Project Controlling Tools

Published: 2009-03-30
Last updated: 2022-03-20

In this sub-section, we present a more detailed description of project controlling tools that we will use during implementation phase as items of our project management dashboard. Additionally, the tools must also yield all the information we need to report into any management system for multiple projects, like a project portfolio dashboard.

In implementation phase, we will follow the project plans in terms of what actions we take and what results we expect. Then, our controlling tools of choice must support the comparison between planned and real life actions, as well as between expected and actual results. The following diagram highlights this comparison:

Basic Controlling CycleBasic Controlling Cycle

As a general guideline, we can conclude that each individual controlling tool must fit to the type of work and the way we work in our project.

There are two types of tools or project management metrics for measuring / controlling the work progress of individual work packages or of a whole sub-project or project. Our presentation includes milestone trend analysis and earned value analysis (earned value management) using indices such as cost performance index, schedule performance index, cost variance, and schedule variance.

Controlling Tools for Individual Work Packages

(1) Measuring Quantities

We measure the progress of a work package in terms of completed parts of the same kind, for example: completed ground area of a building (in sqm), laid cable (in m), number of doors, windows, etc. installed, number of sockets manufactured (in pieces), etc.

(2) 0 – 50% - 100% Method

In case a work package has a result that we cannot express in terms of equal parts we indicate the work progress by

  • 0% for “not yet started”,
  • 50% for “started, but not yet completed”,
  • 100% for “completed”.

This works for most medium size research & development, or engineering & design work packages. The 0 – 100% method is similar, but for very small work packages.

(3) Estimation of the Necessary Remaining Effort and Duration

For large research & development, or engineering & design work packages, the 0 – 50% - 100% method would be too inaccurate. In this case, we usually would ask the work package expert for the rate of completion. Additionally, we recommend asking for the portion of work that still has to be accomplished, in terms of estimated necessary remaining effort and duration.

Controlling Tools for the Whole Project

(4) The "Simple" Tools

We have a work breakdown structure (WBS), network diagram and Gantt chart, and an accumulated cost plan of our project. So, why not use them as project controlling tools?

Let's start with the WBS. Twelve weeks into a project and applying the 0%-50%-100% method, we obtain a diagram like this:

Simple Project Controlling - WBSSimple Project Controlling - WBS

Work packages 1.1, 1.2, 2.1.1 and 2.2.2 are complete, 2.1.2 and 2.2.1 started but not yet complete, and 2.1.3, 3.1 and 3.2 not yet started.

The same 0%-50%-100% method together with the network diagram yields information about the status of the work progress regarding the logical sequence of work packages:

Simple Project Controlling - Network DiagramSimple Project Controlling - Network Diagram

If we want to know our project status in terms of schedule we use the Gantt chart. A blue bar for each work package indicates its planned time and a red bar below it its actual time.

Simple Project Controlling - Gantt ChartSimple Project Controlling - Gantt Chart

For example, work package 1.1 was started on time, but it took one week longer to complete it; work package 1.2 was started one week later and finished one week later, etc. So, as of twelve weeks into our project, it seems to be one week behind schedule.

The following diagram combines planned cost and actual cost, showing that our project is over budget.

Simple Project Controlling - Cost PlanSimple Project Controlling - Cost Plan

(5) Milestone Trend Analysis (MTA)

MTA represents the most popular project controlling tool. It requires a milestone plan on project level. In general, many work packages lead up to one of the milestones. However, we only focus on the milestone level. The following picture shows the MTA chart at the end of planning phase, presenting the planned milestones.

MTA - Status of a ProjectMTA - Status of a Project

In sub-section Milestone Trend Analysis, you find a more detailed explanation how MTA works; in sub-section Free Downloads, you find an interactive animation of MTA, under demos.

(6) Earned Value Analysis (EVA) or Earned Value Management

As another widely used project controlling tool, Earned Value Analysis helps to control cost and schedule in larger projects or sub-projects.

The following picture shows a snapshot of EVA in a small project.

Earned Value AnalysisEarned Value Analysis

We use the values

  • Planned Value PV
  • Earned Value EV
  • Actual Cost AC

to calculate Cost Performance Index (CPI) and Schedule Performance Index (SPI) with the following formulas:

Formulas for Cost and Schedule Performance IndicesFormulas for Cost and Schedule Performance Indices

In our example, we obtain CPI = 0.609 and SPI = 0.778 indicating that we are over budget and behind schedule.Earlier presentations refer to

  • Cost Variance CV = BCWP – ACWP = EV - AC
  • Schedule Variance SV = BCWP – BCWS = EV – PV

The two project controlling tools, milestone trend analysis (MTA) and earned value analysis (EVA), summarize the work progress on project level. In case more detailed information is needed we turn to those tools that measure the work progress of individual work packages.

In our sub-section Free Downloads you find templates which you can use for your specific project. Feel free to adapt them to your needs.

35+ templates, tools, and checklists in one set

To save you time in your daily work as a project manager, I packaged more than 35 project management templates, tools, and checklists into one zip file.

  • You un-zip it, and you get all items in formats you can edit to your requirements.
  • They strictly contain only standard functionality and no macros or other code.
  • You are allowed to use your logo.
Templates & Checklists for Implementation and Closure Phase
for only
or click here for more info.

Traditional PM
Learning Path Navigation

Related topics

  • Project Planning Software

    In this sub-section, we describe basic features and functionality project planning software should have and recommend how to use it.

  • Project Management Plan

    In this sub-section, we explain in what sense every project management plan is recursive.

  • Critical Chain Method

    In this sub-section, we describe what problems the critical chain method addresses and how it works.

  • Project Communications Plan

    In this sub-section, we describe the elements of a project communications plan.

  • Project Claim Management

    In this sub-section, we propose a procedure for analyzing a claim situation which, in turn, supports successful project claim management.

  • Contract Management

    In this sub-section, we describe contract management for project managers.

  • Project Change Management

    In this sub-section, we present a practical approach to project change management that gives our project contract enough flexibility for changes.

  • Project Planning Continued

    In the section Project Planning Continued, I show how to build the plans for change, contract, claim, communications management, and controlling tools

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