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Contrasting Project Production Control With Project Controls

Executive Summary

What is the difference between Project Controls and Project Production Controls? They are not synonymous. Indeed they come from different disciplines and serve different purposes. They are however complementary, when implemented appropriately. Paraphrasing Peter Drucker on the differences between controls and control: “Controls are what are associated with facts and the past, whereas control deals with expectations and the future.”

Project Controls are backward-looking. The main function of Project Controls is to satisfy accounting and/or reporting requirements and to document progress against a preset baseline budget and/or schedule. Over time, systems, processes,tools and methods have evolved to measure past attributes of project activities, to measure a project’s progress against a baseline plan, and detect variances agains that plan. For instance, tools such as the Gantt Chart, Critical Path Method (CPM) and the Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) are used to establish logical relationships between project activities to develop a project schedule. Earned Value Analysis (EVA) aims to integrate project information on costs incurred, time taken and resources used and compare them against baseline project budget, schedule and scope to help project teams assess project performance. Ultimately “controls” are backward looking – they describe what happened in the past, rather than helping the project team take actions to control future outcomes.

Project Production Control is forward looking – it looks at expectations, how work is planned, executed, improved and work toward the future and the next production cycle. It is defined as any action, process, mechanism, system or combination that organizes and enables control of production, or work execution beyond accidental or an ad-hoc behavior. The evolution of project production control practices uses human, physical and software systems for implementing control in the production system. Project Production Control requires regular and timely attention to the details of executing work – every day, every week, every work cycle – before work is done as opposed to after work is done. It is not a process that is performed once a month or an ad-hoc basis like the Project Controls.

Project Controls and Project Production Control are two separate processes. However, they both support and complement each other in both knowledge sets and practice areas. Project controls are driven by accounting requirements to estimate and track costs to update financial statements. Project Production Control is action, process and system driven that acts on a daily, weekly, monthly and planned business cycle.

Table 2. Key Attributes of Project Controls and Project Production Control


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