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Chapter 10. Controlling a Project > Common Project Control Challenges

Common Project Control Challenges

While we’ve touched on several of the challenges facing project managers when attempting to control their projects, let’s run down the top reasons for difficulty in the project control arena.

  • Time and cost accounting logistics— The logistical and organizational culture issues relating to time reporting and project costs tracking can prove detrimental to timely and accurate performance reporting. During planning, you want to understand and clarify how project time and cost information is reported and how quickly you can get this data. You may need to establish project specific time reporting or approval procedures to ensure the integrity of your control system.

  • Project manager reluctance, multi-tasked— The project manager may be reluctant to request WBS level time reporting by project team members, especially if this is not part of the organizational culture. In addition, the project manager may be over-allocated and may not be able to invest enough time to performing the project controlling duties. This is most common when the project manager has assigned other project roles to him/herself or when the project manager is assigned to multiple projects.

  • No change control— The most popular reason is the lack of change control procedures. This is most problematic when the project scope has increased without the proper reconciliation with the project schedule and budget.

  • No completion criteria— When clear completion criteria for work assignments is not established, you are more likely to have increased re-work cycles, more difficulty in accurately reporting progress/status, and more likely to experience the “90% done” phenomenon.

  • No baselines— This should be obvious by now, but if a schedule and budget baseline are not established and controlled, then you will not be able to accurately measure for performance variances. Without this ability, you are less likely to detect problems early—when they are small and more manageable.

  • No requirements traceability— Definitely an issue for controlling scope and stakeholder expectations. The lack of a formal tracking procedure between original requirements and final products increases the odds of missed work and scope creep.

  • Not consistent— When control procedures are not consistently implemented, it is difficult to detect performance variances early, and it is more difficult to get project team members to follow the defined control procedures.

  • Measuring progress accurately— Accurately measuring progress is a natural challenge on work assignments with intangible final products, especially on any project where status is “estimated.” However, this challenge is further complicated when work definition is vague, completion criteria is not established, or when work efforts are not reported on a daily basis.

    Note

    The “90% done” phenomenon refers to the phenomenon where task progress is reported as on-schedule up to the 90% complete point. Then, the last 10% ends up taking most of the total task time to complete.

    This can occur on projects when task status is reported subjectively by the resource assigned to the task and when there is no clear completion criteria for the task.


  • Impact of hidden work— This hits at the heart of work definition and change control. Any effort spent on unidentified work, unplanned rework cycles or out-of-scope work adversely impacts the accuracy and effectiveness of project control procedures.

  • Virtual/distributed teams— When project team members are not physically located together, it can be more difficult to get information, detect potential issues, measure work progress and ensure understanding of work expectations. We will talk more about this in Chapter 20, “Managing Differences.”


  

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