort people are spending on their assignments
  • Financial expenditures: The funds you’re spending for project resources

If you use existing, enterprise-wide information systems to track your project’s schedule performance and resource use, set up your project on these systems as follows:

  • Obtain your official project number. Your project number is the official company identifier for your project. All products, activities, and resources related to your project are assigned that number. Check with your organization’s finance department or project office to find out your project’s number and check with your finance or information technology department to determine the steps you must take to set up your project on the organization’s financial tracking system, labor recording system, and/or activity tracking system.
  • Finalize your project’s work breakdown structure (WBS). Have team members review your project’s WBS and make any necessary changes or additions. Assign identifier codes to all WBS elements.
  • Set up charge codes for your project on the organization’s labor-tracking system. If team members record their labor hours by projects, set up charge codes for all WBS activities. Doing so allows you to monitor the progress of individual WBS elements, as well as the total project.

    If your organization’s system can limit the number of hours for each activity, enter those limits. Doing so ensures that people don’t mistakenly charge more hours to activities than your plan allows.

  • Set up charge codes for your project on your organization’s financial system. If your organization tracks expenditures by project, set up the codes for all WBS activities that have expenditures. If the system can limit expenditures for each activity, enter those limits.

Establishing schedules for reports and meetings

To be sure you satisfy your information needs and those of your project’s stakeholders, set up a schedule of reports you’ll prepare and meetings you’ll hold during the project. Planning your communications with your stakeholders in advance helps ensure that you adequately meet their individual needs and allows them to reserve time on their calendars to attend the meetings.

Meet with project stakeholders and team members to develop a schedule for regular project meetings and progress reports. Confirm the following details:

  • What reports will be issued
  • Which meetings will be held and what their specific purposes will be
  • When reports will be issued and when meetings will be held
  • Who will receive the reports and attend the meetings
  • Which formats the reports and meetings will be in and what they’ll cover

Setting your project’s baseline

The project baseline is the version of your project’s plan that guides your project activities and provides the comparative basis for your performance assessments. At the beginning of your project, use the plan that was approved at the end of the organizing-and-preparing stage, modified by any approved changes made during the carrying-out-the-work stage, as your baseline. During the project, use the most recent approved version of the project plan as your baseline.