Project Monitoring & Controlling

Autor: Daniel Burghelea

In the specific language of project management, the concepts of monitoring and control are most often used together. So much so, that the difference between monitoring and controlling has begun to become unnoticeable to many of us. So, what does “monitoring and control” mean? Definitions The definitions provided by PMI for the two concepts are:
  • Monitor – Collect project performance data, produce performance measures, and report and disseminate performance information.
  • Control – Comparing actual performance with planned performance, analyzing variances, assessing trends to effect process improvements, evaluating possible alternatives, and recommending appropriate corrective action as needed.
In Wikipedia, we find the following definitions: “Monitoring and controlling consist of those processes performed to observe project execution so that potential problems can be identified in a timely manner and corrective action can be taken, when necessary, to control the execution of the project. Monitoring and controlling include:
  • Measuring the ongoing project activities (‘where we are’);
  • Monitoring the project variables (cost, effort, scope, etc.) against the project management plan and the project performance baseline (where we should be);
  • Identifying corrective actions to address issues and risks properly (How can we get on track again);
Influencing the factors that could circumvent integrated change control so only approved changes are implemented.”   Consequently, we have two different sets of actions when talking about Monitoring & Controlling:
  • In the first phase, collecting information about the project, processing it and then disseminating the information to the project management team (Project Manager, Technical lead / Project Chief Engineer, Team leaders, Cost Controller, Planner, Quality Engineer).
  • In the second phase, the collected information is analysed, and corrective and/or preventive actions are decided.
For the sake of clarity, it should be noted that in project management there are two elements with similar names:
  • Group of Monitoring & Controlling processes
  • Process Monitor & Control Project Work
Today’s article focuses on the first element, specifically the general definition of what monitoring and control means. The second element (the Monitor & Control Project Work process) is a practical application of the first, including input, output, as well as related tools and techniques. This process collects input from all other monitoring and control processes in all other Knowledge Areas.   How is performed The concepts of monitoring and control complement each other and are part of a repetitive cycle: monitoring (measurement), evaluation (analysis) and taking actions (corrective / preventive actions). Plain and simple, we will measure performance, then decide what measures are needed and implement them. During the implementation of actions, we continue to measure and analyse performance, to figure out if the actions had/have the desired effector. If necessary, a new set of measures is implemented, and the iterative cycle continues.     Monitoring (measuring) project performance is always done against baselines already established in the planning/re-planning processes. These are the benchmarks against which we evaluate the current performance of the project and act. One of the most known techniques of performance analysis is the Earned Value Method (EVM), which we will discuss in a separate article. This technique is used to analyse integrated budget, schedule, and scope performance. Other analyses can refer to quality (measuring the number of errors, root causes leading to errors), the level of risk on the project (analysis of the risk score and its evolution over time), etc. All metrics used for analysis and the performance thresholds for them are mentioned in the project management plan. Corrective actions focus on problems that already occurred (issues): comments / non-conformity reports, defect corrections, updates of management plans (through the change management process) that realign project performance to the project management plan. On the other hand, preventive action tries to avoid a future problem (the same or a similar one) through training, using another type of equipment, changing a procedure or policy, etc. Examples of corrective / preventive actions can be:
  • Adoption of new tools to correct/improve efficiency
  • Implementation of new work instructions, quality control and verification tools
  • Changes in work processes / procedures (usually for major projects)
  • Conducting training and awareness sessions for employees
Feedback from monitoring and control can be the basis for recording lessons learned. If the project monitoring effort uncovers situations that require corrective or preventive action, the project team should record these situations in the Lessons Learned Register. Another important element to understand is that monitoring, and control are manifested throughout the execution of the project, being practically a continuous action, which takes place simultaneously with the work in the project. This shows that the monitoring effort doesn’t have to be something sporadic, which only happens at certain milestones in the project. The project management team must continuously monitor project performance and take consistent steps to keep the project on-track. In the image below it can be seen the lines showing the level of effort for the execution activities and the monitoring and control activities, that are performed throughout the project life cycle. Conclusion Monitoring and control are a set of very important activities in the life of the project. The project manager is primarily responsible for identifying and analyzing variations from expected project performance (baselines). He can delegate all or part of this task to other roles, such as project manager assistant, project control engineer, cost-controller / planner, etc. Monitoring and control activities have very strong implications in all knowledge areas of the project and involve important resources, because they must be carried out constantly. This effort results in a good understanding of the progress of the project and greater chances for it to successfully achieve its objectives.