Types of Project Control

Project Control Objectives, Types, Need

Table of Contents:

  • Project Control Meaning
  • Project Control Definition
  • Roles of Project Controls
  • Objectives of Project Control
  • Types of Project Control
  • Reasons for Ineffective Control in Project
  • Need for Project Control

Project Control Meaning

The term control has several meanings. Those new to project management are initially dismayed by the use of the term “control” because they mistakenly equate it with the concept of authority. In the world of project management, control isn’t about instructing people, dictating their actions or thoughts, or compelling them to behave in a specific way. These are common misconceptions of what control means.

In project management, the term “control” is much more similar to steering a ship. It’s about continually making course adjustments with one main objective of bringing the ship into a safe harbour, as promised at the start of the voyage. The successful project voyage includes identifying a specific destination, carefully charting a course to get there, evaluating location throughout the voyage & keeping a watchful eye on what lies ahead.

Project controls are processes that keep a project on track both on cost and schedule prospects. It’s an iterative process, meaning it evolves continuously as the project advances.

Project controls involve processes that gather and analyze project data to ensure costs and schedules stay on track. The functions of project controls include initiating, monitoring, planning, controlling, communicating, and closing out project costs and programs. Ultimately, project controls are iterative processes used to measure project status, predict likely results based on those measurements, and then enhance project performance if the projected outcomes are deemed unacceptable.

Project Control Meaning

According to Pat Weaver’s White Paper – “Project Controls are the data gathering, data management and analytical processes used to predict, understand and constructively influence the time and cost outcomes of a project or programme; through the communication of information in formats that assist effective management and decision making.”

Project control can be defined as, “A project management function that involves comparing actual performance with planned performance and taking appropriate corrective action (or directing others to take this action) that will yield the desired outcome in the project when significant differences exist”.

Project control tools are designed to identify deviations from the actual plan within the system and realign them with the original plans or schedule. They are needed to check whether the project is progressing to the plans and standards set during the planning phase. Project controls are steps taken by the project manager to minimize the gap between the planned output and the delivered output.

Roles of Project Controls

1. The main role of project control is to minimize and prevent variance in both cost and schedule from those that were originally planned.

2. It serves as a point of reference, allowing for comparative analysis and ensuring that the project meets the objectives set out at the beginning.

Objectives of Project Control

The objectives of project control are as follows:

1) Primary Objective

The primary objective of control is regulation. The purpose is to monitor the delivered output by comparing it with the actual or scheduled output suggested in the planning phase.

The regulatory function of control helps in:

i) Translating the objectives into performance standards that are represented by program activities and events.

ii) Formulating budget to compare the delivered output with the actual/scheduled output.

2) Secondary Objective

The secondary objective of control is the conservation of resources. The project manager is entrusted with the responsibility of protecting the physical, human and financial resources of the organization.

i) Physical asset control is the process of controlling the use of physical assets. It includes the corrective or preventive maintenance of the assets. A project manager has to schedule the maintenance and replacement plan in such a way that it minimizes interruption to the work in progress and without overlooking the quality aspect.

ii) Human resource control is the process of controlling and maintaining the growth and development of the human capital of the organization. Preserving human resources is an important aspect of any control system.

iii) Financial resource control is a combination of regulatory and conservatory functions. The regulatory and conservatory techniques of financial resource control consist of control of current assets and project budgets along with capital investments.

3) Tertiary Objective

The tertiary objective of project control is to facilitate decision making. For effective decision-making, management requires the following reports:

i) A report comprising the plan, schedule and budget made during the planning phase.

ii) Data consisting of the comparison between the resources spent to achieve the delivered output and the scheduled output. This report should also provide an estimate of the remaining work.

iii) An estimate of the resources required to complete the project.

Types of Project Control

There are three basic types of project control:

1) Cybernetic Control

Cybernetic controls, also known as steering controls, are very common control systems. Automatic operation is its chief characteristic. A cybernetic control is like steering in an automobile that enables the controller to keep the project on track. 

Cybernetic controls are commonly used to monitor and control tasks that are carried out more or less continuously, e.g., software projects. The designing of cybernetic controls needs identifying mechanical tasks, based on the Work Breakdown Structure. A cybernetic control system that minimizes the variation from the set measures is known as a negative feedback loop.

2) Go/No-go Controls

As the cost and time overruns may require the organization to pay penalties to the customer, Go/No-go controls are instituted to check whether the output meets the preset cost and time standards. These control systems are flexible and applicable to all aspects of project management. The project plan, budget and schedule are the control documents that contain preset milestones that act as verification points. 

Controls are usually done at the level of detail in the project budget, plan, and schedule. The frequencies at which Go/no-go controls are operated are predetermined and regular. Preset intervals are decided upon with the help of calendars or operating cycles.

3) Post Controls

These are the control systems that are applied after the completion of the project. These are also known as post-project controls or reviews.

George Santayana says, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. Thus, while cybernetic and Go/No-go controls help a company to accomplish the goals of current projects, post control tries to enhance the company’s chances of meeting future project goals, based on lessons learnt in past projects.

Types of Project Control

Reasons for Ineffective Control in Project

Effective control is essential for the realization of project objectives. However, project control in practice often proves to be ineffective.

There seem to be three major reasons for poor control of projects:

1) Characteristics of the Project

Most projects are large, complex undertakings involving many people, groups and organizations.

This causes the task of control difficult because:

i) Keeping track of physical performance and expenditure on hundreds or thousands (or tens of thousands) of activities which are frequently non-routine, is a spectacular job.

ii) Coordination and communication problems multiply when many organizations are involved in the project.

2) People Problems

To control a non-routine project, a manager needs the ability to monitor a wide range of disparate factors, sensitivity to symptoms indicative of potential problems and a faculty to comprehend the combined effect of numerous forces. Naturally, most operational managers, used to the steady rhythm of normal operations and routine work lack the training, competence, experience, and inclination to control projects.

3) Poor Control and Information System

One of the factors which inhibit effective control is the poor quality of control and information systems. Some weaknesses observed in the control and information system include:

i) Delay in Reporting Performance: Often there is a delay in the reporting of performance. This prevents effective project monitoring and the timely initiation of actions to address adverse developments.

ii) Inappropriate Level of Detail: Generally cost information for control is collected in terms of cost codes found in the company’s cost accounting system, irrespective of the level of detail employed for project planning and budgeting. Consider an extreme example wherein the cost and value of work done are reported for the project as a whole. What is the value of such information for identifying where slippages are emerging and who is responsible for them?

iii) Unreliable Information: One of the main problems in project control is unreliable and inaccurate data or information. Project managers often receive reports indicating that “everything is okay” or that things are “reasonably within control,” when the reality is otherwise. Additionally, for months following the project’s completion, costs continue to trickle in, potentially turning a favourable variance into an unfavourable one or worsening an existing unfavourable variance.

Need for Project Control

Based on Performance:

1. Unexpected technical problems occur.

2. Adequate resources are unavailable when needed.

3. Quality or dependability problems occur.

4. The owner or client requires changes in technical specifications.

5. Inter-functional complications and conflicts arise.

6. Market changes can either increase or decrease the value of the project.

7. Inter-functional complications and conflicts can arise from changes in the market, either increasing or decreasing the scope of the project.

Based on Cost:

1. Technical difficulties that require more resources.

2. Technical resources – the scope of work expands, indicating an increase in scope.

3. The bid amount accepted for the contract award is too low, and reporting of the monitoring results is poor and late.

4. Project budgeting for contractor cash flows not done right Project right.

5. Changes in market prices of the inputs change input.

Based on Time:

1. Technical difficulties require more time to solve.

2. Scope of work increases due to unexpected utilities requiring relocation.

3. Task sequencing is not done correctly; required materials, labour, or equipment are unavailable when needed.

4. Key preceding tasks were not completed on time.


1. What are the 5 project controls?

Project controls refer to the tools and processes that are used to ensure that a project is delivered within time, budget and scope. The 5 project controls include Change Management, Project Planning, Quality Control, Cost Control and Risk Management.

2. What are three project controls?

Project controls are essential tools that enable project managers to assess, monitor, and manage various aspects of a project. By applying various project controls where required, businesses can improve their ability to deliver projects within budget, on time and with the expected level of quality by the customer. Three project controls project managers rely on to achieve project success include Schedule Control, Cost Control and Change Control.

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